Loyola Academy Stirs Up an Unexpected Lesson in What Race, Privilege and Education Really Mean
Education or indoctrination? That’s the big question at the core of the hullabaloo over “critical race theory,” and you don’t have to be a conservative to worry about it. You only have to be a parent.
The concept of critical race theory, or CRT, has been widely roasted by conservative politicians, commentators and activists as radical, un-American and racially divisive. Because this issue combines three topics that politicians love to ballyhoo or demagogue, about a dozen states have taken steps to bar CRT from schools or government agencies, even though few people seem to know what it really is.
So I was only half-surprised to see a recent Fox News website story headlined, “Chicagoland prep school Loyola shames White privilege in student assignment.” After all, Fox News seems to excel at finding something to frighten or outrage us daily.
I was more surprised that major Chicago media, such as the newspaper where I work, weren’t stopping the presses, as we used to say in ancient days, to ballyhoo over this story at Loyola Academy, the elite Jesuit-run prep school in north suburban Wilmette.
(A notable exception: The Evanstonian, the mighty student newspaper at Evanston Township High School, appeared to be all over it.)
As I suspected, the story turned out to be something of a tempest in a teapot, yet indicative of much bigger thunderstorms on today’s sociopolitical horizon about a couple of other volatile words: “white privilege.”
In an ethics class assignment, Loyola juniors were asked to answer such mind-bending questions as:
—“How do you benefit from white privilege, and how have you held onto that benefit (despite knowing the harm it does)?”
—“What have you learned about the ways you have specifically wield(ed) this privilege that do harm (whether you intend to or not)?”
—“Dig deep. No sugar coating and no focusing on the good you have done with your privilege. Remember this isn’t about being self-congratulatory, it’s about pulling out white supremacy.”