Diversity, equity, and inclusion policies have grown so diverse that they now include policies reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.
A Chicago-area school district is attempting to boost academic achievement among black and Latino students by offering blacks-only and Latino-only classes. The segregated classes are called “affinity” classes, and they aim to reduce the so-called academic achievement gap by making black and Latino students feel more comfortable in class.
As Evanston, Illinois, School Board Vice President Monique Parsons described the problem this month, “Our black students are, for lack of a better word … at the bottom, consistently still. And they are being outperformed consistently.”
Evanston could have offered extra tutoring, parent engagement programs, or similar interventions. Instead, it offered special black-only classes taught by black teachers, on the theory that black students would learn better without white peers around.
Evanston is not the only community to offer race-segregated classrooms. Woke strongholds such as Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland have been offering race-specific high school electives focusing on subjects like African-American history since at least 2015. Evanston’s innovation was to expand the concept of race-segregated classrooms to math and English classes, such as Algebra 2 and AP Calculus.
Of course, federal nondiscrimination laws forbid school districts from separating students on the basis of race, but the Evanston school district attempts to sidestep these laws by making the classes voluntary. Is that acceptable? To answer that question, consider what would have happened if Arkansas high schools in the 1950s had offered voluntary, whites-only classes to make white students feel more comfortable.
“In this example, the school system is failing to educate a portion of students. Rather than blame themselves for failing to prepare students to advance academically, this school system asks students to segregate themselves based on race,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, told The Washington Stand. “The students must do it themselves so the school doesn’t violate civil rights laws that protect them from racial segregation.”
Fortunately, Evanston’s racial segregation scheme has not encountered universal participation. Approximately 200 of the high school’s 3,600 students (a little more than 5%) are attending race-segregated classes. About 25% of the student population is black, and about 20% is Latino, which comes out to about 1 in 9 black students and 1 in 7 Latino students attending the segregated classes. While not universal, these numbers still represent a sizable percentage of the school’s minority populations.
Regardless, the problem lies in the principle, not the implementation.
“We would all agree that it would be wrong if white people were looking to create spaces where everyone was white, but somehow the calculation is supposed to be different if black or brown people want to create spaces where no one is white,” Joseph Backholm, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for biblical worldview and strategic engagement, told The Washington Stand.
In August 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (informed educators in a “Dear Colleague” letter, “OCR generally will open an investigation under Title VI [a civil rights nondiscrimination law] where there are allegations that the use of a curriculum or program separates students or otherwise treats them differently based on their race” (emphasis added). That is precisely what Evanston’s program does, even if it is voluntary.
“This is a great example of how wokeness changes our moral evaluations,” Backholm explained. “In wokelandia, a person labeled an oppressor can do exactly the same thing as one of the oppressed, but it is wrong for one and right for the other. It’s very bad moral reasoning.”
Evanston has distinguished itself in recent years for its zeal to address past discrimination through present discrimination. The city became the first in America to approve reparations payments for black Americans in 2021. In 2019, the City Council passed a resolution declaring Evanston “an anti-racist city” and “acknowledg[ing] that the trauma inflicted on people of color by persistent white supremacist ideology results in psychological harm affecting educational, economic, and social outcomes; and conjures painful memories of our City’s past … ”
Such self-abasement might be understandable if the city had been the site of some notorious lynching or a KKK hotbed. Instead, Evanston was founded by Methodists—the backbone of the abolition movement—and incorporated in 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation. The city’s zeal to apologize for racism seems to outpace its actual record of racial discrimination.
Countering racism infuses Evanston’s current policy of racially-segregated classes, too. “Equity guides many of the district’s decisions,” reported The Wall Street Journal, “embodied in a stated board goal: ‘Recognizing that racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished achievement of students, ETHS will strive to eliminate the predictability of academic achievement based upon race.’”
Kilgannon said this “deeply troubling” goal “summarizes quite precisely the problem with ‘equity’ as a worldview-guiding policy.” She explained, “Student achievement has many factors. ‘Centering’ racism as the most devastating factor will not produce better academic outcomes and is likely to produce an even more toxic environment for children of every race.”
Indeed, students who choose to participate in the racially-segregated classes may have already bought into that woke indoctrination. By segregating themselves, they will miss out on the opportunity to learn and grow from interacting with people who are different from them. They will encounter expectations that don’t prepare them for the real world. They will accept the false premise that their skin color arbitrarily limits their potential academic success. Meanwhile, the students—white, black, and Latino—who stay behind in the mixed classes also miss out on interactions with their peers.
“In athletics, all play together. They don’t have a white team, a black team, and a Latino team,” argued Jay Sabatino, a former high school teacher, principal, and superintendent in Illinois public schools, who retired after 30 years in education. “They have one Evanston team. All contribute, and all make mistakes. If a student in class or on the basketball court feels unsafe because he made a mistake, the teacher should address that. A safe environment (physically and emotionally) is the result of an excellent school.”
“What I fear is happening is that these students are being given the impression that their skin color is the most important thing about them,” Backholm agreed, “and that they need protection from people who don’t look like them. If that’s the case, these segregated classrooms will end up giving them a much greater handicap in life than whatever math deficiencies they may have.”
“As long as the program is voluntary, I can accept it more than if it is ‘the way we do things,’” Sabatino told The Washington Stand. But he expressed concerns about the process, based upon The Wall Street Journal’s reporting that the school district was dodging media inquiries and had not published data on the program’s success over the past four years.
“Transparency in these decisions (at a district or school level) should be paramount. That Evanston would not respond to questions should throw up a red flag to the community.” Additionally, “Any district that does not look at the data critically and report out on them is not operating optimally. This isn’t an administrator’s school; it’s the community’s.”
“This example is one of the many reasons we encourage Christians to run for school board, and why we support in prayer Christians serving in schools as teachers and staff,” said Kilgannon. “Only a system devoid of God can produce this kind of situation. Christians are needed now more than ever in education of every kind.”
America’s educational establishment—such as national teachers unions and education training programs—is pushing schools to embed godless, toxic ideologies based on Marxism into curriculums, instruction, and every aspect of school life. It instructs students to classify everyone as either oppressor or oppressed, based not upon their individual behavior but upon their belonging to groups. Many of these groups, which determine someone’s moral standing according to woke ideology, are based upon unchangeable physical characteristics, such as a person’s skin color or ethnicity.
Creating special classes for certain “oppressed” groups (blacks and Latinos) to escape from the supposed “oppressors” (whites), as Evanston school district has done, is just another method for subtly advancing this radical indoctrination agenda. But will it actually help students learn better in AP calculus class? The case to make for it is not very persuasive.
Instead of imbibing untested racial ideology, there are time-tested methods for academic improvement which Evanston could try. Based on his 30 years of experience, Sabatino said, “I’ll always endorse this: Hard work and perseverance lead to success.”
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