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The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer wrote about the state government’s failed search for “indoctrination” in the schools.


Charlotte Observer Editorial Board: North Carolina’s indoctrination-in-schools witchhunt was a big, embarrassing dud

North Carolina’s Lt. Governor Mark Robinson launched a witch hunt for teachers and schools “indoctrinating” students. But when  they released their report, the Charlotte Observer was less than impressed.

Lt. Gov Mark Robinson’s investigation of indoctrination in North Carolina schools landed with a loud thud Tuesday, despite the efforts of him and other N.C. Republicans. The probe, which Robinson has long promised would show “proof” of widespread indoctrination in classrooms, instead affirmed something more troubling — politicians trying to intimidate educators based on a false premise of classroom brainwashing.

Teachers will recognize what Robinson delivered Tuesday — a report with a lot of dressing and little meat. It’s the term paper of a student who didn’t do the work and didn’t have much to offer. It was a dud.

Robinson, of course, did his best to claim otherwise — as did Republicans who seemed to be half-heartedly rallying to his support. In an email to constituents, Senate leader Phil Berger couldn’t even bring himself to say that the report showed widespread indoctrination in N.C. schools, instead saying that parents and teachers disagree with Democrats who say “CRT-linked” doctrine doesn’t exist. (Note the goalpost moving going on – from early GOP claims of Critical Race Theory being taught in NC classrooms to now pointing out the mere existence of something resembling CRT in some places.)

Republicans and Robinson, however, would prefer that N.C. students aren’t exposed to topics that don’t conform with the GOP worldview. The Lt. Governor’s report is designed to provide political cover for a Republican bill that would regulate how teachers talk about race and history in classrooms. Such a bill would likely be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but it will set up a political fight Republicans appear to think will benefit them.

It’s a cynical sideshow that distracts from real issues our schools are confronting, and it’s one more way Republicans can say public schools are failing instead of truly addressing how to help them succeed. What’s going on is politics, not indoctrination, and it has had an unnecessarily chilling effect on teachers, making them self-conscious about what they say in class. That makes an already demanding job more stressful and less rewarding, and that’s not good for North Carolina’s schools or their students.

Read the full editorial here.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/charlotte-observer-editorial-board-north-carolinas-indoctrination-in-schools-witchhunt-was-a-big-embarrassing-dud/

Renee Sekel is a parent and public school advocate in North Carolina. She sends her children to public schools. She remembers when she naively believed that the state’s legislators supported public schools. Then the budget cuts started coming. Then charters. Then vouchers. Now, she says, public schools are in a race against time.

She wrote:

Four years ago, both Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina at least made a show of claiming to support public education, even as the legislature slashed budgets and passed one policy after another aimed at undermining public schools. What worries me today is how that rhetoric has shifted. Our Republican leaders now openly acknowledge that they are hostile to public education and would prefer to replace public schools with a voucher system. I know that the vast majority of North Carolinians from all across the political spectrum support public schools, but increasingly it feels like we’re in a race against time, trying to get citizens to understand that our schools are under attack. If it becomes orthodoxy in the GOP that public schools are anathema, and a critical mass is convinced that the schools their children attended−that they attended−should be destroyed, there is no going back.

Carol Burris dug into federal charter school grants and was appalled by what she discovered in North Carolina.

The Charter Schools Program Funds White Flight Schools in North Carolina We were appalled when we saw the list of charter schools funded by federal money through the CSP. The U.S Department of Education awarded a grant to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction that passed the money on to white flight charters to expand. Awards were given to schools that do not participate in the federal lunch program nor provide transportation, as well as schools that require parents to volunteer or make donations.  One of the schools even uses corporal punishment. Eleven of the schools are or will be run by for-profits.

The Network for Public Education and more than 60 other national and local organizations wrote a letter to Secretary Cardona asking him to investigate and call back the grant issued by Betsy De Vos. We also filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General on irregularities we found.

Our complaints are under review. This blatant abuse of federal tax dollars, increasing segregation in the North Carolina public school system, cannot stand.

Republican leaders in North Carolina, who hold a majority in the General Assembly, but not the Governorship, suspect that liberal teachers are “indoctrinating” their students. Since they won control of the legislature, Republicans have passed legislation for charters and vouchers and displayed an animus for public schools and their teachers. Does it occur to them that the citizens of NC would not have elected them if they were “indoctrinated”?

The parent group Public Schools First NC summarized a recent press conference.

This week, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson was joined by Sens. Deanna Ballard, Phil Berger & Michael Lee & State Supt Catherine Trait at his Tuesday press conference for the release of the “Indoctrination in North Carolina Public Education Report.” These leaders claim that there is widespread indoctrination occurring in public school classrooms across the state. Many public education advocates say the report does not contain substantive or reliable evidence of such assertions. HB324 was written in response to claims of indoctrination and limits what can be taught in classrooms. The bill passed in the Senate this week. All Republicans voted yes, while all Democrats voted no. The bill was then sent to the Governor’s desk. If he vetoes the bill as expected, it will be returned to the legislators who do not appear to be enough votes to overturn the Governor’s veto. Nevertheless, the narrative around the passing of HB324 has increased the strife among educators, parents, and their legislators and is not improving the many financial needs of our schools nor the need for more educators in the classroom. Its impact has been largely negative during this first week of school when larger issues need addressed. Many fear this is another way to undermine and erode our community’s support of our public schools.

According to a statement by the Public School Forum of NC, “A growing body of research demonstrates that inclusive teaching practices that connect academic concepts to the everyday lives and experiences of their students can improve students’ academic outcomes, attendance, brain processing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills; promote feelings of safety and belonging; and can increase engagement and motivation.”

Legislation that will inhibit the teaching of important concepts including inequity and systemic oppression will not change hard history. Further, this assertion that teachers are indoctrinating their students is simply untrue. “Most educators say that CRT itself isn’t taught in K-12 public schools. Nevertheless, conservative supporters of the bill contend that CRT is at the root of efforts by some teachers to indoctrinate students with what they contend is a liberal political ideology.” See an excellent and more in depth discussion of HBO 324 here.

Teaching history from multiple viewpoints should never be a political issue. We ought to trust and respect educators and know they can hold challenging conversations in their classrooms while respecting differences of opinion. We hope you will take the time to contact your legislators and share your views on this bill.

Greg Childress of NC Policy Watch reports that a government watchdog group has lodged a complaint against one of the state’s most powerful elected officials.

Rep. John Torbett, chair of the House K-12 Education Committee and the Education Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations failed to acknowledge that his wife serves on the board of a state-funded charter school.

He writes:

Rep. John Torbett, chairman of the state’s influential House Education K-12 Committee, is the target of a Legislative Ethics Committee complaint alleging the Gaston County Republican failed to disclose that his wife serves on a charter school board that receives state funding.

The complaint was filed this week by Bob Hall, the retired executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights and government watchdog group.

Viddia Torbett is also her husband’s legislative assistant.

Hall contends Torbett should have disclosed on 2020 and 2021 statements of economic interest (SEI) that his wife, Viddia Torbett, is vice-chairwoman of the board of directors of Community Public Charter School in Stanley. The school is affiliated with the Community Pentecostal Center.

“The failure of Rep. [John] Torbett to disclose his wife’s position on the School’s board of directors is all the more important because Rep. [John] Torbett is now the chair of the House Committee on K-12 Education and is chair of the Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, i.e., two positions where he has significant influence over policy and funding of charter schools and public education,” Hall said in the complaint.

Torbett was first elected to the House in 2010. He was assigned to the Education K-12 Committee and the Appropriations on Education Committee to start the current legislative session. Torbett chairs both committees.

“You’ve got a powerful legislator with a personal bias or a personal interest in the financial solvency of a charter school, so he’s got a conflict between serving the public and serving his own personal interest,” Hall said in an interview with Policy Watch. “That ought to be disclosed if not him recusing himself from involvement in the funding of charter schools.”

Anyone subject to the State Government Ethics Act must file an SEI prior to being appointed, employed or elected, by April 15 of each year. That covers roughly 6,500 people, including appointed officials and elected members of the General Assembly…

This week’s complaint against Torbett isn’t the first Hall has filed against the lawmaker.

Last October, Hall filed a complaint alleging that Torbett and Josh Dobson, a former state representative who was elected state Commissioner of Labor last November, were inappropriately collecting thousands of dollars from the General Assembly for lodging in Raleigh even though their housing was being paid for by campaign committees.

The “double-dipping,” Hall said, was a violation of the Legislative Ethics Committee’s Guideline 11, which prohibits lawmakers from collecting per diem payments from the government for lodging expenses paid by another entity.

“However, in a bizarre turnabout after it received my complaint against Rep. Torbett and another legislator,” Hall wrote to the Legislative Ethics Committee, “the Committee met in late October 2020 and voted to rescind Guideline 11 and then dismissed my complaint.”

In 2020, there were seven complaints filed with the Legislative Ethics Committee. All seven were dismissed, according to the committee’s annual report. ..

The charter school where Torbett’s wife serves on the board has drawn national criticism because it received a $250,000 Charter School Program grant intended to help disadvantaged students.

Carol Burris, executive director for the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group that opposes charter schools, wrote about the school and others in a Washington Post column. Burris criticized them for their lack of diversity.

“During 2019, the year in which the school was awarded its Charter School Program grant of $250,000, 95 percent of the school’s students were White, compared with its integrated public school district, Gaston, where only 53 percent of the students are White,” Burris wrote.

John Torbett is also the sponsor of House Bill 324, which would limit what students could be taught about the nation’s racial past.

Conservatives have embraced the controversial bill, arguing that it would prevent teachers from indoctrinating students with liberal ideology. Progressives oppose it, saying it’s important that children learn hard truths about systemic racism, slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The Public School Forum of NC wrote this comparison of different budget proposals for K-12 spending. What jumped out at me was the Republican proposal to grant permanent status to the state’s three virtual charter schools, despite their poor performance.

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.

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation that ostensibly bans discrimination in the state’s classrooms. But the real purpose of the statute is to ban discussions of racism. Among other things, it prohibits teaching anything that might cause students to feel “discomfort,” and it prohibits diversity training.

The bill begins:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT TO DEMONSTRATE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S INTENT THAT STUDENTS,
TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS, AND OTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES RECOGNIZE THE EQUALITY AND RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS AND TO PROHIBIT PUBLIC SCHOOL UNITS FROM PROMOTING CERTAIN CONCEPTS THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THAT INTENT.

Public school units shall not promote that:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
(2) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist,
sexist, or oppressive.
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment
solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
(4) An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or
sex.
(5) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility
for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
(6) Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel
discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
H324-CSBE-35
(8) The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.
(9) The United States government should be violently overthrown.
(10) Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the
individual’s race or sex.
(11) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships
and struggles among racial or other groups.
(12) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (13) Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction
the equal protection of the law.
Public school units shall (i) notify the De

Justin Parmenter was curious about the hundreds of letters that parents wrote to the Lieutenant Governor about the need for this legislation, and he filed an open records request to gain access to them. Many were avowedly racist.

Many of the 506 complaints to Robinson’s task force come from North Carolinians who appear deeply concerned about what they perceive as a move away from a white Christian-centered system of public education.

These submissions include recommendations to cancel Black History Month, pleas to stop making white students feel guilty by teaching so much about slavery–which one individual remarked “is getting old”–and suggestions to end hiring practices aimed at increasing diversity of school staff.

They provide a helpful lens to understand the real motivation behind moves across the country to restrict classroom discussions on race and various types of oppression under the false pretense of fighting the boogeyman “critical race theory.”

While the outward tactics and messaging of this movement may be a bit more subtle than in years past, its underlying sentiment feels very familiar.

Justin Parmenter, NBCT teacher in North Carolina writes here about the resolution passed by a local school board that bans teaching anything that might cause students to feel stress, anxiety, or discomfort. Well, that pretty much eliminates teaching about world wars, genocide, racism, sexism, and everything bad that ever happened in history. It denies the uncomfortable facts of history, like the existence of racism, the denial of women’s rights, the internment of Japanese-Americans in camps during the Second World War, the brutality of the Holocaust, the forced relocation of Native Americans, and on and on. It also requires the suppression of many novels; only happy, pleasant stories may be read, in which no one dies, no one is betrayed, no one is cheated or harmed.

Obviously, it’s a back door attempt to ban teaching about racism, which is the crusade of the moment for the Republican Party..

Is it possible to prepare young people to live in this world if they are shielded from uncomfortable realities?

Parmenter writes:

At its Monday meeting, the Cabarrus Board of Education unanimously adopted a “Resolution to Ensure Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools.”

The resolution notes that the board “recognizes the importance of diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and expression as foundational to providing students with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education” before stating that student learning should not result in any “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.”

The board’s action comes after North Carolina’s State Board of Education adopted new, more inclusive social studies standards which teach history from more diverse perspectives. Some language in the standards documents has resulted in charges that the standards teach that the United States is a racist nation and that news could be distressing for some of our children…

As a teacher I feel it’s important to add that learning and growing as an individual involves discomfort. That’s an inherent part of the learning process.

This resolution isn’t really about ensuring that all students are treated with dignity in schools at all. It’s about ensuring that white students don’t learn that their country has a long history of systemic oppression towards people of color and a whole host of other traditionally marginalized groups.

Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic published a substantive critique (some might say a scathing critique) of the state’s voucher program. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of benefit to the students who use the voucher, despite the lack of demand for vouchers, despite the program’s many weaknesses, the state’s General Assembly wants to put more money into the voucher program.

The report begins:

A new report from Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic outlines the many ways in which North Carolina’s largest school voucher program continues to suffer from glaring policy weaknesses. These policy weaknesses increase the likelihood that voucher students are receiving an inferior education than their peers in public schools, delivering a bad deal to students and residents alike.

The report – an update to a 2017 study – finds that the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program:

  • Is poorly designed to promote better academic outcomes for students;
  • Fails to provide the public or policymakers with useful information on whether voucher students are making academic progress or falling behind;
  • Demand for the program has fallen short of the General Assembly’s projections, resulting in unused funds in every year since the program’s inception;
  • Nearly all voucher students (92 percent) are attending religious schools, more than three quarters of which use a biblically-based curriculum presenting concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards;
  • The NC State Education Administration Authority (SEAA), which administers the program, has provided the General Assembly with a method to evaluate the program’s academic effectiveness, but the General Assembly has failed to act on the recommendations;
  • Unlike many other states, North Carolina places no requirements on voucher schools in terms of accreditation, curriculum, teacher licensure, or accountability;
  • A lack of financial monitoring creates risks for students and nearby public schools that must absorb students when private schools fail; and
  • Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against students and their families on the basis of religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity…

Rather than address the program’s many shortcomings, House and Senate leaders are competing to expand these unaccountable programs. Their solution to lack of demand is to loosen eligibility requirements, expand subsidies to families who never intended to enroll in public school, and spend $500,000 per year on marketing.

NCBT Teacher Justin Parmenter writes here about the reaction of the Republican-controlled Legislature to their rampant fear that teachers might try to indoctrinate students into radical views of American history and society, like discussing shameful episodes in the past. The legislators want patriotic history that makes students proud to be Americans.

First they passed a law requiring teachers to make public their lesson plans to prove that they are not “indoctrinating” students.

Parmenter begins:

Last month the NC House of Representatives passed a law entitled “An Act to Ensure Academic Transparency” which would require teachers to post their lesson plans and details about all instructional materials online for public review. 

In defense of their support for the new legislation, which passed almost entirely along partisan lines, some Republican legislators cited the need to prevent indoctrination of North Carolina students.  

Iredell County Representative Jeffrey McNeely said, “Hopefully we’re just gonna teach the kids. We’re not gonna try to indoctrinate ’em or teach ’em in a certain way to make ’em believe something other than the facts.”

At its meeting today, the North Carolina State Board of Education reviewed glossaries and unpacking documents related to new state social studies standards which will be implemented in school year 2021-22. (Unpacking documents are overarching documents intended to help teachers understand how the standards should be taught).

During the discussion, board member Amy White expressed her view that the standards unpacking documents needed to ensure North Carolina teachers are teaching their students that America is a great nation.

Is that true? Is it indoctrination?