Yesterday there was a holier than thou editorial in the New York Times insulting groups trying to work through their elected representatives to prohibit the teaching of critical theories as normative in K-12 classrooms. There are three problems with the authors’ assessment. First, it was dishonest in its presentation of what parents and legislators call for when authoring legislation prohibiting critical theories in the classroom. The authors allege:
Tennessee House Bill SB 0623, for example, bans any teaching that could lead an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.”
Perhaps they should have read the law before they wrote about it. Or at least quoted it correctly. However, the provision in question gets to the heart of the problem of using the critical theory pedagogy as normative and is in no way creating the “safe space” they suggest. The sixth provision is an amendment to Section 51 Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, of the Education Code. It is part of an enumerated list following this introduction:
An LEA or public charter school shall not include or promote the following concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program, or allow teachers or other employees of the LEA or public charter school to use supplemental instructional materials that include or promote the following concepts:
The provision they are referring to reads as follows (emphasis mine):
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;
That is a distinction with a vast difference from the way the authors of the editorial positioned it. It cuts to the heart of the problem with teaching critical theories as normative. The pedagogy divides children by their immutable characteristics and assigns societal roles, motivations, historical guilt, behaviors, and limitations based on them. The remaining provisions in the amendment to Part 10 describe the specific ways this happens within the curriculum that uses the lens of critical theories.
One of the authors of the editorial, Thomas Chatterton Williams, exposed how deeply he has examined the pernicious nature of critical theories by tweeting this:
I agree that your kid’s math class should not discuss race. The op-ed is not arguing that it should. https://t.co/iDgEnckKFP
— Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧 (@thomaschattwill) July 6, 2021
I would suggest Williams and his co-authors, Kmele Foster, Jason Stanley, and David French, acquaint themselves with the Gates Foundation-funded Equity Math curriculum. It asserts that skills like getting the correct answer and showing one’s work in math are vestiges of white supremacy and instead offers a tool kit to “serve as multiple on-ramps for educators as they navigate the individual and collective journey from equity to anti-racism.”
To simplify, Equity Math alleges that black, brown, and multi-lingual students cannot be taught math in the traditional way with objective standards. Would the editorial’s authors be okay with banning this kind of nonsense in math class? There is no “better idea” to forward in an objective subject like math, as the authors suggest. The creators of these curricula are tearing down objectivity using the pedagogy of critical theories in the name of “equity.” The principle of equity, or equal outcomes, is also being pushed by the nation’s largest accreditor of K-12 education.
In a world that is becoming increasingly technology-driven—where well-paying careers are often related to STEM—why would any parents want this for their children? What the authors miss is that this pedagogy discriminates in both directions by assuming some children are less capable of meeting particular standards based on how they look.
As noted by Kellie Miller, director of SchoolHouse Rights, in a recent interview:
The pernicious part of the critical theories is that they are taught as normative facts and truth. According to Miller:
“There is an inherent gaslighting that occurs within critical race theory when it is taught as the truth that censors those who disagree by asserting dissent is proof of racism.”
Miller spoke specifically about critical race theory, but the same gaslighting occurs across various characteristics, including sex, sexual preference, gender identity, liability, and even body morphology. She is on the frontlines of the issue as an attorney assisting parents in fighting this pedagogy in the classroom. She has combed through a curriculum installed in Tennessee schools called Wit and Wisdom.
Unlike the editorial authors, thirty parents under the leadership of the Williamson County Moms for Liberty chapter have spent 1,200 hours documenting K-3 curriculum examples they believe violate SB 0623. The group also carefully researched the financial and other incentives that led to the implementation of Wit and Wisdom in their district. Their presentation was delivered to 450 concerned parents and summarized in a complaint to Commissioner Penny Schwinn at the Tennessee Department of Education.
Like parents across the nation, the parents in Williamson County are not cracking down on free expression, free speech, or liberal education, as the think-tank elites asserted in the New York Times. Instead, they are insisting that school administrators and the state board of education remove an illiberal, age-inappropriate curriculum—one that demands that children parrot its pedagogy or risk proving they are an -ist, a -phobe or suffer from one of the assorted -isms.
The editorial’s authors are correct that federal laws and precedent should prohibit this identity essentialism in the classroom. Administrators should have rejected these curricula automatically. Yet, they didn’t. Perhaps that is because schools of education have been inculcating students with this pedagogy since the 1980s.
And rather than enforcing federal civil rights law, the Department of Education (DOE) under the Biden administration is prioritizing curriculum that violates it. Somehow it seems the Civil Rights Division of the DOE may not be sympathetic to parents’ concerns. And the nation’s teachers’ unions are just as determined to oppose parents.
Typically, when posting a video, I use breakout quotes. However, every parent needs to listen to this minute and eleven seconds themselves. Listen to these teachers from Star Academy P.S. 63 in New York City and scroll their website:
The people going after "CRT in schools" have a far deeper critique than they're currently able to articulate & their opposition is yet to fathom. They're against the entire Critical Pedagogy enterprise, which is a fundamentally illiberal form of education. THREAD. pic.twitter.com/mrr7LnTDLT
— Mike Nayna (@MikeNayna) July 6, 2021
Someone should ask the authors of the New York Times piece how parents are supposed to litigate that? These educators are so invested in the pedagogy of critical theories that one of them thinks four-year-olds can take a well-reasoned position and engage in political activism. These two teachers are training social justice activists as if it is their personal mission. They are not educating students.
That is why the following quote from an e-mail to Schwinn from the chair of the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty might be the best posture for parents to take:
Hundreds of Williamson County parents are watching closely, hoping to receive some indication of whether they should remove their child from public school to avoid exposure to Wit & Wisdom, or to keep their child enrolled in a safe learning environment.
Williamson County has asked Miller to examine potential claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Litigation will cost precious time and money. Williamson County parents have engaged in an exhaustive review and articulation of the specific content and insist on removing ideas that run afoul with the new Tennessee law from the classroom. As they documented, there are financial incentives for state and local leaders to reject their demands. Additionally, if teachers in their schools are mission-based in critical theories as they are at Star Academy, they are notoriously difficult to remove.
If all else fails, some parents appear willing to leave the public school monopoly and innovate if necessary. In Williamson County, it may be time for parents to think deeply about insisting on comprehensive school choice legislation that allows them to control the $10,875 allocated to their children to provide them with the education of their choice. Concerned parents across the nation should consider the same. Unfortunately, the federal government, teachers’ unions, teacher education schools, and K-12 accreditation organizations are mobilized against them.
If 300 of the 450 parents who viewed the presentation withdrew their children to prevent exposure to Wit and Wisdom the district would see an effective budget reduction of up to $3,262,500. That, dear reader, is what we call leverage. Maybe crippling the public schools with a mass exodus is a small government solution the New York Times editorial authors can support.