Amid Growing Critical Race Theory Legislation, Education Experts Say Textbook Content Could Be Next

Education experts say the restrictions on teaching critical race theory may spill over to textbooks as book review commissions worry about violating bans

People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.
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Critical race theory, or the academic study of racism's impact, has become a flashpoint in U.S. schools and a point of attack for conservative activists. At least nine states have enacted bans on teaching topics related to racial equity and systematic injustice through legislation or other measures that bar critical race theory.

Even though textbook content isn’t explicitly mentioned in legislation in most states, education experts say the restrictions may spill over to textbooks as book review commissions dilute content they interpret as falling under bans.

Textbook adoption panels, for instance, may now avoid choosing anything that might go against what the state wants teachers to teach or that could expose the district to litigation, said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher at the nonprofit Rand Corporation where she co-directs the American Educator Panels.

With largely vague guidelines regarding what is off limits, most will likely err on the side of caution, she added. That means textbook commissions reviewing books might select those that don't include lessons on racism and sexism in history and social studies curricula, she said.

“If I was in a state that had passed this legislation, I might not even read the legislation, but I might approach topics that I think are related to this legislation with caution. I might be like, 'I better not address that.'"

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