Let’s Multiply, Not Divide: A Closer Look at the ‘SDP Equity Framework’

There’s an old saying that a mother doesn’t divide her love among her children, but instead multiplies it like the stars.  America’s recent push for “equity” – a focus on equal outcome over equal opportunity – is sometimes viewed as being “zero-sum,” of dividing or redistributing resources rather than multiplying them.

The Philadelphia School District’s “Equity Framework” is at times zero-sum, and reveals two shifts in thinking from their traditional approach to improving schools and raising quality of instruction. One, it now uses race and social identity to guide instruction and the implementation of educational resources.  And two, it not only aims to provide extra services to marginalized students, but seeks to eliminate, disrupt, or remove so-called “dominant cultures” or systems that are viewed as privileged or predictably successful, which supposedly serve as obstacles or impediments to the success of marginalized groups.

The school district’s definition of “equity” is as follows: “Cultivating prosperity and liberation for students and staff, starting with historically marginalized populations, by removing barriers, increasing access and inclusion, building trusting relationships, and creating a shared culture of social responsibility and commitment to organizational accountability.”

I would agree that this kind of “equity” is admirable, being that it focusses resources on populations that face the biggest challenges.  No dedicated educator would object to giving extra help to children and families who need it most.  The school district’s Equity Framework becomes counterproductive, however, when it ties the success of marginalized groups to the disruption and elimination of so-called “dominant cultures,” and uses race and social identity to guide instruction and the implementation of educational resources.

One of the commitments under the Equity Framework is “redistributing resources to our most marginalized students in order to eliminate the predictability of success or failure based on historical trends.”  It’s one thing to eliminate the predictability of failure, but why get rid of a pattern of success?  Perhaps it might be better to increase the predictability of success so that it applies to all students?  Further, the notion of redistributing resources is problematic, as it suggests taking away from one group to give to another.  Which begs the question: which students from which schools/cultures are going to have things taken away from them?

The school district uses a “living glossary” of equity related terms to specifically define what they call dominant and marginalized groups.  Dominant Culture is defined as “the cultural beliefs, values, and traditions of the colonizer that are centered and dominant in society’s structures and practices,” and states that “indigenous and diverse ways of life are devalued, marginalized, and associated with low cultural capital.”

The definition leaves much to be desired, as it’s not only an overgeneralization, but insinuates the so-called “dominant culture” is negative, and assumes its dominance is arrived upon not through legitimate entrepreneurship or scientific, academic, or artistic achievement, but through oppression and the devaluing of others.

Interestingly, “Whiteness” is defined by the school district as “the component of each and every one of ourselves that expects assimilation to the dominant culture.”  This definition is not consistent with most equity-related definitions of the word, as “Whiteness” is defined by Critical Whiteness scholar Robin DiAngelo as “a term to capture all of the dynamics that go into being defined and/or perceived as white and that create and reinforce white people as inherently superior through society’s norms, traditions, and institutions.”

Still, the fact that the school district defined “Whiteness” as being associated with assimilation to a negative and oppressive dominant culture is unfortunate.  If “Whiteness” is associated with all people, why use the confusing and contentious term at all? 

Although not directly stated by the school district, the dominant culture by default is made up of white, male, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied, English-speaking, American citizens.  This becomes apparent when reviewing the school district’s definition of “marginalized.”

“Marginalized” groups are defined as “individuals or groups that have been systematically disadvantaged, both historically and currently, lacking representation in dominant culture and have limited to no power or capital.”  The district lists as marginalized “a person of color/non-white based on race and/or ethnicity,” as well as women, immigrants, English Language Learners, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, special education, economically disadvantaged, and non-Christians.

This is the aspect of equity that becomes zero-sum – the splitting and dividing up of groups and cultures into “dominant” and “marginalized,” and insinuating that the gaps between these groups stem solely from oppression.  In other words, the complexity of the achievement gap is boiled down to racism, which the school district wants all staff to adopt as the culprit of all racial disparities.  Which is why the school district’s Equity Framework asks staff to commit to dismantling policies and disrupting practices “steeped in institutionalized racism and other systems of oppression” in schools and classrooms throughout the city.

A closer look at the Philadelphia School District’s “Equity Professional Learning Guiding Principles” contained in their Intro to SDP Equity Framework video reveals that teachers must “acknowledge that racism is systemic,” and “woven throughout all of the structures of our nation.”  Another guiding principle is “recognizing privilege,” and instructs teachers to “acknowledge my privilege,” and to “gain resources and strategies to confront and acknowledge privilege and how this contributes to my work, my role, and the larger system I’m in.”

The core objective of recognizing so-called “privilege” is to foster tolerance, empathy, and compassion, and one could argue it would be more beneficial (and less contentious) to simply have tolerance, empathy, and compassion as a guiding principle for teachers to practice.

Whether or not Philadelphia public schools are steeped in racism and oppression is a matter of debate, but one thing is clear: the SDP Equity Framework racializes the school system from top to bottom, encouraging all people to reject Martin Luther King Jr.’s colorblind “content of character” model in exchange for a color-conscious approach that views all things through the lens of race and social identity.

While it’s important to pay attention to systemic patterns and racial disparities in order to close gaps, an overemphasis on race-consciousness can become counterproductive.  As teachers, we should all work to form strong learning partnerships with all our students, and make sure all children – regardless of race and social identity – are given equal opportunities to succeed.

Christopher Paslay is a longtime Philadelphia public schoolteacher, education writer, and coach.  His new book, A Parent’s Guide to Critical Race Theory, is available on Amazon.

A Parent’s Guide to Fighting Critical Race Theory in School

To win the battle against Critical Race Theory, parents must understand what they are up against, and learn to expose and challenge CRT where it exists. 

A Parent’s Guide to Critical Race Theory: Fighting CRT in Your Child’s School is a resource to help parents and concerned citizens understand, expose, and challenge Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools.

The first two chapters of this book detail what CRT is exactly, from its theoretical tenets as they developed in academia, to the ways in which CRT directly manifests in K-12 classrooms.

Chapter Three gives parents practical information and techniques to expose CRT in their own K-12 schools, and helps them sift through constantly changing definitions in an effort to help them navigate semantics and deal with the language games often played by school boards and CRT advocates.

Chapter Four helps parents challenge CRT in their own school districts, and provides sound alternatives that use core principles and values instead of identity to drive quality instruction for all children.

Finally, Chapter Five offers a collection of practical resources for parents to use in their fight against CRT, which include information on parent groups and toolkits, links to freedom of information forms and documents, recommended readings, and examples of curriculum and training that violate students’ and teachers’ rights, which can lead to possible legal action.

Click here to purchase the book.

Thanks for watching.

Activists Are Writing CRT Curriculum in K-12 Schools

Educational activist organizations, many of which have a clear political agenda, are continuously designing curriculum and so-called “teacher resources” for K-12 schools.  How much of this material, if any, should be used by teachers in American classrooms, and is it promoting the kinds of holistic instructional approaches we need in 21st century America?  This video analyzes one group in particular, an organization called BARWE, which stands for Building Anti-Racist White Educators.  Thanks for watching. 

Ibram X. Kendi Gaslights Teachers at AFT Conference

Anti-racist educator Ibram X. Kendi recently headlined the American Federation of Teachers’ TEACH 21 Conference, speaking at a livestream session titled, “A Conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.” The official AFT conference agenda stated, “Hear from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in this free-ranging discussion with student activists and AFT members on his scholarship and on developing anti-racist mindsets and actions inside and outside classrooms.”

During the livestream, which has not been posted on the AFT website, Dr. Kendi compared those who oppose critical race theory to Southern segregationists from the 1950s.  According to an article titled “Anti-racist education benefits all of us” published on the AFT’s website:

Ingram asked Kendi about the furor over critical race theory and related pushes against teaching about enslavement and discrimination. Kendi compared it to the reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, when some white people were fearful that desegregated schools—and the Black children in them—were going to be harmful to their children. Today’s fears are similar in that misinformation is being spread about potential harms; one bold lie is that teaching about racism conveys to white children that they are inherently evil. Kendi was clear and compassionate: He does not know of any anti-racist teacher who would believe or convey that any child or group of people is inherently bad or racist.

But Dr. Kendi misrepresents the growing concern by parents, educators, and community members over the toxic and polarizing tenets of critical race theory, and falsely states that no anti-racist educator teaches that all whites are inherently racist; Robin DiAngelo, whose anti-racist approaches are embedded in K-12 curriculum in a number of school districts – and whose book White Fragility is on recommended reading lists across America – explicitly teaches just that.

Instead of disassociating with such polarizing tenets of anti-racism – which is an example of critical pedagogy that is under critical race theory – Kendi attempts to gaslight educators when it comes to remembering his own ideas, as well as the ideas of other anti-racists who use an identity-based model, which polarizes by skin color and offers little in terms of holistic, universal solutions to the real problems of racism and racial disparities today. 

My Message to America’s Teachers’ Unions on CRT

America’s two largest teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have officially endorsed teaching critical Race Theory in K-12 classrooms, and are campaigning to push the use of critical pedagogy in lessons and activities in the name of social justice.  Both the AFT and NEA misrepresent the concepts at the heart of CRT, and minimize the toxic approach as simply “teaching accurate history.” This is far from the reality of CRT, and this video attempts to clarify the issue by asking AFT President Randi Weingarten, and NEA President Becky Pringle, 10 questions about their support and endorsement of CRT. 

Identity-Based Equality vs. Principle-Based Equality

This video compares two pathways to equality: one that is identity-based and endorsed by Ibram X. Kendi (critical race theory and anti-racism), and one that is principle-based and endorsed by Thomas Sowell (individual skill-building and universal values). 

Inside the CRT Ban in Iowa, and Why It’s Needed

Laws banning discriminatory CRT training in public agencies, such as Iowa’s HF 802, are not stopping educators from teaching about equity and racial justice, as many people are claiming. As HF 802 states:

Each agency, governmental entity, or governmental subdivision may continue training that fosters a workplace and learning environment that is respectful of all employees. However, the head of an agency, governmental entity, or governmental subdivision shall ensure that any mandatory staff training provided by an employee of an agency . . . does not teach, advocate, encourage, promote, or act upon stereotyping, scapegoating, or prejudice toward others on the basis of demographic group membership or identity.

Interestingly, the toxic CRT training in April of 2021 inside an Iowa school district is exactly why HF 802 is needed, as this video will detail. 

Inside the Joy Reid Interview with Christopher Rufo

Joy Reid recently had Christopher Rufo on her MSNBC show, The ReidOut, where she failed to engage in a rational debate about Critical Race Theory, and instead attempted to spin a pre-packaged narrative about the topic. 

As reported in New York Post:

After accepting Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo’s requests via Twitter to appear on her MSNBC show, host Joy Reid declined to engage in a debate on the topic of critical race theory — resorting instead to constant interruption and insults, insisting, “it’s my show … so it’s how I want to do it.

This video gives a breakdown of that interview. 

Tredyffrin/Easttown Parents Compared to Capitol Rioters by School Board Member for Opposing CRT

On June 14th 2021, Tredyffrin/Easttown School District held a school board meeting to discuss their equity initiative. After a dozen parents voiced their concerns over the teaching of critical race theory and the district’s affiliation with the Pacific Education Group, school board member Kyle Boyer lectured parents for 16 minutes about their “hurtful and harmful” words, insisting the parents just “didn’t get it” and stating “this is why the Capitol was breached.” 

Sign petition to stop Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District here.

‘Name Something Positive About Being White’: Inside the Marc Lamont Hill Interview with Chris Rufo

Recently, on the Black News Channel, Temple professor and BNC host Marc Lamont Hill asked Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Christopher Rufo to “name something positive about being white.”  This took place during Lamont Hill’s 26 minute interview with Rufo about the pros and cons of Critical Race Theory in America.  

This video highlights the excerpt, but also brings attention to the impact culture has on racial disparities in the United States (something Rufo attempted to analyze during the interview), and how exploring culture has become increasingly taboo with anti-racists and those who push Critical Race Theory in education and government. 

Full interview of Christopher Rufo by Marc Lamont Hill on the Black News Network here

Purchase Exploring White Fragility: Debating the Effects of Whiteness Studies on America’s Schools here.