Terry McLaughlin: Parents wary of critical race theory
California residents may be familiar with euphemisms for critical race theory, such as “ethnic studies,” “educational equity” and “culturally responsive teaching,” but may not understand the philosophical premise, which is to divide all people into oppressors and oppressed.
My last column sought to describe examples of critical race theory curriculum our children may be exposed to, but parents who are speaking up all around the country tell the more authoritative story from their firsthand experience.
One such parent is Andrew Gutmann, who made the decision to remove his daughter from New York’s elite Brearley School after seven years of enrollment because he “no longer believes that Brearley’s administration and board of trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart.”
Gutmann wrote a 2,000-word letter to fellow Brearley parents explaining his decision, based upon his personal observations. The first-person words of his open letter are descriptive and compelling, and worth sharing here:
“I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs.
“I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. … We have not had systemic racism … since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s. … To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today’s societal issues.
“I object to a definition of systemic racism … that any educational, professional, or societal outcome where Blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of … white supremacy and oppression. Facile and unsupported beliefs such as these are the polar opposite to the intellectual and scientific truth for which Brearley claims to stand.
“I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism.
“I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate and fanatical use of words such as ‘equity,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘inclusiveness.’ If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called ‘equity,’ it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration were genuinely serious about ‘diversity,’ it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students and their families, to a single mindset. … Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about ‘inclusiveness,’ the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto ‘One Brearley,’ instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors.
“I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums. I object to the censorship of books that have been taught for generations. … I object to the erosion of rigor in classwork and the escalation of grade inflation.
“We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training ground for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history.
“Lastly, I object … that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters and our daughters’ teachers are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of ‘consequences.’ … Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into two.
“It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous. Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution. But given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up.
“But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers, and I assure you, the numbers are there. Contact the administration and the Board of Trustees and demand an end to the destructive and anti-intellectual claptrap. … For the sake of our community, our city, our country, and most of all, our children, silence is no longer an option.”
Andrew Gutmann’s sentiments are being echoed by other concerned parents in Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, California and other states throughout our nation. As they are awakening to the attitudes and concepts buried within critical race theory curriculum, the voices of more parents, from all ethnic groups, are growing louder and stronger every day. For them, silence is no longer an option.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at email@example.com.
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