New Pre-College Course Focuses on Critical Race Theory

A new Colorado College Pre-College course focused on critical race theory receives praise from students.

Critical Race Theory and the Law, taught by Heidi R. Lewis, associate professor of feminist and gender studies, is aimed at students who are considering majors in the history, political science, pre-law, or humanities fields.

“I don’t think there was a more perfect class for me than Critical Race Theory and the Law,” says Kate Levinson, a rising high school senior from Breckenridge who attends boarding school in California. “I find learning about race and racism in America incredibly interesting, especially in our current political and social climate.”

Levinson says she has trouble picking her favorite parts of the class so far because there have been so many cool things, but she pointed to an exercise they did called “Against Critical Race Theory,” as a standout. In the exercise, students watched a piece of news illustrating perspectives that dispute CRT and then discussed how those opinions define CRT compared to how CRT scholars define CRT.

This is Levinson’s first time using a Block Plan schedule and she enjoys taking one class at a time because it allows her to really dig deep and explore ideas without being distracted by other classes.

“It’s also nice that my friends and I are on the same schedule, so it’s easy to do things like eating meals together,” Levinson adds.

The Pre-College program is a two and a half week-long course for rising high school juniors and seniors. Of the 144 students who applied, 57 are enrolled in six courses this summer. Applicants apply to their first and second course choices and Summer Session staff work with students to ensure they are enrolled in the most appropriate class for them.

Most of the students who apply to the Pre-College program are high-achieving academically and are considering applying to Colorado College for college, says Jim Burke, director of Summer Session. Some Pre-College students use the program to try out the Block Plan.

“I was exceptionally excited to have this course,” Burke says. “You cannot ask for a better educational experience than having any face time with Heidi Lewis.”

Hanwen Huang, a rising junior at a STEM magnet school in California, applied to CC’s Pre-College program because he wanted to experience the Block Plan.

Huang grew up in a relatively conservative environment and enrolled in Lewis’s course so he could learn about critical race theory and why people oppose it.

“So far, I have learned that Critical Race Theory is an idea, and a pursuit of knowledge, not something already established and pushed out to the world,” Huang says. He has also learned about themes behind critical race theory, such as the empathic fallacy and counter storytelling.

This is Huang’s first time at a Pre-College program and he’s enjoying it because there are so many people he can interact with. “The campus provides a lot of resources and there are so many things to do” he says.

This is the third time Lewis has taught in the Pre-College program. Lewis prepares her Pre-College courses differently than her regular undergraduate courses at CC, she says. For Pre-College students, Lewis provides a “Homework Grid” that clarifies what students need to do each night, in addition to their syllabus, course calendar, and Canvas page. “I have never — and probably would never — do that for my undergraduates,” Lewis says.

While a typical CC block is three and a half weeks and four credits, Pre-College blocks are a week shorter and three credits, which is designed to make it easier for students to transfer the credit, says Burke.

Pre-College students live in residence halls with resident advisors who are current CC students.

“I think the students in this class are really going to be benefitting from not only having her as a faculty member, but as an expert in the field, and that gets me excited, because that’s what the Pre-College program is meant to be . It’s meant to be an opportunity for students who are academically motivated to engage with experts in their field, people who love teaching and are really good at it.”

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