The excerpt below is a component of the weekly Higher Ed Issues Landscape Report, which analyzes the top conversation trends in higher education for the past week and highlights qualitative and quantitative insights on the topics and universities that drove coverage.
As of Wednesday (6/9), lawmakers in 16 states have introduced or passed legislation seeking to limit the teaching of critical race theory within public institutions. The curriculum has been around for decades, but it has been thrust into the higher education spotlight in recent months following the killing of George Floyd. With this new focus on critical race theory, it is imperative that university leaders be aware of conversation around the topic and anticipate concerns around whether it ought to be required learning.
Key Questions to Ask:
- To what degree has any debate relevant to our institution become politically inspired, and/or promoted by media and individuals who have a limited understanding of what it entails? Can campus experts help to drive a clearer understanding of the topic?
- Much of the controversy has focused on concerns over the “indoctrination” of younger children. This concern may be somewhat reduced at the college level, where students are expected to bring their own critical analyses to courses, but faculty and administrators may feel increasingly under pressure
- To what degree do professors and administrators feel under scrutiny?
- How can we proactively gauge emerging concerns?
- To what degree can we better understand arguments for and against this type of curriculum? For example, groups like the Heritage Action have published toolkits for parents to combat Critical Race Theory curriculum being taught in the K-12 space
A Deeper Look at Conversation around Critical Race Theory:
- There were 12,303 online news mentions of critical race theory as it relates to higher education in the past year, garnering more than 21.48 million social media engagements
- The Daily Wire’s article in April about the Idaho Senate passing a bill that would’ve made Idaho the first state to ban critical race theory led all online news coverage with 488.1K engagements
- In an analysis of these online news mentions on Facebook, articles generated 2.4 million reactions, 55% Loving the topic and 33% being Angry (Source: Legend Labs BuzzSumo analysis)
- There were more than 60K unique online mentions of critical race theory in the past year, a 1237% increase compared to the prior 12 months
- There were 13.3K broadcast mentions, with the total estimated audience exceeding 2.5 billion