I am a veteran teacher who has served over 25 years as both a Special and General education teacher in the same school district. In my profession, I have been extremely flexible and open to research-based initiatives that our district has implemented throughout the years. Whatever types of “programs” the Department of Education has thrown our way – from No Child Left Behind to the Common Core – I have willingly incorporated elements of those “mandates” into my teaching. My classes ask students to critically examine sources of information, teaching them how to conduct research and how to express their opinions/findings based on EVIDENCE and corroboration of resources. I examine issues of racism and inequity but also point out the great opportunities that this nation allows ALL people. I use the history of the interwar period in Germany to warn against the restriction of personal freedoms, the dehumanization of people groups, and the quashing of free expression. I also use this to encourage students TO vote (not HOW to vote) so that they can ensure that they still can enjoy personal liberties. Personally, I engage in daily reflection on my craft – what went well, what needs to be improved – in order to provide more effective learning opportunities for my students. It is a profession that I love and into which I have poured my heart and soul.
Unfortunately, the events of the past year have completely turned that passion on its head. After the George Floyd incident and the subsequent riots, my district announced that we would begin addressing the race issue by inviting a speaker from the local college to talk to us about equity and diversity during a couple of zoom sessions in the mornings of two of our first professional development (PD) days.
That would ultimately prove to be the beginning of the end for me in regards to my hope for public education. Although I am on the Professional Development Committee, very few of us were included in the PD decisions that would follow. Unbeknownst to me, a couple teachers from my Social Studies department were being “trained” in a new curricular focus during the first months of the school year. In November, during our first official PD departmental meeting, these two teachers asked if our department would be willing to be a “pilot” program to implement some equity components into our curriculum. I had my suspicions as to what this would “really” entail, so I asked a number of questions and raised concerns as to what it was and how this would impact my teaching and the students’ learning. I was assured by these colleagues that this pilot program a) was borne out of a “grassroots” organization made up of teachers, b) was not being pushed by administrators, and c) teachers were the ones to decide how to implement elements of the process they deemed relevant and critical to their content area. I still wasn’t happy but assented ONLY because these two colleagues had proven to be trustworthy in all previous experiences with them.
But what they told me did NOT play out that way. IT WAS A BIG, FAT LIE! Two days before Christmas break, our administration sent out a packet called the “Culturally Responsive Teaching Checklist” to the Social Studies department with instructions that this checklist was what we would be using to evaluate our lessons, our teaching, and the materials we use. We were also told that the diversity and equity coordinator at the local college was going to lead us through the process. Then, a second set of administration mandates concerning this new curriculum appeared in our staff email two days before we reconvened in January. In casual conversations with a large number of other staff members, I found only a couple people who also did not like this new “curriculum.” However they were not ready to object to it – they believe it to only be a “fad.” Realizing that I had no allies and that my district had hopped aboard the “crazy train,” I decided that I needed to “get out.” What happened next only reinforced that my decision was the correct one.
The first day back from break was a PD day. My social studies department, plus a few other staff and administrators, attended a 3.5-hour curriculum “restructuring” session with the local college’s diversity coordinator. I would have rather sat in a dentist’s chair than partake in the cultural marxism that was spewed during that session. Not only did our presenter espouse that socialism is a good thing, but she also said that if students had a problem with socialism we needed to tell them the “truth” – which included that they should stop watching OAN or other media outlets like that. She also believed that we need to expose Lincoln’s racism, that MLK and Malcolm X taught the same things, and that evolutionary teaching is superior to the beliefs of intolerant “Jesus-lovers.” She also guided us through the Culturally Responsive teaching checklist which is what we will use to “evaluate” our curriculum. This checklist includes more radical ideology couched in language that belies its destructive nature.
Here is an example: “Diverse student identities are seen as assets and strengths that can advance individual and group learning, rather than seen as challenges or difficulties to be overcome.” Notice that teachers have to affirm the student IDENTITY, and tell them how it is a strength. BUT, it cannot be an identity that relates to the “dominant culture.” Here is the proof for that: “The curriculum recognizes the validity and integrity of knowledge systems based in communities of color, collectivist cultures, matriarchal societies, and non-Christian religions.”
Inherent in this checklist item is the need to avoid anything white, male, and Christian – unless it relates to racism. The presenter’s constant emphasis was that we teachers need to RE-DO our entire curriculum and that it isn’t enough for us to be loving, caring, accepting of all, and “not racist,” we have to be “ANTI-RACIST.” Ibram X. Kendi is the guru she quoted frequently. Research his ideas about anti-racism and tell me that it does not send shivers down your spine (and NOT in a good way).
I resigned on that day. Since then, I have shared my story with, and exposed the destructive curricular materials to some families in our district and will continue to do so. I have urged those individuals to also get the word out across the district because families are completely in the dark about what is going on.
The biggest frustration in all of this is that the faculty and administration, prior to this school year, had been incredibly supportive, cohesive, and the working environment was second-to-none. There are still great people here, but almost all have decided to hop aboard the Critical Race Theory bus, and I just CANNOT continue on that same journey.