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Critical values theory: A substitute for CRT?

divided road
Two-lane road with each lane going in a different direction around a rock. Proper and dramatic arrow signaling. |

America is divided.  Critical race theory is right about that. However, CRT fails as a tool to explain satisfactorily and fix the divisiveness.

There is a better tool to understand as well as heal the divisiveness in America today if we pay attention to American values rather than to the race and color of Americans. Let us call this tool the critical values theory (CVT), which states that America is divided by the values Americans hold dear.

All Americans do not hold the same values.  A fundamental distinction between race and values is that a person’s race is fixed and unchangeable during the person’s lifetime, whereas one's values could change over time. Therefore, CVT foresees a divided America of today becoming less divided if and when our values change.

Seven values that divide us

The seven major values that divide Americans regardless of one’s race and color are:

Value 1: Faith in God
Value 2: Fatherhood
Value 3: Education
Value 4: Respect for Law and order
Value 5: Work
Value 6: The role of government
Value 7: Human sexuality

The following table lists the extremes of the seven values. The table portrays how extreme values are mutually incompatible and divisive.

Table of opposing values of Americans

ValueOne extreme of the valueThe opposite extreme of the same value
1. Faith in God

I will live by faith, raise my children to live a life of faith, and I will live in obedience to the teachings of the Bible or other scriptures.

There is no god. I do not believe in any god.
2. FatherhoodFathers are essential for children's development to reach full potential. Fathers’ role in the family is regarded highly.Fathers are irrelevant to a children’s development and growth. My children could do well in life without their father.
3. EducationEducation is essential to my success as well as the success of my children.  I will devote my energies and resources towards my children’s educational excellence and accomplishments. The education of my children is everything — I will use expensive private education or demand excellence from public schools.

I cannot do much about my children’s education. My children’s public school will take care of their education.

4. Law and orderBy my example and by my teaching, all my children will always respect law and order. Crime of any magnitude is unacceptable. Obeying law and order is habitual.The law and order system is aligned against me and my children. I will challenge the police and the law and teach my children to do the same. Sometimes, crime is justified if I or my children commit the crime.
5. WorkWork is the secret of success, accomplishments, and fulfillment. I will ensure that all my children learn to have a positive attitude towards work and commit to work and its rewards. I want my children to embrace hard work and never complain about work.I do not really care for work. I do not see any value in work. When I work hard, it benefits my employer but not me or my family.

6. Government

Government is there in case of emergencies, but my family members and I learn to depend on ourselves to get ahead in life and thrive. The government can be intrusive, and therefore I want less government in our life. Government wastes tax dollars.

I cannot do much for myself or my family.  I need the government to take care of me and my family.
7.  Human sexualityTraditional and Christian values based on a foundation of a lifelong commitment to one man or one woman of the opposite sex. Sexual intimacy inside a marriage only.Anything goes. No rules.

Why not dump CRT and embrace CVT?

The above table captures the obvious: There are extreme differences in the values Americans hold. As evidence, consider how our political parties align with one extreme or the other extreme to get votes. Consequently, our political parties are very far apart from each other — our values drive them apart.

Is it time we embrace values-based critical values theory (CVT) that can replace CRT to explain as well as heal American divisiveness? 

Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After three decades of teaching and publishing as a business management professor in different universities, he retired from Auburn University in 2016. Occasionally, he teaches Biblical Leadership for Kerusso Institute for Global Leadership. His newest book is Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife, Nimmi, worship at Redwood Chapel Community Church, Castro Valley, CA.

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