MADISON, Wis.—A widespread, vigorous debate is going on in this country right now about critical race theory and if it should be taught in our local schools.
Critical race theory is an academic discipline that has been around for decades but only recently became the ideology of the far left in its push to tear down our country, destroy the principles our country was founded on, and eliminate the protections every American is afforded under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Critical race theory seeks to fundamentally and profoundly change the United States forever.
Critical race theory preaches that the United States was founded on racism, grew to become the successful nation that it is today because of this racism, and that our country, still today, is fundamentally defined by our racism and racism is found in everything that we do and that we do not do.
Christopher Rufo, director of the Initiative on Critical Race Theory at the Manhattan Institute, writes that “critical race theory prescribes a revolutionary program that would overturn the principles of the Declaration of Independence and destroy the remaining structure of the Constitution.”
Critical race theory replaces the founding principles of this country such as equality, excellence, and equal protection under the law and replaces them with the communist ideal of equity, that is, every American, no matter their ability, work ethic, or moral fiber, should end up achieving the same result.
Instead of every single one of us, no matter the color of our skin, no matter our ethnicity, or our current lot in life, being guaranteed certain unalienable rights by our creator, under critical race theory, we would be dictated to by the all-mighty government that no matter our individual merit, ability, or talent, we will all end up in the same place, an equal place.
As the critical race theory debate heated up nationally, our readers requested we investigate to see if critical race theory was being taught directly in our classrooms here in Wisconsin or being used at the district level to shape the curriculum used to teach our children. We supplemented our own investigation and research with the dozens of tips we received from friends all across the state.
We found that critical race theory—or one of the many other names for critical race theory, like culturally responsive teaching, equity, anti-racism, woke, implicit bias, white privilege—is being taught in many school districts all across the state and is quickly on its way to fundamentally changing K-12 education in Wisconsin.
Parents need to wake up to what critical race theory is, what critical race theory will do to their children’s education, and speak up before it is too late.
Editor’s Note: We did not include every example of critical race theory and equity being pushed in our schools that we discovered. MacIver Institute will publish additional entries in this series soon. If you have additional tips or examples of critical race theory in the classroom that warrant investigation, please contact us at [email protected]
Before we dive into specific critical race theory examples from school districts around the state, we need to remind readers how Wisconsin students are doing academically. According to the most recent data available, only 40% of students across the state are proficient in English language arts. Proficiency in math is only slightly higher at 43%.
The achievement gap between students is also astounding. In the 2018-2019 school year, 13% of black students were proficient in English language arts, as opposed to 48% of white students. A similar trend is seen in math with only 12% of black students proficient versus 52% of white students.
Rather than focus on the basics, and making sure all students are proficient in core subjects, valuable classroom time is being spent on equity and activism training.
While many will think that this debate over equity, culturally responsive teaching, or whatever seemingly altruistic name they use, sounds harmless or even maybe like a good thing, parents need to know that critical race theory, in any of its forms, goes far beyond self-inspection or the implementation of a new plan to ensure that no child is left behind.
Critical race theory is fundamentally changing K-12 education, how schools teach the fundamental building blocks of knowledge, and how our children learn all across the country and right here in Wisconsin.
The Madison school district has made numerous changes to learning in the district, all in the name of critical race theory and equity.
In high school, the lowest score you will receive on an assignment is a 50, even if you have earned a lower score than 50 or if you fail to turn in the assignment altogether. Most recently, a high school student that fails will no longer receive an F, but instead will receive a “No Pass,” which will not count toward the student’s cumulative GPA.
The district is also debating right now the end to honors classes, which allow children advanced in a subject matter to dive deeper into that subject, because of the “disparities in the demographics of standalone honors” classes.
La Crosse School District
The School District of La Crosse recently received over $26,000 in an equity grant from the La Crosse Public Education Fund. The funds are to be used for “an intensive racial justice workshop for all staff at Longfellow Middle School, books and materials for pre-kindergarten classes at 10 sites.”
The equity grant will also go toward a new curriculum for all seventh-grade classes that will stress “understanding about diversity issues, including how to think globally and act locally.”
The proposed curriculum is called “‘Act Like a Hummingbird,’ and references a story about a tiny hummingbird that, despite her small size, makes a huge difference in her community by taking action and convincing other animals to join her in putting out a forest fire.”
This is not the only time the La Crosse School District has put money toward critical race theory and the indoctrination of its staff and students. Superintendent Aaron Engel agreed to sponsor the “White Privilege Symposium La Crosse, WI: A Vision for Racial Equity: History, Truth, and a Call for Action,” to be held later this year in December.
School district taxpayers will pay $1,000 for the district to be a “Respecting” sponsor, which comes with admission to the symposium for three district employees and three copies of the book “Waking Up White.” The goal of the symposium is to “eliminate race-based privilege and create more equitable, welcoming communities.”
It appears that the district will also help to organize and produce the White Privilege Symposium. Melissa Murray, principal at Lincoln Middle School in the district, is listed as a host/planning committee member.
According to the website, Murray is the White Privilege Symposium youth action project coordinator for the event. There is no description on the website of what Murray’s role entails, what specific tasks she will be expected to carry out, or if she will be doing this work for the White Privilege Symposium during normal school hours on the taxpayer’s dime.
While this event is yet to happen, there have been other white privilege conferences attended by government employees. At the 34th annual State Superintendent’s Conference on Special Education & Pupil Services in 2018, “the address was nothing more than a white shame fest,” according to an event attendee who spoke to MacIver News Service.
Speaker Decoteau Irby said there are “devastating effects of living in and growing up in a white supremacy society, where you are conditioned over a lifetime to think that some people are inferior and that some people are superior.”
“Racism and white supremacy are devastating to white people, too, shaping their emotional and intellectual incapacities to behave and relate to people who are not like them,” says Irby, who teaches and advises in the Educational Organization and Leadership Ph.D. and Urban Education Leadership programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This event was sponsored by the Department of Public Instruction and paid for by Wisconsin taxpayers.
At the 15th annual national White Privilege Conference held in Madison, teachers who attended were told that they must be political in the classroom and that if a teacher doesn’t want to fight for equity, he or she should leave education.
“Teaching is a political act, and you can’t choose to be neutral. You are either a pawn used to perpetuate a system of oppression or you are fighting against it,” said Kim Radersma, a former high school English teacher, during her presentation titled “Confessions of a White, High School English Teacher.” “And if you think you are neutral, you are a pawn.”
“If you don’t want to work for equity, get the [expletive] out of education.”
Last June, the Board of Education for the School District of La Crosse issued a statement concerning the “systemic racism” that takes place in schools.
“We need to come up with strategies for how we are going to address the systemic racism that continues to exist in our education system, including our local school districts. Unlike the novel coronavirus, racism in education is nothing new. Today, institutional racism in education is largely reinforced by policies and practices that appear ‘race neutral’ or ‘colorblind’ on the surface, but result in racialized outcomes.”
La Crosse’s Strategic Plan for Educational Equity states: “Educators must have the knowledge, skills, and disposition necessary to provide rigor, relevance, and relationships to successfully serve all students equitably.”
While this in and of itself may not sound radical, pay close attention to the elements that the school district believes lead to teacher “knowledge, skills, and dispositions”:
- History of marginalization and racism.
- Institutional racism.
- Implicit bias.
- Equity literacy.
- Cultural humility.
Forget a fundamental understanding of reading, writing, math, or civics, La Crosse would rather make its teachers and students experts in political correctness instead.
It must be noted that Department of Public Instruction proficiency scores for the district are below the state average. Only 7% of black students in the district are proficient in math and 8.8% are proficient in English language arts.
Lodi School District
Alarmingly, the decision to implement critical race theory in schools is, in at least some instances, being made by an unelected bureaucrat, not the elected school board.
As MacIver News previously reported, in the Lodi School District, Superintendent Vince Bruenig made the executive decision to implement dozens of equity initiatives in the district, including culturally responsive teaching training for all new educators in the district, without a formal vote of the school board or any input from the board.
Lodi is also an active participant in the Dane County Equity Consortium, a group of 29 school districts in Dane County that believe “our students in Dane County and throughout Wisconsin have experienced significant, measurable, system-wide inequities for far too long.”
According to the Dane County Equity Consortium website, member school districts are “taking collective action to eliminate barriers associated with the predictability of success based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, first language, income or ability statuses.”
The predictability of success based on race or ethnicity? Isn’t prejudging someone’s success or failure based on the color of their skin or background the very definition of racism?
Planning group members of the Dane County Equity Consortium have titles within their individual school districts like director of student services, director of elementary education, director of curriculum and instruction, and director of instructional equity.
Germantown School District
Germantown School District’s school board voted on April 12 to ban the teaching of critical race theory. However, just a few weeks later, the board rescinded the ban on the use of critical race theory.
At the meeting where the ban was reversed, Superintendent Brett Stousland claimed that the use of critical race theory in the Germantown School District is almost nonexistent, saying that critical race theory is mentioned in only two high school classes.
Germantown is an example of the bureaucratese, double-speak, and lying that parents will encounter when they ask if critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, social justice, or one of the many nuanced names for critical race theory is being taught in their school.
Parents need to know that if you ask a question about critical race theory, you will most likely receive a non-answer answer, obfuscation, or an outright lie.
Many superintendents and school districts realize that parents want them to focus on the basic and critical building blocks of education—reading, writing, math, and science—not indoctrination and most of the education establishment will do just about anything to keep parents in the dark.
Stousland, in trying to make it seem like critical race theory isn’t a problem or a big part of learning in Germantown, failed to mention the efforts of district staff to push critical race theory and social justice.
In an October email sent out to staff members, the director of teaching and learning for Germantown schools, Brenda O’Brien, provided teachers with a list of “social justice” books for their classrooms. The website provided has hundreds of woke books geared toward elementary students on topics including activism and organizing, early childhood anti-bias, LGBTQ+, and white identity.
According to O’Brien’s email, if teachers find a book that they want, let her “know if you would want to add titles to align with your curricular topics.”
She also goes on to give advice to staff on how to teach social justice to their students.
If you are teaching elementary children to be activists and how to organize, sounds like critical race theory is deeply ingrained in everything you do as a school district and starting at a young age. It certainly is not limited to just two high school courses.
Elmbrook School District
Elmbrook is just one of many districts across the state that is implementing an “Equity Non-Negotiables” document. Equity non-negotiables are guiding principles for school districts to abide by, not open to interpretation or modification, that seem to commit the school districts to focus on equity, critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, or one of the many euphemisms for critical race theory.
At an upcoming school board meeting, members will be voting on the district’s equity non-negotiables, including language found in the quote box below.
Historical and continuing structural inequities create disparate outcomes for marginalized student populations. We recognize that as individuals, despite the very best intentions, our actions can contribute to disparate outcomes for our students. As a District committed to equity, we seek to disrupt societal and historical inequities and eliminate disparities based on student and family characteristics such as, but not limited to, race, color, national origin, citizenship status, ancestry, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), economic status, disability status, and age, so that all students thrive. Equity does not mean equal. Achieving educational equity will mean that schools and students may receive different resources based on specific needs. Nevertheless, the District will provide every student with equitable access to high-quality curriculum, support, facilities, and other educational opportunities.
On its face, these documents sound beneficial. Yet, rather than providing struggling students with the assistance they need—regardless of race—it appears that resources will be handed out to students based on their race. That is a dramatic and profound change in how we educate our children.
Other districts implementing an equity non-negotiable document include West Allis, Mequon-Thiensville, Brown Deer, and Monona Grove.
In a recent board meeting, members were presented with the administration’s “Strategy Management Process,” which included Elmbrook’s equity statement and principles.
Branding is key when pushing radical ideas like critical race theory, so the district eloquently disguises its agenda behind phrases such as “collaboration,” “alignment,” and “responsibility.” It is interesting that “critical race theory” itself is not mentioned, but appears to be interchangeable with terms like culturally responsive teaching, etc.
This agenda isn’t just being pushed on district staff. Students are also being questioned about their ability to interact with those of a different race.
A survey uncovered by parents shows their kids being asked, “How fairly do adults at your school treat people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures?”, “How often do you think about what someone of a different race, ethnicity, or culture experiences?”, and “How does your school help students speak out against racism?” The survey ends by asking students to disclose their own race.
Are students being asked to turn in their teachers if they are not woke enough or vocal enough with their support for critical race theory? It sure seems like the survey is asking kids to do just that.
Quite alarmingly, these questions aren’t limited to civics or social studies classes. In a freshman honors biology class, students were given a presentation discussing race and identity. This presentation supposedly accompanies the students’ assigned reading of the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
The book “tells a story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.”
While the book itself does address biology and human cells, it is clear the focus of the accompanying presentation is on equity and race issues, rather than the science behind it.
During the presentation, students are told, “Be aware of your language, including microaggressions,” because “the audience may include Persons of Color.” The teacher makes it clear: “This is not about ‘being right’ but about shared understanding.”
Remember when high school science was just about science and a collective understanding of how the world works rather than wokeness?
It is unclear why a high school biology class that should be teaching our children about the building blocks of life, metamorphosis, or osmosis is instead warning our children about microaggressions and social justice.
In spite of all of the evidence suggesting that critical race theory is deeply ingrained throughout Elmbrook’s curriculum, the district’s superintendent has stated publicly, “The district is not teaching, nor are we planning to teach, critical race theory or associated approaches, contrary to the rumor mill.”
Instead, according to the superintendent, the Elmbrook School District is simply trying to help all kids fit in:
The material you reference is a working group that has been trying to navigate a sense of belonging for all kids. The Equity Principles are a work in progress and will be refined repeatedly. Our goal is that every student thrives and flourishes.
Thankfully, a dedicated group of parents is closely monitoring Elmbrook’s implementation of its equity non-negotiables, continually asking the administration questions about the use of critical race theory in the district and making public its findings so parents in other school districts can use its work in their own backyard.
Waukesha School District
At teacher and administrator training in Waukesha, the staff is taught about “culturally responsive teaching.” They’re taught that “[critical race theory] is good teaching, and good teaching is at the heart of the AVID system.”
AVID—Advancement Via Individual Determination—is a “program designed to help underachieving students with high academic potential prepare for entrance to colleges and universities.”
As parents in the School District of Waukesha recently discovered, the district is carrying out this initiative with Sharroky Hollie as its coach. Hollie is the president of the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, a consulting group that “exists for making cultural responsiveness a meaningful aspect of everyday life.”
An open records request submitted by parents found that Hollie has been paid $20,625 for workshops and instructional courses at the School District of Waukesha.
While it is unclear what specifically Hollie presented to staff in this workshop, his published works push for critical race theory in the classroom and workplace.
In his “Journey to Responsiveness” presentation, Hollie teaches “Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning,” which he describes as “going where the students are culturally and linguistically for the purpose of bringing them where they need to be academically. CLR is the opposite of the sink-or-swim approach to teaching and learning, or traditional schooling.”
Hollie’s presentation goes on to describe the ways certain communities have been historically underserved—particularly the Native American, African American, Mexican American, Hawaiian American, and Asian American communities. Hollie believes that the underserved populations listed have four common characteristics:
- American dream opportunities denied.
- Systematic denial of indigenous culture and language.
- Failure in the American education system.
- Historical development of nonstandard languages or home languages in their communities.
In addition to discovering the district’s consultation with Hollie, district parents also located a matrix used to evaluate staff beliefs. The rubric requires that “the staff knows who they are before they can teach and lead others (implicit bias, self-awareness).”
The rubric further ensures that educators are indeed teaching critical race theory in the classroom by requiring students to complete “student perception surveys.” If a teacher tries to avoid preaching the radical critical race theory agenda to his or her kids, the kids’ completed surveys will catch the teacher.
Traditionally, staff evaluations have been used to help determine advancement opportunities for teachers and support staff. It is clear based on many of these standards that teaching “culturally responsive theory” does play a role in evaluating staff performance.
As MacIver recently reported, this furthers the case that the “least woke” teachers and administrators will be the first to go when job cuts are made, making room for staff advocating social justice.
Burlington Area School District
The Burlington Area School District has been having the debate around critical race theory and equity in the classroom for a while now.
The district’s equity homepage lists dozens of initiatives Burlington has undertaken in the past year alone to “support racial equity.” These include: hosting the presentation “Unconscious Bias: Can We See Our Own Blind Spots?” for all staff, launching a student organization—SHARE (Students Helping Advance Racial Equity)—for students in grades 7-12, and participating in the National Equity Project.
Burlington Area School District’s board of education recently received a proposal from Tracey A. Benson for an “intensive racial equity and anti-racism learning program” costing the taxpayers who fund the district $103,750.
Benson is the founder of an anti-racist leadership institute, named after himself, that provides courses, audits, and coaching to eliminate racism in the workplace.
The program recommendations to the district include a workshop focusing on the following areas relating to equity and implicit bias: starting with ourselves, normalizing talking about race, investigating racial climate in schools, practicing productive discomfort, and cultivating a brave community.
This plan has yet to be voted on or implemented by the school board.
Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District
At a middle school in the Middleton-Cross Plains district, its strategy map says, “We know that to truly engage in antiracist work, that individuals will make mistakes. We must respond to those mistakes in a way that is humanizing and holds people accountable to change.”
Pay close attention to what this strategy map implies when it says, “Some resources may be distributed in a universal manner; however, other resources may be targeted to a particular building, location or group of students or staff.” In the name of equity, certain students will have access to more resources than others.
In the district, middle school students attended a week of “Activism Training” during their literacy class. Unsure how activism training relates to literacy? So are we.
It must be noted that Wisconsin has consistently struggled with reading and writing proficiency levels compared to other states.
In the Middleton-Cross Plains district, while overall district scores are high, proficiency among black students in English language arts is only 17%. Only 16% are proficient in math. Therefore, it is frustrating and concerning to learn that districts across the state are taking time out of their literacy classes to train students to be activists.
The Zoom video was a lecture from the district’s director of equity and student achievement, Percy Brown, and included discussion on his experience being an activist:
Activism isn’t something that begins as an adult, but really begins when you start to learn more about who you are and develop a passion of things that you really want to confront and address.
Additionally, a resource provided to district members features “Critical Conversations,” a presentation that discusses questions and answers for students regarding race and race-related issues.
While this is not taught in the classroom, it is used in developing curriculum, and provided to parents as a resource regarding the “social justice and identity/culture work they are doing with students.” It seems that, from the questions in the presentation highlighted below, the district assumes students and their parents are racist.
The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.
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