As America’s public education system reports the worst literacy and math performance in decades, its schools dedicate increasingly immense portions of their time to lessons on the supposed virtues of racial and gender segregation.
With only eight hours per day and 180 school days per year, one would think that everyone from the newest teacher’s aide to the tenured administrators would call “all hands on deck” to spend every moment trying to close the enormous performance gaps inflamed by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Instead of utilizing data-proven methods to close gaps in literacy and math, like many private and microschools do, most public schools have centered on a different tactic: political distraction.
As parents around the country began demanding answers for the lack of results from those they entrusted their children to, schools began presenting scapegoats to deflect the culpability in the mess they helped to make.
Teachers unions, school “equity officers,” and administrators began proclaiming that historic racial inequities were responsible for the massive gaps in black and Hispanic students’ reading scores. They claim “white supremacy” is responsible for students’ disengagement—that “students of color” would learn far more if they were “allowed” to read books by black authors under black teachers.
This is, of course, highly misleading. Students respond more to the quality of the text and the educator than to the race of the teacher. The “racial inequities” claim also ignores that the highest-performing demographic, Asian students, aren’t reading books by predominantly Asian authors and studying under Asian teachers.
Nevertheless, major metropolitan districts have doubled down on the need for a focus on racially-driven education—often implementing the tenets of critical race theory and citing its so-called scholars.
Indianapolis Public Schools and its over 30,000 students languish in illiteracy, but you won’t hear superintendent Aleesia Johnson apologize for a lack of results. Instead, she flocks to media outlets to praise the school’s third gallant push towards “racial equity” (because apparently, the first two didn’t succeed).
Instead of hosting emergency training sessions to bring Indianapolis teachers up to speed on proven reading instruction pedagogy, Indianapolis brought critical race theory scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings in for an emergency “all staff required” session on racial equity. One Indianapolis middle school required students to attend so-called racial equity sessions in which Black Lives Matter activists told them that crime was a “made up” term by “the white people.”
In undercover interviews with several Indiana schools, Accuracy in Media captured several administrators admitting to consistently wasting reading instruction time with racially segregationist activism—even if they had to hide it from parents.
In 2021, Chicago Public Schools boasted only a 17% literacy rate for Hispanic students and an 11% literacy rate for black students. Rather than assist black and Hispanic students in improving the single greatest factor in adult success, Chicago launched another racial equity initiative and hired additional “Office of Equity” staff.
While racial equity is most often the distraction touted by inner-city metropolitan schools—from New York City and Washington, D.C., on the East Coast to Los Angeles and Seattle on the West Coast—the suburban school districts surrounding them usually tout LGBTQ activism as a school focus.
Several California suburban public school districts reported abysmal reading and math performances in 2022 but have spent little time attempting to provide remediation since. Instead, these California districts threw their time and resources into celebrating LGBTQ activism.
Hollywood and Glendale schools chose to implement curriculum on the history of “LGBTQ+ activists” in place of additional reading and math instruction. Hispanic and Armenian parents flocked to school board meetings to protest what many called “a waste of time.”
“Why can’t you just focus on teaching our children to read?” a parent of elementary school children asked the Glendale Unified board.
The grassroots advocacy organization Parents Defending Education cites dozens of suburban school districts in over 40 states that have launched LGBTQ initiatives in the last five years, with district after district replacing an academic focus with hour after hour of learning about racial and sexual activism.
The British newspaper the Daily Mail gained access to a private online meeting of a group of midwestern public school teachers discussing ways to spend time encouraging students to engage with LGBTQ activism and to consider “transitioning” kids (calling them by different names and pronouns and letting them dress as members of the opposite sex) during the school day without telling their parents—even in the face of recently passed laws forbidding sexually explicit discussions with students in class.
Florida—which has enacted legislation to forbid racial and sexual activism in the classroom—along with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to keep public schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic, has shown greater reading and math score improvement than any other state in the country.
Education reform advocates for years have been touting the positive data regarding keeping schools open during the pandemic and keeping the focus on academics. Consistent reports from Corey DeAngelis of the American Federation for Children, Robert Pondiscio and Max Eden of the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy prove what common sense suggests: Students who focus on reading and writing in the classroom fare better than those who don’t. (The Daily Signal is the multimedia news and commentary outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
While The New York Times may suggest it’s “breaking news” for math and reading scores among 14-year-olds to be the “lowest levels in decades, with a sharp drop since the pandemic began,” it really isn’t news—and it’s not breaking.
When a school wastes eight hours a day on political activism instead of academic instruction, literacy and math competency don’t improve. Political activism isn’t preparing students for the challenges of their future career and for adulthood, and public schools’ attempts to convince parents that it does are losing their luster.
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