DEI, CRT and Ethnic Studies in School Districts

Empirical Data on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Critical Race Theory

The chart below presents school-district-level data related to the implementation or prohibition of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT). Each school district is rated on a scale of zero to five, with zero meaning all-encompassing promotion of DEI and CRT and five signaling the district’s nonparticipation in DEI and its prohibition of CRT.

This empirical research project, with its Phase I on 44 school districts in San Diego County in completion, takes on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and ethnic studies, not as separate concepts independent of each other, but as intricately interrelated constructs rooted in critical pedagogy or CRT.

DEI is an amorphous, pleasant code-name of CRT. In theory, “Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party; Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist; Inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to dance.” Similarly, equity should mean everyone gets what they need. But in practice, DEI and racial equity often translate into race-based treatment, proportionality and equal outcome. Counter to the very principles of equal opportunity and equal protection, real-life applications of DEI and equity have been thoroughly and profoundly hijacked by CRT, to the extent that these terms become perfect crystallizations of the race-based doctrine. Anti-racism guru Dr. Ibram X. Kendi argues for antiracist discrimination to create equity. Critical race theorists in public health make this association that “Critical race theory is an emerging transdisciplinary, race-equity methodology.” DEI is defined as “part of a growing sociopolitical movement that is introducing contentious transformative changes based on fringe social theory to our institutions and throughout our culture, and enacting policies with almost no resistance or checks.” Core tenets of a typical DEI program can be described by CRT and a baseline assumption that institutions are oppressive and much of society is inherently prejudice, forcing the pursuit of social justice to be the priority of organizations.

In a California context with growing national ramifications, promoting ethnic studies has become a sweeping movement that ushers in various CRT elements through focuses on power and privilege, forms of oppression, intersectionality, hegemony and other pedagogical tools. In short, ethnic studies is the paradigmatic vehicle for CRT. On March 18, 2021, the State Board of Education adopted its final Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). This final version is still firmly rooted in the divisive ideology of CRT, with “critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression.” Alarmingly, a more radical and CRT-oriented version of ethnic studies, marketed by “the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute” (LESMCI, formerly known as the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition) has been adopted by a number of school districts, including several in San Diego County. LESMCI promotes the first version of ESMC, which was formerly rejected by the state and Governor Gavin Newsom. LESMCI categorizes CRT as a useful theoretical lens applied by ethnic studies scholars to center “the counter narratives of marginalized communities.”

Five broad categories are evaluated:

  • Whether or not the school district has a policy banning or discouraging the teaching of CRT: 1 means yes and 0 means no.
  • Whether or not the school district has a policy promoting DEI or its equivalents such as racial equity: 1 means no and 0 means yes.
  • Whether or not the school district has committed local funding to advancing DEI or its equivalents: 1 means no and 0 means yes.
  • Whether or not the school district has hired personnel to conduct the DEI policy or its equivalents: 1 means no and 0 means yes.
  • Whether or not the school district provides one or more ethnic studies courses: 1 means no and 0 means yes.