Advocacy group that promotes terrorist William Ayers will train Miss. school teachers on Civil Rights Movement




by Christopher Paslay


Last spring, as part of my master’s degree in education at Eastern University, I took a course called Multicultural Education.  I enrolled because I wanted to learn new methodologies that would broaden my teaching repertoire and help me better educate students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.  Granted, I grew up in Philadelphia (and still currently live in the city), but I hoped a course on diversity would fill in some of the gaps. 


In particular, I hoped to learn about the various learning styles of different cultures—which groups prefer cooperative over independent work; which groups are kinesthetic learners as opposed to auditory learners; etc.  I also wanted a crash course on world culture, and some supplementary materials I could use to help diversify my lesson plans.        


Surprisingly, I received almost none of this.  What I did get was politics—one-sided, left-leaning ideologies that had little to do with education or teaching strategies. 


Here was the required reading for the course:


1.  Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum.  The underlying premise of this book is that all whites in America have a “privilege” that is systematically denied all blacks.  In addition, the text talks about “Institutional Racism,” and how ALL whites are guilty of this simply because they exist inside a “privileged” society.  The book also lobbies for Affirmative Action, and suggests that anyone who opposes it is a racist by default.              


2.  A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki.  This book was quite interesting, but was also quite selective.  The author chooses only to include information that exposes America’s sinful past—all the ways society and government mistreated immigrants and people of color.   


3.  We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multicultural Schools by Gary R. Howard.  This book is all about “Western White Dominance” and how to put an end to it through education.  It suggests, among other things, that the racial achievement gap in America is the fault of white teachers who don’t embrace or strive to understand their students of color.    


4.  Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching by James A. Banks.  This book is the most objective of the four.  It gives a history of multicultural education and thoroughly explains the movement’s principles, ideologies and foundations. 


Needless to say, I was taken aback when I began the reading.  What disappointed me wasn’t that the course was dripping in politics and had little to do with practical, hands-on teaching strategies or methodologies.  The frustrating part was that the course was so one-sided


Once during class, after watching the PBS documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion, I questioned the idea that the G.I. Bill was the primary reason why so many of America’s big cities are filled with poor blacks.  I admitted that the G.I. Bill was part of the problem, but tried to explore other causes in an effort to find a solution.


“What percentage of the problem has to do with personal responsibility?” I  asked the professor, who was an African American woman.  “I agree that the G.I. Bill had an impact, but what about trying to find solutions from within the community?  What percentage of urban blight is brought on by bad personal decisions?”


The professor looked at me like I had five heads.  “What are you saying, Chris?”


I repeated my question in a very respectful manner, and explained that I was simply trying to look at all sides of the issue and think outside the box.


“We’re not going to talk about that, Chris,” she said with a tone.  “We’re focusing on the G.I. Bill.”  And that was it.  End of conversation.  She moved to the next topic, never bothering to answer my question. 


Unfortunately, my experience at Eastern is not an isolated case.  After talking to fellow educators and graduate students—and after researching reading lists at other universities—I’ve come to realize that multicultural education courses are often more about politics than education.  There is real indoctrination going on in America’s colleges—professors are forcing their personal politics on their students (while holding them hostage with their grade) and pawning it off as free thought.        


Tragically, this indoctrination disguised as “free thinking” is starting to trickle down into America’s K to 12 public school system.  Recently I read an article in Teacher Magazine headlined Miss. Making Civil Rights Part of K-12 Instruction that I found rather curious. 


So far, four school systems have asked to be part of a pilot effort to test the curriculum in high schools, the article explained. In September, the Mississippi Department of Education will name the systems that have been approved for the pilot. By the 2010-2011 school year, the program should be in place at all grade levels as part of social studies courses.          


Advocacy groups such as the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and Washington-based Teaching for Change are preparing to train Mississippi teachers to tell the “untold story” of the civil rights struggle to the nearly half million students in the state’s public schools.


I took a closer look at Mississippi’s effort to teach its public school children the “untold story” of the civil rights struggle and found something very interesting.  The Washington-based Teaching for Change, one of the advocacy groups that will be training Mississippi public school teachers, is a lot like the multicultural education course I took at Eastern University.  On the surface, the group claims to provide “teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write and change the world.” 


But upon further inspection of their website, I found Teaching for Change promotes a very controversial individual named William Ayers.  It’s ironic that an organization dedicated to training educators how to denounce the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church promotes the work of a domestic terrorist who bombed New York City’s Police Headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.  It’s true.  Go check their website.  What kind of “untold story” will Teaching for Change train Mississippi educators to tell our children? 


Teaching for Change also endorses Ronald Takaki, author of the glass-is-half-empty, victim-centered multicultural historical text A Different Mirror, which I came in contact with during my class at Eastern and summarized above. 


As free-thinking Americans, we must scrutinize the curriculum being taught to our children.  We must strive to analyze all sides of an issue, and make sure our education system is truly a platform for free discussion. 


We must also be aware of trendy buzz words such as “change” and “social justice”.  Sometimes “social justice” isn’t justice at all, and sometimes “change” isn’t about equal rights but rather a shift in power, where the victim becomes the perpetrator and vise-versa. 


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part two)

by Christopher Paslay


After reading the second half of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? I would like to commend her for having the courage to bring the issues of race and racism in America to light.  There are those who believe talking about race can only cause more frustration and serve to polarize the races even further, but I agree with Tatum when she says that there is a psychological cost of silence.  “As a society, we pay a price for our silence.  Unchallenged personal, cultural and institutional racism results in the loss of human potential, lowered productivity, and a rising tide of fear and violence in our society.”


I agree wholeheartedly.  No topic in America should be taboo, especially the topic of race.  Communication is the best way to promote understanding and solve problems non-violently.  Tatum’s book is a powerful (although extreme) tool for challenging racism in America.  It’s a radical wrecking-ball crashing through traditional thinking, forcing everyone who reads it to reexamine the way they view race relations in the United States.


However, this doesn’t mean we should embrace all of its ideas and accept them at face value.  There are many concepts in Tatum’s book that are off-base and oversimplified—points that come from a worldview that is limited in scope and perspective. 


For example, in Part III of her book, Tatum presumes to tell us all how to understand “Whiteness in a White Context”.  If I recall correctly, isn’t Tatum black?  Then how exactly does she have the life experiences and credentials to write about the thoughts, perceptions, prejudices and inner-struggles of white Americans?  Because she’s taught at SpelmanCollege, a historically black liberal arts college for women in AtlantaGeorgia?  Because she’s held workshops and roundtables on racism with white liberal college students?  Because she’s interviewed “angry white men” and can now understand the psyche of those white Americans who disagree with her ideas and politics? 


Tatum has misrepresented whites in several areas.  Because whites are supposedly the “unexamined norm” of society, she claims they “can easily reach adulthood without thinking much about their racial group.”  She also states they “tend to think of racial identity as something that other people have, not something that is salient for them.” 


I can see how Tatum might have arrived at this misconception.  During her workshops on race, it’s quite possible that many of her liberal white college participants were so guilty about being white, they hesitated to mention it as part of their identity.  This seems to be an offshoot of our politically correct culture: when it comes to discussions on race, being white is synonymous with being the bad guy. 


The reality is, many white people do think about their racial group and identity.  We are not permitted to come out and celebrate being white (unless you want to be associated with the KKK), but we are proud of our heritage.  Think about it.  How many whites do you know—young and old—who wave the Irish flag (St. Patrick’s Day; Irish American Heritage Night at Citizen’s BankPark)?  How many whites are proud of being Italian (ever see the T-shirt that says, Italians do it better)?  How about the Greeks?  And the Poles?  And the Jews?   


Tatum also misrepresents whites when it comes to Affirmative Action.  She claims that white folks who believe in Affirmative Action are healthy with a positive self identity, and those who disagree with it are confused and suffering from something she calls “aversion racism”.  Tatum defines aversion racism as “an attitudinal adaptation resulting from an assimilation of an egalitarian value system with prejudice and racist beliefs”.  In other words, if you don’t believe in a system that awards jobs, contracts and college admissions to people based on skin color, you are a racist who is “breathing the smog of racial biases and stereotypes pervading the popular culture.”


I’ve been teaching racially diverse students in the PhiladelphiaSchool District for 12 years.  I’ve worked for the Philadelphia Youth Network for six summers, spending time with students on playgrounds in Southwest Philadelphia, in basements of churches in North Philadelphia, and in rec centers in a dozen other parts of the city.  I am fair, open-minded, and compassionate.  But because I don’t agree with Affirmative Action, Tatum presumes I’m a racist (although I’m white and would already be a racist by default, according to her philosophies). 


“When the dominant identity of Whiteness goes unexamined, racial privilege also goes unacknowledged,” Tatum says.  “Instead, the achievements that unearned privilege make more attainable are seen as just reward for one’s own efforts.” 


Nothing exemplifies the hypocritical nature of Tatum’s reasoning more than this statement.  Tatum insists whites are privileged, and therefore given preferential treatment (and because whites haven’t examined their “Privilege,” they falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).  At the same time, Tatum’s an advocate of Affirmative Action, a system that gives preferential treatment to people because of their race (people who falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).    


Do you see the double-standard here?


Although Tatum’s book is radical in its ideologies, it is a powerful way to confront racism in America.  However, I think the title is misleading.  Instead of calling the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Tatum should rename it, Giving the White Man a Taste of His Own Medicine.  This would be much more accurate and honest.  


Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia schoolteacher.  His new book, The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility, is now available from Rowman & Littlefield .  To order a copy, click here.      


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part one)

by Christopher Paslay


Currently, I am working on a master’s degree in multicultural education at Eastern University.  This semester I’m taking EDU 517—Multicultural Education.  Here is an excerpt from a reflection paper I wrote after reading the first 90 pages of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?       


          “. . . I guess Tatum gave me a more technical understanding of race/ racism in America; now I’m more hip to the buzz words such as internalized oppression, dominant and subordinate societal groups, and White privilege—the language created to shift power from the dominant society to the subordinate minority culture.    


Here are the things that I liked about the first 90 pages of Tatum’s book.  She maps the identity development of African Americans from the early formative years all the way through adulthood.  As a teacher, if I could walk away with one bit of knowledge it would be the importance of recognizing how children—particularly African Americans—form their opinions of themselves and their culture.  It was good to see that Tatum pointed out that young black children (especially adolescents) need to mindfully reject negative stereotypes and find more positive role models. 


An example of a role model Tatum would undoubtedly approve of would be none other than Barack Obama.  I recently read in the New York Times about the “Obama Effect,” how Obama is so inspiring that his mere presence as U.S. president is raising scores of black test-takers.  As for the rejection of negative stereotypes—maybe our society could start by cleaning-up the gratuitous sex, violence and materialism found in the hip-hop culture; as educators, we must find substitutes for hip-hop music, possible substituting jazz and blues for gangsta rap. 


Of course, there were also things about Tatum’s book that I disagreed with.  To be frank, I found the underlying premise of the text quite hypocritical.  On the one hand, Tatum claims she wants to end racism and bring equality to all people by breaking down barriers and developing a true multicultural society.  Yet through the first 90 pages of the text, she unconsciously (or perhaps consciously) manages to divide the races, creating an us versus them mentality.  Nothing in the book is about synergy, teamwork or sameness—it’s always about a dominant and a subordinate; an oppressor and an oppressed; an insider and an outsider; a privileged and a marginalized. 


Granted, I’m not going to deny that these situations exist in American society.  But the problem with Tatum is her philosophy behind who and what should be the catalyst for change.  In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, the message is quite clear: Change DOESN’T come from within—but from OUTSIDE.  White society is racist.  Period.  And black people and minorities are the victims.  Period.  (Ironically, Tatum says in her book that many black students are “uncomfortable with the portrayal of their group as helpless victims” during lessons on slavery).  Tatum mentioned that during most of her workshops on race, white students rarely mentioned being white.  This makes sense.  She seems to be big on creating an atmosphere of white guilt, so why would anyone want to admit that they were white?


According to Tatum, white people are privileged, and they must bear the burden of recognizing this privilege and feel guilty about it (this guilt will supposedly help end racism in America).  But if you subscribe to this logic, than all people should feel guilty about something.  Handsome people would have a Handsome Privilege (being a good looking person sure opens a lot of doors in America), and intelligent people would have an Intelligent Privilege (brains also gets you far in this country), etc.


Although Tatum means well, she probably doesn’t realize that her book is filled with racial stereotypes and generalizations.  Worse still, she doesn’t realize the danger of labeling the white American establishment as “racist” (even though America is quite diverse in 2009), just because people worked hard to achieve the American Dream.  She could say the establishment is too competitive, or maybe even intolerant.  But using the word racist in my opinion is a bit radical and done in poor taste.         


Tatum might want to write a book on Barack Obama’s new message to America:  SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.  This approach might be less insulting to white people and condescending to blacks.  As a result, it might actually break down barriers between the races rather than pigeon-holing people and creating more anger and resentment.”


A second reflection paper—on the second half of Tatum’s book—is due next week.  I’ll be sure to post an excerpt from that paper as well.