Meredith C. Carroll: The CRT (non)issue in Aspen’s school board election
Fox News Channel marked 25 years in the cable news opinion business earlier this month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in its newly renovated Washington, D.C., bureau. As part of ongoing anniversary celebrations, Fox has also been broadcasting a montage on a continuous loop of the thousands of critical race theory stories generated, triggered or inspired by the network across all media over the past 13 months.
Just kidding. Yes, Fox News threw a big party but what they’re airing these days is not a CRT best-of compilation so much as what has become their regularly scheduled programming. A New Yorker story from June, “How a conservative activist invented the conflict over critical race theory,” retraced the steps Seattle-based filmmaker Christopher Rufo took last year to skillfully distort the work of a group of 1990s-era legal scholars who once wrote how “the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.” In September 2020, Rufo premiered his revamped CRT, literally made for Fox News, on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show, which has since embraced it with the tenderness of a feral cat.
“‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo told the New Yorker of the Frankenstein’s monster he created to replace “political correctness” and “cancel culture” as the preferred aspersion cast on the left.
Of course no one at Fox News honestly thinks a vast left-wing conspiracy is out to funnel taxpayer money into a slavery reparations slush fund, mandate Drag Queen Story Hour in pre-K, or shame chaste white children in public schools into apologizing for their skin color. On the other hand, what Fox knows well is that localizing manufactured social issues drives people to vote, if not in the same numbers as Donald Trump, then at least in his fake-news honor.
While you have to assume that at least a handful of Fox News’s 87-million subscriber households are located in Aspen, much like man furs and the concept of aging naturally, their schtick never really took off here, or at least not among most of the people actually living here. If Aspen has a lot working against it right now, a bonanza of accusations of make-believe indoctrination lessons is blessedly absent from that list.
For the most part, that’s usually been the case. Discussions and debates in local Aspen and Snowmass elections tend to remain free from the kind of synthetic distractions devoured by the people for whom Fox News is less infotainment and more an instruction manual. The same can’t be said in many other places across Colorado and the rest of the country, where school board meetings have become ground zero for mask mandate tantrums, vaccine conniptions, and panic attacks over suspicions that someone is trying to sneak our kids’ history lessons through a wider lens.
Six people are vying for three Aspen School District Board of Education seats on the Nov. 2 ballot. To date the race has remained relatively subdued, with mentions of artificial CRT controversies so far relegated to social media trolls, letters to the editor rants, and Joyce Rankin, Aspen’s elected representative on Colorado’s State Board of Education.
One question for Aspen’s BOE candidates at tomorrow night’s Squirm Night debate would be whether they think CRT exists or if they would support a curriculum that allows for broader discussions on race, culture, and gender. A better question, though, is how to keep politics out of the school board and instead teach it in the classrooms so that when the students become adults, they can make better distinctions, and better decisions.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.