Teaching English in America just got harder.

Last week, the National Council of Teachers of English updated its 7-12th grade English teacher licensure standards - standards that not only influence state standards and teacher preparation programs but also individual teaching practices. The update now expressly directs middle and high school English language arts teachers to prioritize “antiracist/antibias” instruction and assessment within their classroom.

The update further urges teachers to “identify and challenge individual or systematic acts of racism or other forms of discrimination or bigotry in education,” “express strong declarations of solidarity with people of diverse human and cultural backgrounds to eradicate forms of racism, bias, and prejudice” and “explicitly push for antiracism by participating in ongoing professional development …” 

Using the classroom to extinguish racism is certainly a hefty task for anybody, but that’s not actually the hard part for teachers.

Teachers have always been essential players in building the kind of character in students that creates a better society. In fact, most of the teachers I know are quite adept at teaching and discussing how racism (along with a number of other social ills) degrades the human person and undermines our country’s founding vision.

No, the NCTE’s update is hard for a number of other reasons.

It’s hard because it forces teachers, experts at promoting critical thinking in the classroom, to instead promote mindless acceptance.           

As one might expect, the NCTE doesn’t simply define racism as the oppression, mistreatment or discrimination against someone based on their race. Rather, it rings of Critical Race Theory by narrowly defining racism in America as “the systematic mistreatment and disenfranchisement of people of color who currently and historically possess less power and privilege than white Americans.”

In other words, embedded in the NCTE’s definition are actually false premises that insist one’s race always determines power or privilege. To adopt NCTE’s antiracist rhetoric, educators will therefore need to ignore the myriad of literature, historical evidence, and even personal stories that offer legitimate counter examples to these premises and would otherwise invalidate them. 

It’s hard because it encourages teachers to review and apply NCTE’s antiracism perspective even when it distorts actual facts.

According to Education Week, NCTE’s Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick stated that the antiracist/antibias language was meant to “be more specific and have educators interrogate whether every aspect of their instruction —  from literature selection to writing prompts — is rooted in an anti-bias perspective.”

To take the NCTE at its word, they’d therefore have teachers scrupulously explore and possibly project racial bias into all literature.

One can already foresee how this type of zeal in the hands of the wrong teacher could actually destroy historical accuracy. Just imagine the effect it could have on some of our earliest American writings like that from the Puritans, who settled in the northern English colonies as part of a religious quest.

Rather than reviewing their writing using an appropriate lens of faith to understand they fled to a new world to escape religious persecution, aimed to create a “city on a hill”  to model and spread proper Christian living, or insisted on a strict moral code within their community out of an obedience to God, an antiracist/antibias evaluation could potentially reduce them to nothing more than an intolerant community filled with white arrogance and superiority.

It’s hard because it forces teachers, who are  ethically bound  (in Alabama at least) to value the worth and dignity of every person, to selectively apply these ethics.

An ethical teacher/student relationship requires teachers to nurture all of their students’ intellectual and civic capabilities and avoid needlessly exposing them to disparagement. The NCTE’s antiracist rhetoric, however, will force teachers to not only accept but also promote the limited capabilities of some students and the unearned advantage of others. 

It’s hard because it forces teachers, who typically help students pursue truth and solutions, to now ignore both.

The truth is there's actually a systematic problem that needs addressing, but it’s not one rooted in racism. It’s one rooted in sin. 

And as long as society —and its systems — continue to diminish the importance of God or even mock the positive influence of faith in the public square, racism will continue to be part of a litany of other sins that lead to social disorder.

So yes, the NCTE’s antiracist rhetoric has made teaching English harder … because it is rhetoric that is not about teaching at all.