A free speech legal scholar is warning against shutting critical race theory down in public education by legislator edict.
Writing in National Review, attorney Samantha Harris argues that bills that seek to outlaw critical race theory in schools take the wrong approach because it fights censorship with censorship.
Instead, Harris calls to fight the battle in the courts of law and public opinion, pointing out that the Constitution and the Supreme Court protects and has upheld “freedom of conscience — that is, the right to hold our personal thoughts and beliefs free from government intrusion.”
With that, efforts to teach critical race theory as the only truth, as “Truth with a capital ‘T,’” run afoul of such protections.
She also cites the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a legal tool that prevents discrimination, “including the creation of a hostile environment.”
According to Harris:
The battle against these identity-based ideologies needs to be waged in the marketplace of ideas, not through censorship. Proponents of CRT, critical feminist theory, postcolonial theory, etc. have every right to argue for the validity of their positions, just as we have the right to argue for the validity of ours. We must recognize their rights even as we try to convince the world of the dangers of their arguments.
That does not mean, however, that they have the right to indoctrinate our children, or to create a hostile environment in which students or teachers are continually treated as “less than” on the basis of skin color. When these things happen — and they are happening — then we must fight back hard not only in the court of public opinion, but in courts of law as well. …
State legislatures can also fight indoctrination and promote viewpoint diversity in schools without turning to censorship. In Florida, for example, the legislature is considering a bill that would require institutions of higher education “to conduct an annual assessment related to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” in order to ensure that students are exposed to “a variety of ideological and political perspectives.” This could be done at the K–12 level as well, and would help the marketplace of ideas function properly rather than shutting it down.
The bottom line is that our future as a free society depends on fighting back against the pall of orthodoxy that has descended over our educational institutions. But we must resist the temptation to fight back with the traditional tools of our ideological opponents — censorship and repression — and instead stay true to the freedoms we are fighting for.
Read the full piece in National Review.
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