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Abigail Nahlik

Jefferson City

Dear Editor:

Recently, critical race theory has come under fire as some sort of nefarious means to subvert the status quo. This recent focus on this segment of literary theory is perplexing to me and seems to stem from a general misunderstanding about the purpose of literary theory in the first place.

To begin, let me address the first misconception I see: The role of literary theory in the classroom. As a professional educator, it is my job to present students with information that will help them to think critically. It is my job to show students ways to think about the world; it is never my job to tell students how to think about the world. When studying literature, it is impossible to do so without discussing the different ways to interpret it. Literary theory is an intrinsic part of learning about and discussing literature.

For instance, when studying Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," reading the novel from a feminist critical theory viewpoint yields a different understanding than if the novel is read using post-colonial theory or Marxist theory, or deconstructionist theory, etc. Critical race theory is just another tool that students can use to analyze a text. Not allowing one type of literary theory to be discussed is absurd.

The second misconception around the issue of critical race theory seems to stem from a limited understanding of the conversation happening in regards to race among the younger generation. Students talk about issues related to race all the time. In classrooms, students read texts or current events that center on race. As a professional educator, it is my job to give students the tools to discuss such potentially difficult issues in a knowledgeable, balanced and understanding way. To have a fully formed opinion, people must understand both sides of an issue. Not allowing one specific viewpoint to be taught does not allow for students to make fully formed opinions.

Ultimately, I think the best course of action when it comes to this suddenly hot button issue is for everyone to take a step back and assess the situation with positive intent. Teachers do not have a sinister plan to indoctrinate students to one way of thinking; we simply want students to learn, think critically, and make informed decisions based on exposure to diverse viewpoints.

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