Archives for the month of: July, 2021

John Merrow, former PBS education reporter, thanks FOX News pundit Tucker Carlson for one of the silliest ideas ever.

Merrow writes:

I am coming out of retirement to help Tucker Carlson save American public education, our children, and, by extension, our way of life. But this is not about me; it’s about the brilliant campaign created by America’s premier ‘uber journalist,’ Tucker Carlson of Fox. (I put ‘journalist’ in quotes not to disparage Mr. Carlson but to indicate that he stands head and shoulders above his pedestrian counterparts.)

Mr. Carlson has recognized that the greatest threat to America’s future is NOT climate change, the rich-poor wealth gap, Russian cyber warfare, or China. No, the greatest danger to our way of life is Critical Race Theory, which simply cannot be allowed to be taught in our schools.

Mr. Carlson’s solution is nothing short of brilliant: Cameras in every public school classroom so that teachers who try to subvert our youth by filling their heads with dangerous ideas can be identified, publicly shamed, and fired.

There are nay-sayers, of course: Short-sighted critics who maintain that cameras are an invasion of privacy. And some studies indicate that academic achievement suffers when everyone is under surveillance, but Mr. Carlson is not swayed; he keeps his eye on the prize: protecting young minds from getting in the habit of asking questions or even expressing doubts.

I hope it is obvious that Merrow is writing with his tongue in his cheek.

Merrow guesses that there are some three million classrooms in the nation. The cost of wiring them and installing cameras and microphones would be about $12 billion, he estimates.

Merrow writes:

One minor downside: We will probably have to buy the cameras, microphones, and DVRs from Chinese, Tiawanese, or Swiss companies, because American companies missed the boat when it came to creating effective security systems.

But even if more than $13 billion leaves our shores without benefiting the American economy, Mr. Carlson’s plan will still create prosperity because it’s going to create several million jobs–the men and women who will spend their days watching our teachers, taking careful notes, and, inevitably, bearing witness against those teachers who are polluting the minds of our children.

I hope Mr. Carlson will support giving employment preference to devoted viewers of the Fox channel, because their antennae will be sensitive to what matters. They will be able to spot “Critical Race Theory” easily, because Mr. Carlson and his colleagues have educated them.

We will need to hire at least a million of these “Watchers” at a cost of roughly $40,000 per year, for a total of $4,000,000,000. This will be an annual expense

Let me be blunt about what’s at stake: If you are not willing to spend more than $17,000,000,000 to save our nation from subversion, I think you should leave the country now.

Because I believe I can help Mr. Carlson save America, I am coming out of retirement. I have created an on-line training program for “Watchers,” which provides basic training in recognizing the educational subversion known as Critical Race Theory…

I am calling the program, which costs only $100 per adult learner, the“Critical Race Aggressive Pedagogy Trap,” or “CRAP TRAP.” You can sign up here, or you can meet me on the corner of Morse and Fuller Streets and hand me the cash.

Please open the link and finish reading this wonderful satire.

Maurice Cunningham is a political scientist with a deep interest in how Dark Money influences education policy. His motto is: “Dark Money never sleeps.” He is a master at following the money. He customarily blogs at a website called MassPoliticsProfs, but was kind enough to send me this post first.

He writes here about the groups pushing the attacks on critical race theory:

The Corporate Critical Race Theory Attack: Chaos is the Product

“The backlash” begins an opinion piece in Newsweek by Parents Defending Education outreach director Erika Sanzi, and these may be the most accurate two words published by those who are attacking “wokeness,” gender studies, and Critical Race Theory. The sad fact is that white backlash has a proven record of effectiveness in American politics and it is once again being employed in the service of right wing corporate interests. The end product desired has less to do with CRT than with spreading disruption, fear, and chaos across America’s most important democratic public institution, schools.

According to the Washington Post, as of June 24 CRT (a theory developed in law schools and not well known among most Americans) has exploded on Fox News. The term was heard on Fox only 132 times in 2020 but has been mentioned 1,860 times this year, escalating month by month. The narrative is that grassroots parents groups have discovered the threat CRT poses to their children in schools and have arisen organically across the country to form local parent groups, a movement noticed and captured by websites and the powerful Fox News. The truth is that of an oligarch-funded and coordinated campaign using time tested techniques.

Follow the Money

Over the past five years I’ve been following “education reform” groups created by billionaire investors with names like Families for Excellent Schools, Massachusetts Parents United, and National Parents Union which have presented diversity as their public face while attacking teachers. So when I saw the launch of Parents Defending Education on March 30 I took note because it follows a different path: white backlash aimed more at school boards, superintendents, and principals. The first thing to do when evaluating these groups is always, follow the money.

But as the financial backers of groups like PDE well know, public disclosure of funders will only come about nearly two years down the road, if then, in publicly available Form 990 tax returns for organizations with Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3)status as charitable organizations. PDE president Nicole Neily has refused to disclose the organization’s donors when asked by media outlets. It’s not just that she won’t. She can’t. Disclosure would likely reveal ties to radical right funders tied into the Koch network and similar underwriters. We know this thanks to work done by PRWatch and from Sourcewatch at the Center for Media and Democracy. They show that Neily is a political operative at Koch network funded operations like the Independent Women’s Forum, Franklin Center, and Speech First.

The Speech First association is instructive. Neily is founding president of that non-profit as well. Sourcewatch has identified some of its funders as the Bader Family Foundation for $30,000, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $500,250, Judicial Education Project for $1,000,000, and National Philanthropic Trust: $500,000. The real check writers will probably never become known. Form 990s show that Neily is the sole employee, earning $161,000 in 2018 and $150,000 in 2019. Speech First brings lawsuits against universities for policies touching on race. For this, it paid the law firm Consovoy McMullen $950,000 in 2018, and to get the word out paid the Republican communications firm Creative Response Concepts $106,000. Boiled down, Speech First is a pass through that allows wealthy conservative donors to remain hidden while paying Consovoy McMullen to attack universities.

And who represents Parents Defending Education? Why, Consovoy McMullen. William Consovoy also represents Donald Trump and clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. The firm is conservative legal royalty. PDE did not hire it after an especially successful bake sale.

Parents Defending Education, No Left Turn in Education, and Moms for Liberty

PDE launched its well-developed website featuring pages with links to its allies, most of which were branches of groups called No Left Turn in Education and Moms for Liberty. According to NBC, No Left Turn in Education was launched in 2020 when a parent from a Philadelphia suburb became enraged at her children’s school for teaching concepts of racism after the police murder of George Floyd. Elana Yaron Fishbein then sprang into action to attack wokeness and founded NLTE. In September she appeared on Fox’s Tucker Carlson program and the next day the group’s Facebook increased from about 200 followers to over 30,000 and there are now 30 chapters in 23 states.

But when I looked at local NLTE chapters’ Facebook pages linked to through the PDE site in April, I found sparse membership: Alabama, 7; Arkansas, 3; Delaware, 6; Iowa, 2; Idaho, 4; Indiana, 8; Michigan (Betsy DeVos home state), 13; Mississippi, 3; Montana, 2; North Dakota, 2; Massachusetts, 17; Hawaii, 1. All of the NLTE Facebook pages featured the same banner, a montage of diverse teens against a background of school lockers, each student smiling and engaged, not a pimple on their perfect teenage faces; probably models, most certainly not local students. As for Moms for Liberty, it too had sparse membership in its affiliates: Arizona, 17; Wright Co, Minnesota, 8; Corpus Christi Nueces, Texas, 70. Moms for Liberty’s creation story is similar to others in the anti-public education universe: “moms on a mission to stoke the fires of liberty.” The story goes that two parents became upset with their local schools and started up a parents group. It happens. It’s a lot more unusual for the two grassroots moms to then book former Fox host Megyn Kelly for a fundraiser with tickets running from General Admission of $50 up to Presenting Sponsor for $20,000 with perks including a photo with Ms. Kelly and corporate logo on print and online marketing materials.

From Parents Defending Education, No Left Turn in Education, Moms for Liberty and on to groups like National Parents Union, the creation stories are similar. A handful of disgruntled moms talk over their frustrations, determine to start their moms or parents group to seek change, and then in pour the millions of dollars; contracts are quickly signed with nationally recognized public relations firms and pollsters (one newly birthed charter school-tied group in Rhode Island immediately hired a Biden pollster); the head mom is booked on Fox or featured in national media outlets. Conservative outlets like The Federalist, Washington Times, Campus Fix, and most importantly Fox News amplify the misleading message.

How to Attack Educators in a Few Easy Steps

The tactics for going after K-12 educators did not spring up anew but have been adapted from successful attacks on college and university professors. Isaac Kamola has explained this in an important article titled Dear Administrators: To Protect Your Faculty from Right-Wing Attacks, Follow the Money. Kamola finds that groups like Campus Reform and Campus Fix, which pay conservative students as “reporters” to whistleblow on their professors, are funded by wealthy right wingers including Koch who wish to gain leverage over what is taught and researched at America’s universities. These attacks follow a common script. Something a professor says or writes in research, a lecture, or even on social media is grabbed and most often taken out of context; there is never an engagement with the actual intellectual product. (In Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, Anne Nelson shows that Campus Reform is tied into right wing clearing house organizations the Leadership Institute and Council for National Policy). The targets are often scholars of color, especially women, and their work focuses on race or inquiries into capitalism. The out of context remarks are then percolated through a right wing ecosystem which includes web sites funded by the same network and all the way up to Fox News. Results can be stark. After Campus Reform did a story on a speech by Princeton University professor Keenga-Yamahtta Taylor the piece was picked up by Fox; threats against Professor Taylor were so virulent she cancelled talks in Seattle and San Diego. After Campus Reform misrepresented remarks by Trinity College professor Johnny Williams the campus had to be shut down due to threats and Williams was unfairly placed on leave. So the radical right knows how to generate chaos. Parents Defending Education has refined the play book further.

PDE relies upon two modes of attack on schools (which may include charter as well as public schools). The first, often well covered in the media and with appearances on Fox, is individuals who inundate school districts with public records requests. The second involves anonymous attacks on school personnel, concealment guaranteed by guidance offered by PDE to assure their agents remain hidden.

NBC News reported on one now famous Fox-supported attack by an individual wielding public law requests. A Maine parent named Shawn McBreairty was disgruntled with his local schools and joined No Left Turn in Education. He has filed over 50 public records law request with his Maine school district, tying up education professionals serving the public for his individual crusade. In South Kingstown, RI a parent whose child is enrolled but not yet attending kindergarten in the town filed 200 public records law requests “seeking copies of middle and high school curricula, lists of all books related to gender available in the library and 10 years’ worth of harassment complaints and emails.” The district estimated it would take 300 hours to fulfill the request. Local officials were undoubtedly right in assessing the attack as an effort to disrupt public education and attack a public good. The Rhode Island parent was rewarded with an appearance on Fox. When districts try to resist the onslaught of requests, corporate spokespersons like PDE’s Sanzi are ready with pro-wrestling sincerity to whine—to Fox News—about the people’s right to know. These groups weaponize the very openness of government to undermine government.

In a forthcoming work, Kamola and co-author Ralph Wilson show how groups like Speech First use discovery in lawsuits to create a “nightmare for administrators and their general counsel.” PDE and allies are now using public records lawsnationwide to achieve the same goal against public school districts.

While the public records requests are designedly onerous and discouraging, at least educators can tell where the attacks are coming from. The second tactic promoted by PDE is much worse, to encourage anonymous attacks against educators.

Take a recent example involving the Boston suburb of Wellesley, Massachusetts. This was an anonymous complaint forwarded by PDE grumbling that Wellesley had violated civil rights laws by providing affinity rooms for students to process their emotions after anti-Asian attacks across the nation. Ms. Neily confessed she has no idea who submitted it to PDE or if anyone in Wellesley agrees with the complaint. This is a baked in design by PDE as we see from examining the operation’s website page that teaches How to Create “Woke At” Pages. It provides detailed instructions for how to set up “an anonymous, safe Instagram page.” First set up a Gmail account “that can’t be tied to you.” Gmail is recommended because the site creator will also need to set up “an anonymous Google Form . . . which allows you to receive anonymous tips” that shields the informant’s identity, even from the Woke At administrator. At all times “we recommend erring on the side of secrecy.”

The Woke At instructions encourage PDE’s local spies to check out social media pages of educators which may reveal woke attitudes. The Understanding Woke Jargon page catalogs terms like “social justice” or “antiracism” the group finds offensive. Questions to Ask School Officials offers gotcha questions that can be asked of woke school officials “with cameras rolling.”

Why the advice to always act with hidden identities? Because of the terrifying disposition of those “woke activists” who talk about “inclusion, equity, justice” but are really “divisive, toxic, and extreme.” PDE is one education organization that was absent on the day irony was taught, for it insists on secrecy while pretending it promotes transparency. Concealment is especially important “given how angry and retaliatory many woke activists get when criticized.” PDE understands that much of its audience consumes a heavy diet of Fox News. Research by Jeffrey M. Berry, James M. Glaser, and Deborah J. Schildkraut shows Fox’s “underlying strategy is to anger viewers by stoking their resentment of racial and ethnic minority groups” and building fear. For instance, after the images of George Floyd’s murder, which initially shocked even Sean Hannity, Fox repeatedly showed video of “rioting and looting by protestors, relying on film showing fires burning and Blacks running out of looted stores with stolen merchandise in their arms.” These images were repeatedly shown well beyond the first week, after which there was little new such behavior to report upon. But the coverage stokes ideas of lawlessness and fear.

Whether by an avalanche of public records requests or generating negative coverage from anonymous tipsters, PDE and its allies are in business to create disruption and chaos in public education.

Getting Results

As Kamola has shown with his work detailing the corporate backed assault on higher education, these tactics often work. They are now working at the K-12 level. Public records requests have tied up school boards and administrators. NBC reports that Washoe County, Nevada halted in person school board meetings “after residents filled a large auditorium and lobbed insults and threats of violence during the public comment portion.” When open meetings later convened in a smaller venue, many residents waited long hours in the hot sun to make their comments against CRT and anti-discrimination policies—including quite a fewwho do not even have students in the system. “During the most recent meeting, which lasted 11 hours, speakers railed at school board members, calling them Marxists, racists, Nazis and child abusers, among other epithets.” In Rockwood Illinois, the St. Louis Post dispatch reported, teachers called upon the school board and superintendent to protect them against “personal attacks and outright threats of violence.” In Camas, Washington, the state’s 2020 teacher of the year thanked the school board and administrators for defending her efforts to promote inclusion and access after some residents “railed against the school district’s ‘woke’ agenda, COVID-19 mask mandates, remote learning and racial justice and equity programs.”

After all, as No Left Turn Maine’s Shawn McBreairty said in an email to NBC News, “This is a war with the left, and in war, tactics and strategy can become blurry.”

As the corporate agitators behind all this understand, they are making public service exhausting and distasteful, a campaign to drive good community members away from serving. This isn’t an unfortunate byproduct. We’ve seen it at the university level. It’s intentional.

The Rise of the Right Wing Moms

In announcing PDE’s complaint against the Columbus, Ohio public schools for its willingness to address racism in the wake of the police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, Ms. Neily acknowledged that no Columbus parent had complained, but that PDE was just a concerned group of parents. “We just all work from home,” Neily told the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “We’re all working moms.”

That sounds cozy and homey but Neily is a well-compensated veteran of numerous right wing organizations, including not only Speech First but the Cato Institute. Sourcewatch reports that “Nicole Neily has worked for many Koch-affiliated groups.” Ms. Sanzi has worked for billionaire funded school privatization groups, also bringing home a hefty paycheck. According to research from Mercedes Schneider the Education Post, an online publication originally funded by Eli Broad, paid Sanzi $121,000 in 2016 and $131,000 in 2017. She is also a “senior visiting fellow” at the Fordham Institute.

This is another area where patterns are not immediately visible but things become more clear years down the road when Form 990s become available. What we see is that following the emergence of these organizations with their tales of concerned moms banding together is that the moms are actually political operatives or communications professionals being well paid. Take for example Keri Rodrigues, “mom-in-chief” of the Walton backed Massachusetts Parents United. One of the several creation stories is that Ms. Rodrigues (always identified as a former union organizer) and a few other mothers gathered in their local library and decided to start a parents group. Actually, Ms. Rodrigues had been state director for Families for Excellent Schools, which ran a losing ballot campaign to increase charter schools in Massachusetts in 2016. She is also a communications professional, having been a radio host. MPU and an affiliate paid Ms. Rodrigues over $388,000 in 2017-2018. But the mom-in-chief story has had some penetration.

When the CDC announced reopening guidelines for schools in May 2021 Ms. Rodrigues, now also of Walton and Koch backed National Parents Union, appeared on Fox News to accuse teachers unions of undue influence. The host accused “teachers unions of basically writing the guidelines” a claim that Ms. Rodrigues enthusiastically agreed with. There was no basis for that claim other than that the unions, like over fifty other advocacy groups, had offered comments to the CDC. But it was blown up by Republican senators from a letter provided by a Republican dark money group. And then on to Fox and the eagerMs. Rodrigues.

Thus we shouldn’t be too surprised by a recent Media Matters study that showed that a number of the concerned parents featured on Fox News criticizing CRT are actually Republican political operatives. Quisha King, an African American woman billed by Fox News as an “everyday American” who is “Northeast Florida co-chair of Moms for Liberty” and “mom of two daughters” is also a GOP political consultant who worked for the Republican National Committee in 2020. Though Fox News billed Ms. Neily as a parent fighting against CRT in schools, Media Matters added that she “has spent her entire career working in and for libertarian and conservative political advocacy organizations and think tanks . . . .” PDE senior fellow Elizabeth Schultz was noted by Fox’s Dana Perino as a former Fairfax County, Virginia school board member. But she is also a former Trump appointee to the Department of Education, under Betsy DeVos. Before being defeated for re-election to the school board Schultz was known for opposing “‘expanding the school system’s sex-education curriculum to include lessons on gender identity and transgender issues’ and supporting armed teachers in classrooms.”

Charles Koch’s Pincer Movement

Far right groups like Parents Defending Education are new born but billionaire funded corporate education reform groups like Massachusetts Parents United and National Parents Union have been around a bit longer. Families for Excellent Schools was successful in New York until its 2016 Massachusetts charter school campaign was badly beaten, its dark money donors were ordered to be disclosed by the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and its CEO was fired after #MeToo allegations surfaced. These groups often present themselves as leaning liberal, non-partisan but vaguely Democratic, featuring spokespersons who are women of color, and advocating for their privatization policies as being pro-civil rights. National Parents Union even released a statement defending Critical Race Theory on May 21, but it seems to have dropped the topic since. Why then would Charles Koch, a likely source of support for the right wing groups, also be funding National Parents Union?

But he is, through his Charles Koch Institute, which is partnered with the Walton Family Foundation in a joint venture called the Vela Education Fund. Vela dropped $700,000 on NPU to promote home schooling. NPU then spread Vela funds around in grants for home schooling. As Casey Parks explained in The New Yorker these foundations “advocate ‘school choice’—rerouting money and families away from traditional public schools through such means as charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, and vouchers, which allow public-education dollars to be put toward private-school tuition.” NPU had been launched by the Walton Family Foundation to help in the Waltons quest to undermine teachers unions. Recognizing the opportunity presented by closed schools Vela formed and wrote the $700,000 check even though NPUhad been in business only a few months. Vela has pursued other such opportunities including funding the far right Home School Legal Defense Association.

Coincidentally or not in 2017 the civil rights-proclaiming Ms. Rodrigues and the radical right Ms. Sanzi were partners in another venture named Planet Mom, which featured a podcast and proposed radio show. In her paid position at Education Post Ms. Sanzi wrote of Ms. Rodrigues “I consider her a partner in this work. And a friend.” It’s a small planet, after all.

The point is not Critical Race Theory, or charter schools, virtual schools, or home schools. The point is to undermine public education, keep taxes low, spread doubt of the efficacy of public goods, and demolish institutions like unions and local school communities that make demands on the Waltons and Kochs of the nation. It is, as Nancy MacLean has said, to put democracy in chains. Diverse-presenting National Parents Union and white backlash Parents Defending Education serve the same cause.

Whither We Are Tending and What to Do About It

I hope my colleagues in academia continue to speak out about the intellectual contributions of Critical Race Theory and the fine efforts of K-12 educators to provide the kind of schooling all our students need—open and honest about the nation’s race and history and our ongoing challenges, including corporate promoted white backlash.

On the other hand, don’t expect any engagement from Nicole Neily or the anti-CRT bard Christopher Rufo, who has helped spike this ridiculous campaign. In a triumphant appearance at the Claremont Institute, Rufo described his annoyance at scholars trying to bait him into a discussion of what CRT really means and proclaimed “I don’t give a shit about this stuff.” (Nine minute mark)

As Isaac Kamola has urged, start with follow the money and pursue that relentlessly. There’s a reason groups like PDE and NPU can’t come clean about their funding sources and amounts and that reason is that they know the public is suspicious of the Kochs and Waltons of the world and what’s more, the public and America’s billionaires are on a different page on policy issues.

These are corporate generated right wing attacks. Say it. Name names.

Come awake to the threat. Recognize what this is and that isn’t just about wokeness or even education but something else Koch and the Waltons can’t say out loud: to destroy the capacity of people to coalesce together and fight for a better life for themselves, a project that offends oligarchs ideologically and threatens their power and pocketbooks. They focus on educationbecause schools have been a fertile locale for white backlash but also a source of great progress, because teachers unions are a barrier to them, and because local community organizations defy them.

That means that teachers unions, school boards, superintendents, principals, lunch workers, school bus drivers, custodians, business, parents and students—everyone who serves their local school community—have to recognize that they need to fight together against this assault. In other words, join together to take action—exactly what the Waltons, Kochs, and other radical right billionaires fear.

And stand up for a real education for all our children, not the white(wash) backlash being promoted by phony AstroTurf fronts like Parents Defending Education. Remember, fronts are fronting for someone and in this case, fronting for radical right billionaires.

Money never sleeps. Follow the money.

Maurice T. Cunningham is recently retired as an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a union member. He is the author of the book Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization, forthcoming in 2022.

Nancy Ackerman Will, a teacher in Traverse City, Michigan, updated my post today about the angry protestors at a recent board meeting, who accused school leaders of allowing critical race theory to “seep in” to the schools.

She posted this good-news comment:

I am an elementary music teacher for Traverse City Area Public Schools. I appreciate your article, but you should know that three days ago the TCAPS Board approved a revised Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging resolution with much stronger language to support our students. This time the meeting room was packed with people in support of the resolution, wearing red shirts in solidarity. Parents, grandparents, members of the faith community and students spoke in support of strengthening and passing the resolution.

I am pleased to say this was the end result. https://www.record-eagle.com/news/tcaps-board-passes-equity-resolution-7-0/article_64121fba-ee47-11eb-83b8-036d823f2f6c.html

Video of the 3 hours of public comment at the meeting and then two hours of the Board members crafting a final document can be viewed here: https://livestream.com/tcapslive/board/videos/224040779

The public schools of Chicago have had an appointed school board for more than 150 years. In 1995, the law was changed to give the Mayor full control of the schools. He named the members of the school board, and they followed his wishes. Mayoral control of the schools, I have come to believe, is a terrible idea. Theoretically, the Mayor is accountable, but in reality, he or she never is. There are too many issues, and education gets low priority. However, we have seen Mayors using the schools as political props, heralding any progress as the fruits of their labor. We have even seen examples where Mayors distort the data to claim credit.

An elected board is not perfect. No system of governance is. But it gives parents and community activists the opportunity to be heard, even to run for election. With an elected board, there are checks and balances. Democracy is better than authoritarianism. That is why it is so outrageous to see billionaire faux-reformers creating stealth organizations to funnel money to their candidates. True grassroots candidates can ever compete with big money from out of state financiers.

The Chicago Teachers Union issued this statement yesterday.

Elected school board is an historic achievement for Chicago’s students, families and school communities

After more than 150 years of appointed boards of education in Chicago, the road to the city’s first fully elected representative leadership has come to an end.

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature of House Bill 2908, creating an elected representative school board for Chicago Public Schools:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature today of HB2908, the historic bill to create an elected representative school board for Chicago, caps a decades-long fight by parents, rank-and-file educators and community activists to provide our school district the same democratic rights afforded to every other district in the state of Illinois.

Students, families and educators will now have the voice they have long been denied for a quarter of a century by failed mayoral control of our schools. Chicago will finally have an elected board accountable to the people our schools serve, as it should be.

Our union is grateful to the grassroots movement that led with us in this fight. We owe special thanks to state representatives Kam Buckner and bill sponsor Delia Ramirez, Sen. Rob Martwick, Illinois Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon. All were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation to the governor’s desk. We are also thinking tonight about our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. This victory is hers as much as it is a victory for our city. Here’s to you, Karen.

###

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.

The national frenzy over “critical race theory” (CRT) has been generated by a small number of conservatives in search of a hot-button issue that would outrage their base. They found that issue in CRT, which has caused conservative white parents to claim that their children are being indoctrinated by discussions of racism in school. Numerous Republican-led states have passed laws that ban teaching of CRT or anything that would cause students to feel guilt or discomfort. Such laws tend to outlaw any discussions of racism or slavery, past or present.

In Traverse City, Michigan, which is 90% white, debates about CRT have enflamed the community and spurred conservative white parents to oppose any effort to teach and learn about racism. The furor began when a black 16-year-old high school student learned from a friend that she had been “sold” in a slave auction in a private Snapshot group. This story by Hannah Natanson was published by the Washington Post.

The Snapchat group, titled “slave trade,” also saw a student share the messages “all blacks should die” and “let’s start another holocaust,” according to screenshots obtained by The Washington Post. It spurred the fast-tracking of a school equity resolution that condemned racism and vowed Traverse City Area Public Schools would better educate its overwhelmingly White student body and teaching staff on how to live in a diverse country.

But what happened over the next two months revealed how a town grappling with an undeniable incident of racism can serve as fertile ground for the ongoing national war over whether racism is embedded in American society.

Events in Traverse City would demonstrate how quickly efforts to address historic disparities or present-day racial harassment in schools can become fodder for a campaign against critical race theory, fueled by White parents’ growing conviction that their children are being taught to feel ashamed of their Whiteness — and their country.

The equity resolution was unprecedented in Traverse City, an idyllic lakeside vacation spot with a population of 16,000 that is more than 90 percent White and politically split between red and blue. The two-page document, inspired by nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, suggested more training for teachers and adding overlooked viewpoints to the school system’s libraries and curriculum.

Although at first it drew vocal support — especially from families and children of color — it has since inspired equally vehement opposition, led by mostly White, conservative parents who contend that the resolution amounts to critical race theory in disguise. The theory, known as CRT, is a decades-old academic framework that holds racism is systemic in America, but which has become a catchall phrase conservatives wield to oppose equity work in schools.

In interviews, children of color in Traverse City reported enduring years of harassment in the classroom and on the playing field. Black, Native American and LGBTQ students said casual racism, sexism and homophobia form part of daily life. Some White children said they have witnessed this, too.

Conservative white parents say that teaching about racism is racist. They say, “Nobody here is racist.” Students who are not white disagree.

The local school board wanted to approve an Equity resolution affirming that “the school system condemned “racism, racial violence, hate speech, bigotry, discrimination and harassment.” It called for holding more “comprehensive” training for teachers, adding historically marginalized authors to school libraries and reviewing the district’s “curriculum and instruction [to] address gaps . . . from a social equity and diversity lens.”

But some outspoken white parents disagreed.

The real answer, these parents say, is for the district to focus on enforcing the strong anti-bullying policy it already has. And officials should sit down with the students who participated in the group chat and teach them the golden rule: to love thy neighbor as thyself.
“That’s how I was raised,” said Lori White, a 41-year-old mother of two who has lived in the area her entire life. “I’ve never seen any sort of discrimination. People in Traverse City are just kind.”

They say their hometown, although imperfect, is not a racist place, and they are not racist people. They say the Snapchat group chat is an isolated incident that is being weaponized by activists to paint an entire community as prejudiced, which they think is unfair. They say the school system is buckling to political pressure by pursuing initiatives like the equity resolution that inject race into every setting — when all that will do is spur more division.

As the debate heated up, the number of parents opposed to CRT in their schools increased, and the school board watered down the Equity Resolution, making it inoffensive.

More than 200 people then crowded into two rooms to listen to 55 people speak during a public comment session. The vast majority of speakers decried the equity resolution as critical race theory, according to public video of the meeting and the Record-Eagle.
By that time, school board members — wary of the building backlash — had already reworked the document. The second version lacks the line about applying a “social equity and diversity lens” to the curriculum. It also no longer suggests the district will add “marginalized” authors to their libraries, nor that Traverse City schools will give students more opportunities to learn about “diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging issues.”

Officials furthermore deleted the terms “racism” and “racial violence” from a list of things the school district condemns. Also deleted is a passage that stated “racism and hate have no place in our schools or in our society.”

The school board decided that acknowledging racism would spur divisiveness. Better to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist.

The debate in Traverse City will make it impossible to discuss racism and other forms of prejudice.

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest that Bob’s first stop on his way South from the Bronx was the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] office on east 19th street He said it was his first stop and affirmation of friendship and sncc sds solidarity


He was always a friend


He spoke at a University of Michigan commencement ceremony
He said “people don’t like long speeches and that are hard to remember. Mine will be short.

I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution” then he paused and then said “So you remember I will repeat: I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution.” Then he sat down.

It was stunning. The University president expecting a long something didn’t know what to say… having previously mis-introduced him as. author of “Racial Equations”

I found the address memorable and it might be well in memory of our friend to rededicate ourselves to the common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution. Bob Moses, Presente!

The Commack Public School District is located on Long Island in New York. The district has about 79% white students, 9% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 1% African American, and a small number of multiracial students. The Commack public schools have strong academic outcomes. 95% of their graduates go to college.

Recently the district and its school board have been under attack by parents who insist that their children are subjected to Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project. At a recent public hearing, parents listened to administrators and school board members, who assured them that the Commack schools did not teach CRT or The 1619 Project. Angry parents were not mollified, as you will see if you watch the video posted below.

Jake Jacobs, a NYC art teacher and co-administrator of the New York BATS, watched the video and wrote the following commentary.

CRT DEBATE BLOWS UP: In Commack, NY this school board forum shows how insane things have gotten. The audience comments are unhinged and mostly ignore everything the board and superintendent say. The first part of the video is just the staff going over the curriculum, explaining how they do not support CRT, but the parents already start interrupting and shouting.

The Commack board and superintendent said over and over they reject CRT and created a policy where no child feels “less than”.
Yet parents came up to the mic and accused them of lying, said CRT was “seeping in” and were convinced the state is going to impose CRT, that teachers were politically biased and only teach their side.
They pointed to board members and said they are all going to get voted out, just like they had in the neighboring district. Some parents came up gripped with anger, convinced that everything they didn’t like was indeed CRT, and that it has to be nipped in the bud before this can go any further.

Some spoke about their kids being bullied because they were conservative, or cops being negatively portrayed, they quoted MLK as not seeing skin color and they spoke about inappropriate images and themes in the book Persepolis, none of which were CRT.
Some speakers got on the mic screaming at the top of their lungs, accusing the schools of indoctrinating kids to hate, or threatened to put their kids in private school and sue for damages. One woman pointed repeatedly to the only Black trustee and said she “had something on him.”

Meanwhile, some brave Asian students got up and said they loved Persepolis, an award winning graphic novel taught in the district for 13 years. They noted it was the first time they saw themselves reflected in class readings and that the district has a severe lack of representation of diverse characters and authors. The students were constantly interrupted and badgered. One girl pointed that there were also graphic themes in Romeo and Juliet, Tale of Two Cities and To Kill a Mockingbird. A teacher who spoke in support of the students was also interrupted constantly and heckled.

One outraged NYPD officer got up and read a bullet point from the NY State Education Dept web page on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which suggests schools cover “the senseless, brutal killing of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of law enforcement.” The Commack superintendent immediately took his side and disavowed the passage as inappropriate, promising cops would not be disparaged in the district, but the folks in the crowd wanted more.
They asked for apologies to police families, they asked for something in writing that CRT would not be taught even if the state mandates it, they wanted to know if teachers would be fired for political statements, they wanted to be notified when BLM will be mentioned in school so they can opt out. Some said schools should only be teaching math, reading, science and social studies and leave all the social-emotional and diversity stuff for parents to teach.

I don’t know if this was just a very loud minority or this is the prevailing view in this part of Long Island but these folks are 100% convinced that everything they don’t like is “CRT” and they are extremely animated, just like Christopher Rufo said. They said it is Socialism and Marxism and some got extremely emotional saying they need to hear the district will fight for their kids.

This is light years from what’s going on in NYC schools and the new Culturally Responsive framework approved by the Chancellor which centers racial, cultural and gender identity in the classroom, so this is a major clash of opposing ideas (fueled by wholesale misinformation) and it’s working really well in suburban areas to put school officials on the defensive and kids in the middle of electoral politics.

One day after he stood against removing Persepolis, the Commack English Dept Chair was removed from his position and stripped of tenure. The district also now has removed Diary of Anne Frank as well.

Click on this link to see the video:


Full video: https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo?fbclid=IwAR1Tcal2N9B0V4_sFyxgkDrLbINNXyvh9u4ONssLly97-acBjNLyDgfv6DI

This one works too:

https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo

Isabela Dias writes in Mother Jones about attacks on a Black social studies teacher who has been labeled a teacher of critical race theory.

In the first week of classes in August, Rodney D. Pierce, a social studies teacher at Red Oak Middle School in Battleboro, North Carolina, set the stage for his 8th graders by sharing a quote from James Baldwin: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Pierce told the students they were going to learn about both the “beautiful and the horrifying parts” of the state and country’s past. “We need to talk about all of it,” he explained “because that is American history.”

The fight over how to teach American history to children—a long battle that has frothed into a particularly acute moral panic today—often comes back to whose history is being discussed. For Pierce, a Black teacher of many Black students, it’s impossible to avoid racism. For years, he has spoken openly about this in the concrete and the local: the town names, the monuments to Confederates, the horrific lynchings. He has gone above his mandate of teaching to the test because the test did not include the explanations of events that led to the world his students inhabit. He was rewarded by earning social studies teacher of the year in 2019 and has been tasked with helping write the new standards for the state to make sure others follow his lead.

But lately, Pierce’s “speak my truth and be upfront about it” approach has been drawing more backlash than ever before. In the past year, parents have complained to school administrators about a perceived political slant in his work. When he repeated something former President Donald Trump said verbatim, they accused him of lying. Some claim he has insisted on talking about slavery—and that this has made students disenchanted. “They’re really reaching for anything they can get on me,” Pierce says. “I started feeling like a target.”

A gregarious 42-year-old father of three and self-described history buff, Pierce was born in Maryland, and raised in the rural eastern part of North Carolina by his maternal grandmother, a descendant of enslaved people. He remembers sitting in his grandmother’s living room in Roanoke Rapids as a child with an encyclopedia, questioning the accuracy of depictions of ancient Egyptians as white. As a student, Pierce admired the work of Black poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was inquisitive, interpretive, and analytical. “His favorite word was why,” says Charlene Nicholson, his former 6th grade English language teacher and longtime mentor. “He would always think deeper.”

Pierce has been teaching social studies for six years; the past two at Red Oak. Located less than 30 miles west of Princeville, one of the first incorporatedAfrican American towns in the country, the school sits in an affluent and fairly conservative area of Nash County. Although still predominately white, Nash has shifted in the past decades. The Black population has grown. It has become more Democratic. Pierce says he still sees “Trump-Pence 2020” signs outside the Dollar General store across the street from the school. But Biden won there, even if just by 120 votes. More than 50 percent of his students are Black and 10 percent are Hispanic, which informs his teaching philosophy of “inspiration and empowerment” and challenges him as an educator and historian. As a Black teacher talking about racism and slavery in a racially diverse community, Pierce is both the object of admiration and disapproval. “The last thing I want to do is alienate a kid,” he explains. But if he ignores race, what would his Black students think happened?

“It always goes back to local history to me,” he says. As part of an assignment, Pierce asks the class to research the historical origins of the names of towns in the Tri-County area of Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson, including Battleboro, which was initially established by Joseph Battle as a settlement along the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, the longest in the world at the time and the “lifeline of the Confederacy” during the Civil War. In another, Pierce shows students news stories about Ku Klux Klan activities in nearby Rocky Mount—from a 1966 picket line outside a dry cleaner where a Black employee refused to clean the Klan robes to a 1992 rally. In another, he talks to them about the 1970 bombing of a formerly all-Black school in reaction to imminent integration. In the fall, he plans to discuss the Black rights group Concerned Citizens of Battleboro, who led the 1994 boycott of local white-owned businesses to protest law enforcement harassment. All of it, Pierce says, is about showing students their own community is part of history and making sure they are able to see themselves within the content and the curriculum.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t want their children to be taught the truth.

Dias recounts North Carolina’s history of fighting racial equity. After the Brown decision, the strategy to keep the races segregated was school choice.

Even now, the state is trying to censor discussion of the past, because it might make some students (and their families and elected officials) feel guilt and discomfort. They don’t want to revisit the past.

Dias writes:

In May, the North Carolina House voted along partisan lines to move to the Senate the “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools” bill prohibiting public schools from promoting concepts such as that an individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or bear responsibility for actions from the past based on their race or sex; and opposing the characterization that the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is “inherently racist or sexist.” In support of the legislation, the Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt vouched to eradicate CRT from classrooms, saying, “There is no room for divisive rhetoric that condones preferential treatment of any one group over another.” Democratic Rep. James Gailliard of Nash County called it a “don’t-hurt-my-feelings bill” that reproduces “discrimination, fanaticism, bigotry….”

There is no more glaring example of North Carolina’s ability to deliberately bury its history than the education of the Wilmington Coup. In November 1898, a mob of heavily armed white supremacists overthrew the Fusionist city government, burned down the local Black newspaper’s office, and killed and banished dozens of people. The port city, before then, was a symbol of Black achievement and hope. For years, the coup has been considered “lost history,” despite its importance in cementing “white rule for another century” in North Carolina. The current social studies standards, which outline learning goals for K-12 students, do not include it. Instead, it is ultimately up to school districts to determine what goes in the curriculum and to educators like Pierce, who wasn’t introduced to it until he was in college, to teach it.

“That kind of history is important particularly for African Americans because it lets us know there was a time when racial and domestic terror were waged on us and the state didn’t want us to know about it,” he says, pointing to a special commission established in the mid-2000s to finally set the record straight.

But please don’t tell the students.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, tweeted that today is the anniversary of the certification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

https://twitter.com/JimGrossmanAHA/status/1420396715723603972

On this date in 1868 Secretary if State William Seward officially certified the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Every American should read this text today. #EverythinghasaHistory constitutioncenter.org/interactive-co…

He suggests that today would be a good day to read the 14th Amendment, which guarantees full citizenship to all citizens born or naturalized in the United States.

In particular, read Section 2:

Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

If the Supreme Court rereads Section 2, it will strike down any state laws that abridge the right to vote, especially when those laws were designed to suppress the Black vote.

Much has changed since the 14th Amendment was written. Women and Indians have the right to vote, and the voting age has been lowered to 18.

But what has not changed is that it is unconstitutional to abridge the right to vote.

I previously posted the decision by the Boston School Committee to change the requirements for admission to its elite examination schools. What I didn’t know was that there was a minority report from the school committee’s Task Force that was voted down.

Since then, I learned that there was a minority report by two Task Force members who offered a different approach (actually there were two minority reports). Rosann Tung and Simon Chernow wrote a dissent, printed here in part:

…By dissenting, Simon and I urge Boston Public Schools to go further and faster. BPS will not achieve justice until we eliminate the structures that uphold White supremacy and capitalism — structures like the tracking that is the accelerated grades 4–6 Advanced Work program in some schools and like the three tiers that our high schools still represent (exam, application, and open enrollment). Permanent ranking and sorting are a major root cause of the fact that 40 percent of our schools require assistance or intervention for poor outcomes. Many scholars have shown that children who attend truly diverse schools benefit both academically and socio-emotionally. The segregation of students by race, socioeconomic status, learning style, language, and special needs leads to our most vulnerable students receiving inadequate resources and support.

Another structure that upholds power and privilege is standardized testing. Every standardized test ever created shows group mean differences, because standardized tests measure more than just academic content; in fact, they cement unequal opportunities.

An oft-leveled critique has been that the human, financial, and political capital poured into this admissions process is misguided and should be put into improving the other 120-plus BPS schools. Actually, we believe that when the admissions of the three schools become test-blind and lottery-based, and when all of the students who test well attend more than just three schools, system-wide improvement will accelerate…