What many of the bills attempt to address is using the class to inculcate students in a crude theory of collective racial guilt — the idea that contemporary whites bear some kind of effectively hereditary guilt for the actions of slavers and segregationists. Some take a similar attitude toward the rhetoric of “white privilege.” While the language and the rationale is sometimes unfortunately therapeutic — presented as protecting students from enduring emotional stress — keeping that sort of thing out of public-school classroom discussions is eminently reasonable. Most of the bills properly focus on instructing teachers not to tell children what they should feel, rather than empowering students to complain about their feelings. At its best, CRT represents a discussion appropriate to a different time and place, and at its worst — which is where it is usually at — it is poisonous nonsense.
These bills do not represent unprovoked Republican cultural aggression ex nihilo. The left-wing indoctrination and politicization that Americans associate with higher education has long worked its way down into K–12 teaching. The goal of the bills is not political indoctrination but its opposite: classrooms that equip children with the facts to form their own ideas without an authority figure preaching leftist ideology. Legislators who provide funding for schools and develop state standards have a positive responsibility to address this. Some of the bills are flawed and need some reworking. And in the long run, control over curricula and classroom instruction will require conservatives to get more involved at the local level and in the structure of school systems as well.