Male teacher teaching kids on laptop in classroom

Nobody can really be surprised if school officials get uncomfortable when parents and others start asking questions about curriculum.

Nobody can really be surprised if school officials deflect rather than explain when someone brings up critical race theory.

School officials can fear they are going to get dragged into a shouting match. And we all know why. That’s the trajectory where some people want to take it: loud, combative, disapproval. Their mind is made up that what the schools are doing is wrong.

It puts people who want to learn more about what is being taught in the middle of a kind of intersection where any way you look it says “do not enter.” So we did some digging.

We tracked down instructional standards for the state. Within those, we looked at ethnic studies. The Oregon Legislature directed in 2017 with House Bill 2845 that ethnic studies instruction be created for K-12 students. In 2019, there was a follow-up bill, HB 2023.

What are the ethnic studies standards? Are there required texts? Nothing specific. It doesn’t say teachers must teach this book or follow this lesson plan. It does give direction.

The state Department of Education tries in its documents to tackle head on some of the criticisms about this new line of study. It asks: “Are the ethnic studies anti-American?” Here’s part of how it answers that question: “In recent years, ethnic studies courses or curriculum have become a flashpoint in political debates. Some detractors of ethnic studies programs have utilized passages from a specific reading or an example of a lesson to suggest that students are only being taught a negative view of the United States or white people. As a local control state, Oregon allows school districts to select materials that best support their students in achieving the learning required by the standards. Oregon is not requiring any text or curriculum for the teaching of any social science standards including ethnic studies.”

So the question becomes “what materials do or will schools use?” There is a list of recommendations provided by the state here: tinyurl.com/ORtexts. Browse it for yourself. We have read some of the books and, frankly, were pleased to see them on the list.

Among the offerings, there’s also a free PDF of a book: Racism in America. It has a compelling collection of excerpts from other books. And there is a “Racial Justice Text Tool.” It is meant to be a guide to help teachers decide if a text or book would be an appropriate teaching tool. It stresses allowing people of color to tell their own stories, decentering whiteness and challenging “the Eurocentric Narrative.”

Some people will look at the material and, for them, it will confirm the worst: that Oregon’s educational system is herding students into a critical race theory worldview that rewards some and punishes others based on race. In the hands of some teachers, maybe that is what would happen. To think that’s what will always happen or regularly happen is simplistic.

Rigorous lessons and time constraints have always meant teachers made difficult choices about what they do teach. If Oregon teachers are being asked to reassess what they do use as their teaching tools, yes, parents are right to wonder what they choose. But pushing teachers to reevaluate their choices forces them to confront how to teach better. And isn’t that very American?

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(7) comments

LibGravy

I am assuming that this editorial is a thinly veiled attempt to support teaching Critical Race Theory to our school children. Suggestion: Get on YouTube to see and hear what the “thought leaders” of the CRT movement have to say about Critical Race Theory in their own words. Listen to what Derrick Bell, Jean Stephancic, and Robert Delgado have to say. Then pull up Ibram X. Kendi. (He’s the current leader of the “anti racist” theory that many “woke” school systems pay to “consult” their teachers). What you will see and hear from the people, IN THEIR OWN WORDS is truly scary. Most importantly, keep in mind, Critical Race THEORY is not taught as a Theory in our schools…it is taught as fact.

How about teaching our kids actual facts? That there is no country on earth more racially diverse and racially tolerant than the United States! That there is no country in the world that can offer its citizens MORE opportunity that the United States!

Teachers should provide relatable, accurate, concrete examples of success. Success that is available to every citizen, regardless of the their race or socio economic background! Students need to know that success is NOT only for white or privileged people. Inform them that the average household for Nigerian Americans is higher than the average household income for White Americans. Inform them that the average household income for Asian Americans is higher than the average household income for White Americans. Show them that there are more wealthy black households (having a net worth of one million dollars or more) in the United States, than in many other country. Inform them that no country in the world provides more opportunities to its citizens (regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, faith or physical limitations) as the United States! And, as American citizens, we will continue to improve the lives and freedoms of all of our citizens!

Do we really need or want to teach kids to view their class mates as people “locked in” to their thought processes and futures based on their skin color? To categorize their class mates as either “oppressors” or the “oppressed” based on their skin color? Teach them that our current systems of government and laws are rigged to keep people of color down? Teach kids of color that their futures are dependent on the actions and whims of white people? Do we want to give kids of color an excuse for economic failure, for not achieving their desired goals, for not integrating into society or into the workforce? Should we tell our students of color, “You are going to fail because white people won’t change America’s racist systems!” How are these messages constructive?

Do we want to tell white kids they should feel shame if they succeed? Should we encourage them to lower their ambitions and goals so as to let the kids of color get some wins? Should we spend time and effort convincing our school children that America is inherently bad and forever flawed and evil? That the only reason our ancestors came to the “new world” was to protect the institution of slavery?

Or, in contrast to the CRT curriculum, should we continue to teach that even though America has its flaws and is not perfect, we are constantly working to get better and to correct past and present wrongs whenever and however possible?

How about encouraging everyone, regardless of their skin color, to dream big, and go after those dreams! Again, howabout providing relatable, concrete examples of people of all colors, all lifestyles, from every neighborhood in the United States who have succeeded in achieving their dreams?

How about, instead of planting a sign in your yard about how “woke” and virtuous we are, we get out and encourage young people of every color?

Wouldn’t encouraging our youth and presenting America with all its flaws and all its qualities to our children be our best course of action?

I believe so!

Gary Mendoza

The Bulletin believes teachers should be free to teach what many parents consider anti-white and anti-Asian indoctrination.

Transitory Inflation

Good editorial, thanks to all.

Teachers, why do they do it? It makes little sense to work for so little and be berated and harrased by the functionally illiterate, enraged because you won't prove you aren't teaching an undergrad legal social theory to eight year olds.

Plato had it right: You have to separate children from parents if you want to stop social diseases from spreading to the next generation. Until then, we all have to live with partisanship, libertarianism, and loud (but sometimes amusing) anti-socials.

Gary Mendoza

The idea we have to separate children from their parents is extraordinarily dangerous and misguided.

Transitory Inflation

Right?! And where's the outrage from the know-nothings around Platonic social theory? The fact that it is taught to the same degree as CRT, which is to say not taught in primary at all, should not hold back curriculum reactionaries.

Skittish

If you understand CRT, then you understand that there is a version taught in law school. However, one of the main tenets of CRT is that racism is baked into all of our systems including education, and can be identified by any unfavorable discrepancy between minorities and the majority population. All discrepancies are assumed to be due to systemic racism. CRT is the application of looking at each system as if it is inherently racist, even if superficially it appears to be neutral. It is assumed that racism is subtle and through close introspection, it should be routed out. So to split hairs, yes, the CRT that is taught as a theory in law school is not being taught in primary school. However, the application of CRT activism demanding that we review everything as inherently racist is being taught at least in middle school and high school. I know this because my children have discussed with me lessons they have been taught. There is much talk about "social justice" whereas true dialectic dialogue and independent opinions are not allowed. The students must believe that whites oppress minorities, even if unintentionally or unknowingly. Minorities can’t succeed unless “white” people give up their supposed privilege, is the seeming implication.

Below are some quotes from the American Bar Association lessons on critical race theory. When you review how critical race theory has evolved from critical legal studies, including brown versus Board of Education, it is quite apparent that the educational system in its entirety is the target of CRT tenets and application of principles. It’s very clear, the influence of CRT is in our educational system and it’s even in the subtitles of the ABA article.

Under “Principles of CRT practice: “Those moments are just snapshots of the intersection of racism, the law, and the education system. This article provides just a snapshot of CRT, and the following explanation is a glimpse of the application of CRT in education. But the explanation below seeks to capture how CRT applies to the education system, particularly in addressing how racial inequality persists in the post–civil rights era.”

Under “Education and CRT: “A particular limitation of legal efforts to address racial inequality has been the inability of many legal mandates to reach the covert and insidious nature of de facto racism. This has proved that eradicating racial inequality in education is not merely an exercise in ending legal segregation. For example, achieving racial balance, as Bell asserted, did not obviate the need to address other systemic practices that perpetuate racial inequality within diverse schools, such as the loss of Black faculty and administrators, many of whom lost their jobs in the wake of Brown as retribution for aiding school desegregation efforts. Bell observed that changing demographic patterns, white flight, and the reluctance of the courts to urge the necessary degree of social reform rendered further progress in Brown virtually impossible.”

Do you want real world example of CRT, DEI, white supremacy? Here is part one of Evergreen College and Brett Weinstein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH2WeWgcSMk.

Skittish

According to CRT proponents, “white” people feel uncomfortable about studying racial subjects and history. I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion, but they apparently never asked enough “white” people and certainly not me. When I went through middle school decades ago, we learned all the parts of history that today I hear we were never taught. Since I was there and in fact did study what is called today “ethnic studies” I rather disagree. All of us have learned how slaves were captured in Africa, sold on the West Coast in today’s Ghana, packed inhumanely into ships and transported to many places, including America and publicly sold, chained, whipped, beaten, raped and murdered. Yep, we “white” children were taught many things about our history, the good and the bad. We also learned about what happened to the Chinese, Japanese internment during WWII, Tuskegee Jim Crow laws, etc. and some prominent figures like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, etc.. But we also learned what was done to overcome slavery and that many groups in America were treated horribly, even other “white” people.

This editorial starts out by admitting school officials being uncomfortable explaining and defending what they are teaching students, which is in the writer’s words, not mine. Notice how I don’t make false accusations. What is clear is that they are not being transparent and obfuscate what they are doing from the beginning, this editorial included. Perhaps CRT proponents are blaming their uncomfortable feelings on those who question them, which is manipulative. Perhaps they feel guilty for what they are doing even before being asked what they are doing? As a general rule, the truth doesn’t need to be cloaked, feared, or amplified.

Another trick CRT proponents always use is never admitting what CRT is. They just accuse anyone who uses it of not knowing what it means. Okay, here is Wikipedia’s definition: “Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and U.S. law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.[1]​[2][3][4] CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the US.” As you can see it is an activist movement with a clear bias of “EVERYTHING IS RACIST”. When you start an education practice (remember, CRT is a practice or action) with the conclusion already determined how is that educational and not propaganda?

If you want further reading, go to the American Bar Association’s “lessons” on CRT. Essentially the white flight that occurred in response to Brown v. Board of Education, “white” people fled the school district. The doctrine of “Separate but Equal” was shown to be false as “black” children were not getting an equal education. But even though Brown was an advancement, the law itself had continued to perpetuate racial inequality and unequal treatment of students based on skin tone. This all points to the confluence of the law, education and race being very difficult to deal with. CRT proponents looked at the educational system as to where to bring “equality” to “white” children where they couldn’t leave.

The tenets are: 1. Our curriculum excludes “Americans of color” history and imposes a dominant white narrative of history. As stated above, this hasn’t been true for decades, so apparently they will never change this view. 2. Deficit-oriented instruction that characterizess students of color as in need of remediation. (Can someone provide evidence or examples of this currently?) 3. Narrow assessments, the results of which are used to confirm naarratives about the ineducability of children of color. (again any examples of this?) 4. School discipline polities that disproportionately impact students of color adn compromise their education outcomes (this requires a separate discussion). 5 School funding inequities, and 6. The persistence of segregated education.

Now that’s a whole lot of ground covered and I no doubt missed many points, which brings me to the conclusion. The practice of CRT is complicated, outdated, is biased from the beginning and the law itself trying to determine how a society should be. CRT, while it does have a few good points, overall is insufficient and ignorant. I believe it will lead to more social strife, racism from all groups and will diminish true progress towards beneficial human interactions.

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