As many of you know, I had many different jobs in my school system. I tell people it’s because I didn’t do any of them well, but now I’m beginning to think that the road I followed led me to being able see the whole picture better.
There were three jobs I held while in administration. They were Social Studies Specialist and then Coordinator of Testing and Staff Development. That trifecta seems to be valuable right now, especially as we address the implementation of Critical Race Theory in schools.
As Social Studies Specialist, I witnessed the implementation of State Social Studies Standards as they began the move from actually teaching history, government, geography, etc. to teaching revisionist history, government propaganda, and climate change instead of geography. As the various Social Studies “experts” promoted Howard Zinn’s twisted Marxist version of our history, I saw them denounce the “old white men” who founded this country and promote Marx and Lenin as the creators of all valid social constructs. I watched as they totally ignored accomplishments of all Americans and depicted all of us as exploitave and oppressive. Anything European was evil.
As Coordinator of Testing I saw how test scores became the highest priority and children became merely a commodity that needed to be pushed, prodded and, frankly, abused to get the scores up and up. The idea of test scores being the best indicator of school system success laid part of the foundation for Critical Race Theory. More on that later.
Staff Development dove tailed with testing and became a tool for indoctrination and intimidation of staff.
I’m not going to lie. I participated in some of this nonsense. I was one of those educators who thought we could make things better and who was naive enough to think that the people directing us knew how to do that. I bought into the idea that we were underserving certain members of our population. In all honesty, that might have been true, but I didn’t realize that what we were being told to do was achieving the exact opposite of boosting student achievement. And, it was allowing radical and divisive groups to train our teachers and then our children.
I confirmed that realization when I saw some materials currently being used for staff development in our county. While the county claims they are not training staff in Critical Race Theory they are using materials that come straight out of the CRT playbook. These are materials from a group called ” Courageous Conversations. ” Sounds good, doesn’t it? “Courageous” means brave. “Coversations” means two way dialogue between people, a give and take of ideas.
Sad thing, neither of those words apply to this training. It is not a courageous conversation when you bring people to a group and proceed to talk at them about how their skin color is all that matters, who they are is the entire problem, and that they need to be less of who they are to be successful. No amount of cute phrases and politically correct rhetoric makes this okay.
It’s nothing new. Courageous Conversations has been around for over 15 years. It started small and made its way around the country indoctrinating teachers into what I call ” White Guilt Instructional Strategies.” This included not having the same academic expectations for all.
It’s an action similar to what the CCP did to Falun Gong. A population is identified as problematic to the promotion of a political system, then they are scapegoated, then they are forced to “confess” their sins, and then they are eliminated either physically or spiritually. At that point, they must adapt or disappear. Teachers must either go along or leave.
Meanwhile, don’t think that the students “of color” will have better academic achievement because of this biased training. Far from it. In fact, I think they will suffer more.
One of the things that happens when teachers are taught to be guilty about who they are is that they can no longer teach with authenticity, with authority, with skill. You see, teaching is 90% confidence and 10% content. A teacher has to believe that he/she can teach each student that walks into the classroom no matter who that student is. And that teacher needs to know he/she can use professional skill and judgement to tailor instruction to that student. And a good teacher can’t fake who they are.
How can a teacher do that if they are constantly told that THEY are the problem, that their teaching skills are compromised by their race and background, and that they cannot overcome or even use that background to reach all students? They can’t.
This belief leads to teachers tiptoeing around teaching Black students. Instead of seeing each student as a unique individual with gifts and talents, teachers now see them as a group that has been oppressed by the teacher’s group. They will alter expectations, which often means lowering them for Black students in order not to offend or further “oppress” that student. They will be unable to see past race to a student’s true ability.
An example is something that happened approximately two years prior to my retirement. I was back in the classroom, a place I never should have left because it was my strength. ( However, perhaps all those different jobs led me to be a better teacher.) Since the early 2000’s, test data, classroom grades, discipline, and anything else that happened in education, was disaggregated into every possible sub-group to determine which “groups,” not individuals, were succeeding and which weren’t. In order to prod teachers to do a better job, it was decreed that teachers would be evaluated on the disaggregated pass/fail ( grade distribution) data from their classes. For example if you had a class of 15 Black students and 15 White students, and 10 of those Black students failed, 2 White students failed, 5 Black students passed, and 13 White students passed, you were in trouble. Obviously, you were doing something wrong for certain groups. No mention was ever made of students as individuals, just racial groups.
Teachers being humans and humans being true to nature, they took the easiest path to “success.” Instead of working harder with failing students as individuals to get them to pass, they made sure their percent of passing students improved, whether or not those students actually achieved. So, those students that passed may not have actually learned anything academic. But, the grade distribution looked better so the teacher was lauded as a success.
The education powers wised up to this and changed their approach to look at grading and the coinciding state testing data for the same groups in each classroom. So if teachers were just passing students to look good, they would be found out.
But, again, nothing got better. Now teachers just lowered the expectations for all students to just learn what was on the state testing. So, again, Black students were cheated of academic rigor along with everyone else.
This is the kind of “racism” that will truly impact students of all colors. Gladys Ladson-Billings in her book Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, shared the stories of different teachers who had success with minority children. Most of the stories involved teachers holding the students to high academic standards, of teachers treating children as individuals, and teachers showing their caring for all students.
Nowhere in the book does she describe a teacher who tells African American children they are “oppressed” and their White friends are the children of oppressers. ( Which is weird because she now is a big supporter of CRT which does just that. What changed?)
So now, we rush to implement this new theory which does nothing to improve the lives of children, no matter the race. The alternative?
Teach educators to view students as individuals, not members of racial groups. Teach them to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses and teach with and despite them. Teach them how to form good relationships with students, regardless of race. Share with them the fact that all of us can overcome our negative circumstances and achieve.
Most of all, teach them that ALL humans, no matter who they are, should be treated with kindness, respect, and humanity rather than hatred and blame. Teach them how to listen to each other and try to understand our differences and similarities.
I call that “Critical Human Theory.”