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Terry McLaughlin: Critical race theory lurks in schools

Terry McLaughlin | Columnist

Parents are becoming aware of the use of critical race theory in their children’s instruction, particularly as distance learning has given them a window into their classrooms.

Since the California Department of Education in March adopted an ethnic studies curriculum based upon critical race theory, (the fourth version, after more than 100,000 earlier objections), we have seen parents sending open letters to schools and passionately speaking up in protest at school board meetings across California and the nation.

The curriculum presents the view that our legal, economic and social institutions are inherently racist. Critical race theory advocates for, among other things, “liberating” students from capitalism, patriarchy, and settler colonialism.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the second version of the curriculum, much to the dismay of critical race advisers, some of whom resigned.

The 100,000 objections resulted in some of the most egregious material being removed from successive versions of the curriculum, such as convicted murderers of police being portrayed as positive role models and a benign narrative presented about Pol Pot, whose regime murdered as many as 30 percent of Cambodians.

Documents from the Santa Clara County Office of Education, obtained by journalist Christopher Rufo, indicate a series of teacher-training sessions were held on deploying ethnic studies in the classroom. The leaders encouraged teachers to hide materials from parents. One panelist said, “We have to be extra careful about what is being said, since we can’t just say something controversial now that we’re in people’s homes {with remote learning}.”

In Missouri, a teacher encouraged other teachers to remove from school websites accessible to parents any classroom materials that promote ideas such as “white privilege.”

Attendees at a training session in Wake County, North Carolina, received a handout that read, “You can’t let parents deter you from the work.”

Media and supporters have given us the impression that critical race theory is a harmless idea which, as described by a CNN columnist, “seeks to understand and address inequality and racism.” But if these ideas are harmless, why are some teachers and school officials attempting to hide the content from parents? What kind of education program suggests materials be hidden from parents?

In California, apparently even mathematics “upholds capitalist, imperialist, and racist views.” This statement is from “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction,” a set of six instruction books for California math teachers.

The workbooks offer “critical approaches to dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms.” Examples given of white supremacy in math include when “students are tracked,” when “the focus is on getting the right answer,” when “students are required to show their work,” or when “control of classrooms is valued over students’ agency over their learning.”

There are some ideas of value within the 82 pages of workbook No.1, such as addressing errors by students not as failure but as an opportunity to expand upon their understanding of the math concept. But these methods would be of value to all students, regardless of race, economic status, or ability.

Yet the workbook’s focus is clearly and repetitively on how “white supremacy culture shows up in the math classroom.”

Are these workbooks being used to train your child’s teacher? Check it out at https://equitablemath.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/1_STRIDE1.pdf

Disguising her voice for fear of retaliation, a California public school teacher recently called a radio program to lament about how she was required by school administrators to attend a critical race theory seminar, and was told that “facts, data, and the scientific method are white concepts.”

“So,” she said, “if you use facts and data to disprove an argument against an oppressed person, you are proving you are racist because facts and data are the result of whiteness.”

As part of her training, this teacher was given a 20-page handout published by Epoch Education, a training center in Oakland. The first page instructed her to “Express skepticism toward dominant legal claims of neutrality, objectivity, color blindness, and meritocracy”.

The document included articles about white privilege and how racism will never end. The Epoch Education website displays a video narrated by program specialist Nicole Kukral from the San Juan Unified School District, east of Sacramento, in which she explains how she created an “equity audit rubric” for use by California districts to evaluate social studies curriculum being considered for adoption.

Kukral instructs teachers to evaluate history textbooks in a positive light only if the narrators were “people of color and other diverse communities.” There seems to be no concern regarding whether the history is accurate, only that history told by western white men should be considered suspect.

The fourth version of critical race theory curriculum is riddled with inaccuracies and omits facts that are at variance with its narrative of oppression, imperialism, white supremacy, and exploitation.

Nonetheless, the California Department of Education approved this version, one which The Wall Street Journal calls “radical indoctrination.” Has this curriculum been implemented in your child’s school district?

Gov. Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign into law Assembly Bill 331, which would make it a requirement of graduation for every public high school student in California.

Left to their own devices, children are naturally color blind. We are desecrating the legacy of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King with curriculum that teaches our kids to judge themselves and each other based upon the color of their skin — the very definition of racism.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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