After a month of wait, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” returned with the premiere of its ninth season. For the premiere episode, The show host John Oliver, outlined a controversial opinion, Critical Race Theory, and debated whether it should be taught in schools.
To begin with, the talk show host defined Critical Race Theory as “a body of legal scholarship that began in the 1970s that attempted to understand why racism and inequality persisted after the civil rights movement”.
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Quoting Education Week, he explained that “the core idea is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”
He also played a segment from a CNN interview with Kimberlé Crenshaw, a luminary professor, and scholar. The interview highlighted that supporters of the theory “believe in the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendment, we believe in the promises of equality, and we know we can’t get there if we can’t confront and talk honestly about inequality.”
Critical Race Theory Isn’t Talked About In Schools
Oliver noted how huge the topic has become on Fox News, citing that it was mentioned on-air 4,707 times in 2021. He also reiterated his point of addressing “clumsy, sh–ty” CRT lessons in schools.
He gave an example of teachers dividing a class by eye color, giving brown-eyed students a low preference.
“What Rufo has been cleverly doing is cherry-picking the worst examples that he can find of lessons in classrooms or training materials for teachers and saying, that is CRT,” explained Oliver. “And he’s openly admitted that he’s been engaged in a deliberate rebranding exercise, tweeting, ‘We have successfully frozen their brand—”critical race theory”—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.'”
We're back! Here's our story from last night on Critical Race Theory…https://t.co/BUBK0uJyvY
— John Oliver (@iamjohnoliver) February 21, 2022
He added, “And the thing is—it f–king worked. Because whenever you hear CRT now, you are not hearing about the academic discipline; you’re hearing about a category so broad it encompasses both ‘the craziest thing in the newspaper’ and also, crucially, any conversation about race that someone does not want to have.”
“If you just found yourself there wondering what the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments are, that alone might be a good sign that we don’t talk about this stuff in schools enough,” Oliver concluded.
Fears Around CRT Have Panic Effects
The host noted that although many educators are trying appropriate ways to talk about race and racism in schools, conversations around the concept are likely to be shut down due to panic effects.
“But the panic over CRT threatens to shut those conversations down,” he said. “And that is not all it is likely to do because some pushing this panic the hardest are actually using it to advance a much bigger agenda that they have wanted for a very long time, and that is “school choice” — basically, letting parents take tax dollars afforded to the public schooling of their kid and use it at any school they like.”
Oliver referenced Florida as a state which diverted public funds to schools where their curriculum and books downplayed the horrors of slavery. He showed a textbook that said, “The slave who knew Christ had more freedom than a free person who did not know the Savior.”
He labeled it “offensive” and “profoundly stupid” and added, “Any kid reading that absolute trombone slide of a sentence would instantly drop two full grades. It sounds less like something you’d find in a textbook and more like something you might find crocheted on a throw pillow In Paula Deen’s living room.”
Anti-CRT Trolls Appear To Be Winning
As of June 2021, Oliver noted 37 states that have introduced bills to restrict the teaching of race in schools and limit how teachers talk about race.
He displayed an interview with a woman in Loudoun County who claimed that her community wasn’t racist. Subsequently, Oliver led a report which depicted that most students from the county’s public school used the N-word to a great extent.
“I think as a society we’ve now agreed white people should not use the N-word a ‘shocking’ number of times — unless, that is, they have a lucrative podcast deal with Spotify,” the host added, concerning Joe Rogan.
Oliver Received Accolades For His Segment
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To wrap up his segment, Oliver concluded with, “The debate around critical race theory is both very loud and very, very dumb, but unfortunately it is important to engage with it because if we don’t, the endpoint that we are heading toward is that honest discussions of race will be shut out of public schools even as some parents f*** off to voucher academies where their kids can learn a version of history that is basically antebellum fan fiction.”
After his segment, he was lauded with praises and accolades from fans on social media.
“John Oliver dispels all the bulls*** about #CriticalRaceTheory, much better than I ever could,” a fan responded.
“This video should be watched and retweeted daily. And, sent to every local, state, and Federal legislative member. Especially school boards,” another person added.