The National Council of Teachers of English announced the update last week, the first time since 2012, that the organization's "Standards for the Initial Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts" for high school and junior high school have been updated.
The standards say teachers should "apply and demonstrate knowledge of learners and learning to foster inclusive learning environments that support coherent, relevant, standards-aligned, differentiated, and antiracist/anti bias instruction."
Anti-racism and anti bias are terms often associated with critical race theory, an academic theory that asserts that American cultural practices and institutions are inherently racist and wrong racial minorities, notably black people. Cracking down in systemic racism demands antiracist practices, according to critical race theorists.
Critical race theory in school has been a subject of intense public debate lately, with conservative activists saying that its presence in K-12 schools encourages racial division. Liberals maintain that the theory is not taught in public schools, despite various examples of teacher training materials giving guidelines on incorporating elements of the theory into the K-12 classroom.
The addition of antiracist language to the systems ``shifted the term social justice to antiracist/anti bias based on expert advice," according to the council's press release announcing the standards.
The rules are designed for "teacher prep programs for the purpose of preparing future teachers," NCTE spokeswoman Stacey Finkel told the Washington Examiner.
Finkel also included in the press release a remark by the council's president, Alfredo Celedon Lujan, that "Our field deals directly with the human condition through shaping the literate lives of our learners and is uniquely positioned to act on the complexities we collectively face."
"Bigotry, discrimination, oppression, divisiveness, and racism are part of the world in which future teachers of English are working," Lujan said. "These new standards seek to support educators as they prepare to go into the classroom."
The executive director of the NCTE, Emily Kirkpatrick, told EdWeek that "A lot of change is afoot [in English/language arts education], and we want to use the standards as an active means to communicate what NCTE believes is essential to possess coming into teaching grades 7-12."
"The guiding light is that the demands on students and the demands from society have changed the landscape significantly," Kirkpatrick said.
The council will be hosting its annual convention later this week, focused on the topic "Equity, Justice, and antiracist teaching."
The new standards come at a time when English teachers have found themselves embroiled in the national debate over how to teach about the nation’s history of racism.