Most traditional education in the U.S. still centers whiteness and emphasizes equal opportunity and rugged individualism.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

My career as an educator has spanned five decades and included 18 years as a high school English teacher in rural upstate South Carolina and another 19 years (and counting) as a professor at a selective liberal arts college in the same area.

As a lifelong Southerner and a critical educator, I have always included lessons addressing social class and race in my classes when teaching high school and now as a university professor.

My goals as a high school English teacher concerning race and racism were primarily to introduce my students to the broad and complex range of Black…


While Republicans continue to claim the U.S. “is not a racist country” and passing legislation directly and indirectly banning critical race theory (CRT) and the 1619 project, the recent comments by former VP Mike Pence capture the real message behind these events:

For Republicans and conservatives who reject systemic racism as a “left-wing myth,” there remains a significant challenge: How can we explain the tremendous racial gaps (see below) that exist in the U.S. between Black and white Americans?

These attacks are directly effecting K-12 and higher education; therefore, educators must be well informed about these issues. …


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“In total, lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced bills that seek to restrict how teachers can discuss racism, sexism, and other social issues,” reports Sarah Schwartz for Education Week.

South Carolina (H630) has joined Republicans across the U.S. challenging Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project.

The key problem with this copycat legislation is CRT isn’t implemented in K-12 education and the 1619 Project is not adopted curriculum.

CRT is rare in higher education, reserved for some graduate programs (specifically among legal scholars), but CRT provides a way to examine systemic racism, not simply the actions of…


Conservatives are misusing the term “CRT” as a marker for any and all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives or any and all lessons addressing race and racism in schools.

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I was recently asked on Twitter if there can be any valid criticisms of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and that question was couched in a belief that everyone challenging CRT was being broadly (and unfairly) painted as racists.

In my own posts about CRT, I have in fact noted that a foundational part of anything “critical” is the essential and perpetual challenging of assumptions; the paradox of CRT and critical pedagogy is that to be critical one must continually step back to challenge the very thing being used to interrogate the world.

Simply put, CRT scholars are as apt to…


Make your money with a suit and tie
Make your money with shrewd denial
Make your money expert advice…
You can lie
As long as you mean it

“KING OF COMEDY,” R.E.M.

Photo by Ronda Darby on Unsplash

The school choice debate, reaching back into the twentieth century, tends to be framed around either/or concepts such as the free market (the Invisible Hand) versus public institutions (the Commons). …


While simplistic, provocative messaging is effective because it triggers an emotional response, the truth about K-12 public education in the U.S. is that it has always been and is now extremely conservative.

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Consider this description of public schools in the U.S.:

[P]ublic schools … [are] a “dragon … devouring the hope of the country as well as religion.” Secular public education … [is filled with] “Socialism, Red Republicanism, Universalism, Infidelity, Deism, Atheism, and Pantheism — anything, everything, except religion and patriotism.”

FREETHINKERS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN SECULARISM, SUSAN JACOBY, (PP. 257–258)

Some of this language is archaic, but the attack on public schools here is little different than the current climate in the U.S. …


Media coverage, however, will not (cannot?) reach for a different playbook; U.S. public education is always in crisis and the sky is falling because schools (and teachers) are failing.

Two facts: education is not in crisis and this isn’t falling. (Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash)

Often education journalism is disturbing in its “deja vu all over again“: Why Other Countries Keep Outperforming Us in Education (and How to Catch Up).

Criticizing U.S. public education through international comparisons is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. media, reaching back at least into the mid-twentieth century.

This is one of many crisis approaches to covering education — Chicken Little journalism — that makes false and misleading claims about the quality of U.S. education (always framed as a failure) and that because of the low status of the U.S. …


Anti-racism efforts, including those found in K-12 and higher education, ask educators and students to consider how racism happened (historically) and to examine critically how white privilege and racism remain in our contemporary daily lives in the U.S.

Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

White privilege is a system of advantage that benefits all white people (or to be more clear, all people who are perceived of as white).

That racial privilege, however, is no guarantee of success or shield of protection for some individual people who are white. White people fail, white people suffer inequity and disadvantages (such as poverty), and white people in some individual cases are substantially worse off than individual Black people.

Racism is a system of power and race that disadvantages all Black people in the U.S. …


Memorization and automatic behavior are not about “bad” or “good.” In fact, memorization and automatic behavior are inevitable for most humans, even essential.

Greg LeMond (L) strapped into the traditional toe clips along side Bernard Hinault (R) sporting the future, clipless pedals (a design inspired by ski bindings and pioneered by Look).

In the early to mid-1980s, I entered the world of serious recreational cycling. I had been an athlete throughout my childhood and teen years, but found myself sedentary and out of shape in the first few years of my career as a high school English teacher.

Road cycling wasn’t the most inviting of sports, being both an individual and group endeavor. I quickly discovered, in fact, that cycling is deeply tradition-bound and steeped in ritual and conformity.

Ultimately, it is also an orchestra of Social Darwinism; you must be strong enough and skilled enough to ride with a group regardless…


You said “I think I’m like Tennessee Williams”
I wait for the click. I wait, but it doesn’t kick in

“CITY MIDDLE,” THE NATIONAL

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

A refrain by my father throughout my childhood and into my adolescence has shaped how I try to live my life; it remains possibly the strongest impulse I have as an adult.

My father’s parenting philosophy was possibly as misguided as it was reflective of the essential problem with how adults interact with children and teens: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

As a child growing up in the rural crossroads of Enoree, South…

Paul Thomas

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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