Trouble in Paradise? (Part 9)

Despite a state law condemning such indoctrination, wokeness threatens public education in Blount County. Citizens, wake up!

Thanks to the Tennessee Conservative News (here) and the Tennessee Star Report (here)! My remarks to the Maryville School Board are reported in the Daily Times here.

Deep in conservative east Tennessee, in a county that voted for President Trump by a margin of 71%-27%, and following passage of a state law (SB 623) forbidding public schools to instruct students on topics [1] related to “critical race theory,” the local school district (Maryville City Schools) announced recently that “Principals and assistant principals this year will study the book “Beyond Conversations About Race,” about how to move forward on equity and access issues.” MCS Assistant Director Amy Vagnier stated that this “professional development” initiative was in response to “a diversity survey conducted in January to examine equity and access.”

Out of curiosity, I ordered a copy of this book to see what exactly MCS principals and assistant principals would be “studying.” It is pretty much what I expected, given the topic and authors, and the promotional blurb on Amazon:

Learn how to talk about race in the classroom and advocate for racial equity in schools:

  • Recognize the presence of systemic racism in schools and understand why racism is such an uncomfortable topic for many.
  • Use scenarios and effective discussion questions to encourage challenging conversations.
  • Learn how to advocate for underserved communities and those who suffer under racism.
  • Resist racial stereotypes and promote equity in the classroom.
  • Take appropriate action based on challenging conversations.
  • Ultimately develop classrooms, schools, and districts into safe, anti-racist educational strongholds and promote positive learning experiences for marginalized students. (Emphasis added.)

What did I find?

Gratuitous partisan attacks. Throughout the book, conservatives and Republicans are referred to in derogatory and/or dismissive terms. Examples include Ward Connerly (p. 8), Sen. Tom Cotton (p. 60),  President Donald Trump (p. 82), and social scientist Charles Murray (pp. 122-23).

Overt political bias. The book purports to be a neutral discussion guide for a potentially-uncomfortable topic—race.  But it is essentially a primer on one side of that contentious discussion, citing controversial figures such as the radical Ibram Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist (p. 148); Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility (pp. 19, 93, 145); Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the discredited 1619 Project (pp. 59, 147); and Ta-Nehisi Coates (pp. 28, 144).

The jargon of critical race theory. Although the book is careful to avoid using the term “critical race theory,” it is replete with terms and concepts drawn from the CRT worldview: Actual data is less important than “lived experiences” (i.e., subjective impressions), “structural inequities” are simply assumed to exist,  the gender-neutral term “Latinx” is consistently used to refer to Hispanics, “racial disparities” in law enforcement are presumed to be “obvious,” meritocracy and the Protestant work ethic are declared to be vestiges of racism, and the book recites similar loaded vernacular (oppression, inequities, privilege, racial equity, “structural racism,” etc.). The book is a tract for surreptitiously pushing CRT.

It promotes a far-left, un-American narrative. The clear premise of the book is that minorities are at an inherent disadvantage in our society due to events that occurred (and were corrected) long ago—in some cases hundreds of years ago: slavery, segregation, and race discrimination. All disparities among races in 2021—educational achievement, residential housing patterns, criminality, income, poverty, etc.—are the result of America’s racist history, the book argues. This ignores the Civil War, the Reconstruction Amendments, the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, the Great Society, decades of affirmative action, the election (and re-election) of a black President, and an unprecedented societal commitment to Martin Luther King’s vision of a color blind world in which people would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. The United States is the most diverse, and least racist, country in the world. The book rejects all of this and presents instead a simplistic, tendentious model of helplessness and oppression for “marginalized” groups. This is a despicable lie.     

It celebrates racial division. The book uncritically promotes Black Lives Matter, refers several times to the death of George Floyd (which was not even a racially-motivated incident), demonizes the police, and assumes that our society is a “racist system” (p. 8). Whites have “benefited from racism,” even if they are not themselves racist. (p. 142)

It explicitly advocates progressive activism. The worst thing about the book, however, is that it is a misleading sales pitch designed to convince the hapless participant in this one-sided “conversation” that the only solution is “change.” Society needs to “change,” and the book—if used in MCS–tries to recruit our principals and assistant principals as agents of change. Chapter 14 is entitled “How Can We Advocate for Change?” What specific steps are advocated? “Dismantling structures” is one goal (p. 121). Another is “creating equity consciousness” (the subject of chapter 16), which is a euphemism for achieving end-result equality among students regardless of differences in ability, effort, or merit. This is Marxism.  The book closes in chapter 17 with a call for “practicing anti-racism,” which means (according to the author who invented and popularized the phony term, Ibram Kendi) discriminating against people in some racial groups (usually whites and Asians) who are deemed to be “privileged” and who are felt to have unfairly benefited from the (alleged) structural racism in our society, and in favor of members of other groups (usually blacks and Hispanics) who are deemed to be at an inherent disadvantage.  This is an insult to the concept of equality under the law and sorts people by skin color.  In America, citizens are judged as individuals, not as members of groups. Individuals are responsible for their own choices and actions, not the supposed “sins” of history. Success in life is determined by effort and merit, not race or ethnicity.

The book, if used to “train” MCS principals and assistant principals, would be a “social justice warrior” training manual, which in turn would be used to recruit MCS teachers to become SJWs, who would turn around and indoctrinate our children to parrot the leftist rhetoric contained in Beyond Conversations About Race. Indoctrination is not the purpose of public education.

All of these features of the book make it wholly unsuitable for use in Maryville City Schools, as a “professional development” tool or otherwise. The book violates the spirit if not the letter of SB 623. Whoever proposed this misguided project should be held to account by the Maryville School Board. It is egregious and unacceptable, and shows extremely poor judgment.

Let the elected School Board members know how you feel. They are:

Nick Black, Chair   Email: nick.black@maryville-schools.org

Julie Elder  Email: julie.elder@maryville-schools.org

Chad Hampton   Email: chad.hampton@maryville-schools.org

Candy Morgan   Email: candy.morgan@maryville-schools.org

Bethany Pope   Email: bethany.pope@maryville-schools.org

Better yet, show up at the next School Board meeting and tell them in person.

[1] The law states that:

An LEA [local education agency] 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:
(1) One (1) race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently
privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment
because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or
sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility
for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of
psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race
or sex to oppress members of another race or sex; [or]
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or
sexist; …

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