Days before the 2022 elections, a concerned parent from Bentonville, Arkansas, sent a disturbing email to the 1776 Project PAC. The email contained a class handout and classroom audio files recorded by his son, a student at Bentonville High School. The audio files contained two recordings of lectures and class discussions by Benjamin Ring, an English teacher at Bentonville, telling his class the definition, history, and virtues of critical race theory.
Ring set aside days of his English III course to walk his students through critical race theory in detailed fashion—and the student, wishing to remain anonymous, was quick enough to hit “record.”
Throughout the lecture and discussion, Ring intones that critical race theory is a beneficial and positive thing, stating that “CRT can be useful, helping us become a better society.”
After receiving the email containing the fairly cut-and-dried evidence of critical race theory instruction, the 1776 Project PAC confronted the Bentonville School District about this material being taught in classrooms, sharing parts of the audio in a tweet on Nov. 6.
Axios jumped in on the controversy—where things took a wild turn. Axios reporter Worth Sparkman claimed that the 1776 Project PAC was lying, and that critical race theory wasn’t taught anywhere outside of post-graduate university law schools. Sparkman acknowledged receiving the audio and presentation proving CRT was taught at Bentonville, though hasn’t updated his story or apologized.
CRT defenders often make this claim, given that critical race theory is usually applied via curriculum and pedagogy and not outlined as a theory in K-12 instruction. By pointing out that the words “critical race theory” aren’t at the top of the chalkboard when students come in, progressive journalists can claim that critical race theory isn’t being directly taught.
In education, we would call this theory a part of our pedagogy (i.e. how something is taught) or praxis, rather than our curriculum (i.e. what is taught).
The Bentonville English class took it a step further by including critical race theory in both pedagogy and curriculum. Ring took specific time out of his classroom schedule to teach his English III class his interpretation of the core function and background of critical race theory, and we have the audio files and class notes to prove it.
Sparkman reached out for comment to a member of the 1776 Project PAC, who shared the evidence that Ring was directly teaching critical race theory. Sparkman ignored this evidence and continues to falsely claim that it wasn’t (and isn’t) being taught at Bentonville or anywhere else.
Sparkman and Axios have refused to provide comments to The Daily Signal concerning the dishonest “fact-check.”
Aiden Buzzetti of the 1776 Project PAC told The Daily Signal:
The audio recordings we received and released to the public confirmed without a doubt that teachers in Bentonville feel comfortable talking about critical race theory with students, even as Bentonville Schools accused the 1776 Project PAC’s concerns as ‘baseless.’ When we engaged with reporters regarding Bentonville schools, we spoke very clearly about how Critical Race Theory is applied in the classroom and does not have to be a clearly defined item in the curriculum, and yet every single local reporter ignored the audio recordings and provided handout.
The reporting by Axios and other outlets was extremely disingenuous and meant to discredit not only our concerns, but the concerns of the local candidates.
Perhaps ironically, Ring’s definition of critical race theory is rare for its accuracy and clarity. As Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and foremost scholar on CRT in education, used to say when I sat in her classes, CRT is “an interpretive lens … a way to examine how institutionalized inequality is present in our various systems and textual sources … ”
Critical race theory is simply a lens with which to analyze and criticize the role of racism its scholars claim is inherent in every facet of American society. In Indianapolis Public Schools, I watched this theory put into practice as teachers and administrators were told to dismantle white supremacy and eliminate whiteness in their classrooms and schools.
This includes shaming character traits considered “white” like: perfectionism, a “sense of urgency,” defensiveness, “quantity over quality,” the “worship of the written word,” paternalism, and “binary” thinking.
Additionally, critical race theory suggests that there exists a cultural dichotomy in American life—between those who look white and those who don’t—and that white people have unfairly benefited from privilege, and are thus complicit in institutional racism. This concept derives from the philosophies of Herbert Marcuse and Paulo Freire, Marxists who suggested that individualism was evil, and that those at the “top of society” were responsible for all evils and wrongs below them.
Ring told his students, “CRT has very little to do with Marxism,” and that “Marxism is a phrase we pin on things to make them anti-American.”
Critical race theory founders and scholars like Ladson-Billings, Barbara Applebaum, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado have directly cited Marcuse and Friere’s openly Marxist works in forming their understanding of CRT and its applications. Crenshaw specifically praised Marxism as an ally to “leftist Black nationalism” and “radical feminism.”
While Ring’s presentation states that “[CRT is NOT] an assertion that all white people are racists, or even to blame for the past. (That’s a straw man fallacy.),” critical race theory scholar Applebaum disagrees. In “Being White, Being Good: White Complicity,” she claims that “ … all whites are responsible for white dominance since their ‘very being depends on it.’”
Bentonville exhibits another cautionary warning: Red states are not safe because they have Republican majorities. Indiana, Idaho, Texas, Ohio, Tennessee, and many others have case after case of schools that teach or use critical race theory, radical gender theory, and other progressive social theories regardless of parental concerns.
In Bentonville, self-described Republican and Christian board member Jennifer Faddis told Axios, “As a board member, I’ve never seen any hint of CRT in our classrooms, and as a Christian and registered Republican, I would be the first to speak out against it.” Other school board members told Axios there was no critical race theory present in Bentonville. As has often been the case with many schools caught lying, these school board members have faced no consequences for their apathy and dishonesty.
None of Bentonville’s seven school board members responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Axios exhibits a similar cautionary warning we’ve seen before: Progressive media institutions will cover for schools, overtly lying if necessary, to keep parents in the dark. Any institution that parrots press releases and official statements without further investigation is more interested in political propaganda than reporting facts.
If they won’t follow their editorial standards, then we’ll call them out on it. If schools won’t do their due diligence in investigating parents’ concerns, then we’ll elect better school boards. We’ll keep working until our children have educational opportunities wholly beneficial to them.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.