As the school year closes, preparation for the next begins. During the summer, administrators often write and disseminate new curricula. Therefore, May, June and July may well be the most critical times to watch what the school boards are doing. This is not time for summer vacation but parental action.
Exit Critical Race Theory, Stage Left
This year, the educational establishment wants to substitute the rightly-criticized “Critical Race Theory” with the more neutral-sounding “anti-racism.” Such a move makes sense. After all, no one wants to be painted as “pro-racism.”
Gregory C. Hutchings, superintendent of the Alexandria, Virginia public schools and co-author of Getting Into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-racist School System, wrote an article in Education Week about CRT that testifies to the name change.
First, Mr. Hutchings drops CRT into the memory hole. “Most public school educators had never heard of ‘critical race theory’ until political strategists seized on the term in 2020 to discredit public education.” He then labels all opposition as those dedicated to “banning books, rescinding policies, and dismantling curriculum.”
Mr. Hutchings dedicates the body of the article to “six scalable steps to escape the reactionary trap that continues to perpetuate systemic racism in our public schools.”
Step 1. Know our History
Mr. Hutchings starts with a false assertion that the “anti-racist” version of history described by Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo and the New York Times’s “1619 Project” is accurate. It is not. It has been refuted by many competent historians, many of them on the ideological left.
The phrase assumes that previous generations of American History teachers and texts ignored the events of slavery and injustice. Again, this is false—as a cursory examination of any widely-used American History textbook since 1970 will attest.
Some CRT defenders will try to point to the absence of a particular event as a sign of deliberate exclusion. That tactic is misleading. Translating all of American History into a one-year course always involves leaving some specific information out. Omitting the topics of slavery, Reconstruction, and “Jim Crow” would be exclusion. Leaving out any single event is not.
Parents opposing this agenda need to read up on the “1619 Project” and its distorted vision of history.
Step 2. Commit to Racial Equity
Mr. Hutchings claims schools can solve the problems of race by committing to racial “equity.” This is also false. For him, the more traditional idea of “equality” is only the starting point. However, no school can make all students equal.
The only aspect of a student’s life that the school controls is what happens in the school. The schools cannot change the student’s family situation, neighborhood, physical and mental handicaps, economic status, personal habits, friendships, spiritual life, dress, weekend and summer activities, and so much more.
The school can, and should, ensure that its faculty and staff treat all students with the dignity and respect that they have as students and human beings. Every child should have the opportunity to receive instruction that is appropriate to that student’s age, emotional state, mental development and physical abilities. Beyond that, the school has no real influence.
Step 3. Dismantle Intraschool Segregation.
“Intraschool segregation” sounds terrible, but what is it? Mr. Hutchings vaguely mentions two examples—placing students in “tracks” according to demonstrated ability and a reluctance to enroll minority students in demanding courses. Then, he puts them in a timeframe of the sixties and seventies.
Since the mid-eighties, the truth is that schools have expanded access to rigorous courses, talented and gifted programs, etc., to ever-increasing numbers of non-white students. Some of the students that the “woke” refer to as “BIPOC” succeeded brilliantly. Others have not. However, the reasons do not lie with the school but rather with the students.
The best teacher in the world cannot teach a child who does not want to learn. No teacher can do the students’ work for them. Teachers can, and should, present the material to the best of their ability. However, the students must do their part. Parents must do their part as well.
Step 4. Abolish Policing Practices in Schools.
Some school administrators use different phrases for this step. Where Mr. Hutching refers to “policing practices,” others decry the “school-to-prison pipeline” and urge “restorative justice.” No matter which phrase they use, the intent is the same—to hold the school responsible for students’ bad (often criminal) decisions in school or later in life.
The supposed link between school disciplinary actions and eventual incarceration is highly suspect. The phrase “chaotic home-to-prison pipeline” is more accurate of what happens in real life. Children raised in unstable homes all too often end up in prison. School punishments these children earned are not a cause of adult incarceration, simply earlier symptoms of the same disease.
So-called restorative justice provides neither restoration nor justice. It places incredible pressure on the victims of classroom disorder while convincing the perpetrators that school authorities are fools for refusing to take adequate measures. Eventually, the schools become as chaotic as the homes from which many of these children come. Sometimes, restorative justice is described as successful because it decreases the number of suspensions and expulsions. However, there is no evidence that they result in troubled students improving their adult lives.
Step 5. Prioritize Strategic Thinking and Planning
Mr. Hutchins tries to appeal to reason in an emotional way. He implies that his opponents are unreasonable, emotional rather than thoughtful, and incapable of planning.
Administrators and leftist media love to depict their conservative opponents as irrational. When ignored, deprecated, and pushed aside by liberal school board officials, some otherwise rational people sometimes lose their tempers. However, most reactions are reasoned and proportional to the dangers posed to their children. The skillful opponent must always act peacefully and legally.
In another sense, Mr. Hutchins’s appeal to reason is ironic. Some authors or resources he promotes discourage rational thought as Western and racist. The Smithsonian Institute’s poster statement titled “Aspects and Assumptions of Whiteness and White Culture in the United States” is one example. It states that one sign of whiteness was rational thinking. Indeed, there is little-to-nothing rational about the anti-racist movement. It appeals to the worst instincts of those it pretends to help and respect. It pretends to advocate for better schools while denying that traditional subjects have any value. It promotes racism and then decries racists. In Biblical terms, its advocates try to remove the specks from their neighbors’ eyes while ignoring the beams in their own.
Step 6. Demonstrate Courage and Boldness.
Again, Mr. Hutchins—deliberately or not—indulges in irony. Under the currently prevailing educational ideology, resisting the so-called “anti-racist advocates takes far more courage.” They will stop at nothing to ensure that opposing ideas never see the light of day. They claim a monopoly on “vision, integrity, and passion.” They present themselves as would-be Messiases who come to deliver children from their ancestors’ influence.
“Woke” educators espouse a “systemic racism” that they cannot define, explain, or prove. They proclaim that this racism exists and has always existed. Their greatest fear is that they will have to prove their case. To avoid that calamity, they deem anyone who asks for proof as automatically guilty of an unforgivable social sin. Insisting that anyone who is not a racist already agrees with them implies that anyone who needs an explanation of racism must be a racist.
Responsible parents and community members must defeat them. The only way to do that is to expose the errors in their thinking. This summer, parents need to do their homework by watching school boards and denouncing their woke maneuvers and name change games.