The Conservative Women of the Mainline hosted a townhall on Critical Race Theory at the Easttown Library in Berwyn, PA, featuring PA State Reps. Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) and Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), and author and Philadelphia public schoolteacher Christopher Paslay.
Paslay opened the talk by discussing his book A Parent’s Guide to Critical Race Theory, which he authored to help parents and concerned citizens understand, identify, and challenge CRT in their schools. Paslay also outlined alternatives to CRT, which he hoped would supplement the identity-based model with a value-driven approach – focusing on universal principles that unify instead of polarize by race and social identity.
PA Sate Reps. Barb Gleim and Russ Diamond discussed current and proposed legislation addressing CRT, highlighting examples of troublesome curriculum in their home school districts brought to them by concerned parents and community members.
The townhall ended with the three speakers fielding a 30 minute Q&A from the 100 member audience. Thanks for watching.
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, author of the new book A Parent’s Guide to Critical Race Theory: Fighting CRT in Your Child’s School, joins the Dom Giordano Program. In the new book, Paslay puts into layman’s terms the teachings of CRT, and shows parents words used to disguise the divisive agenda as it’s entered into curricula surrounding the country. Also, Paslay and Giordano discuss what’s so wrong with the theory, and tells of the negative implications of judging based on skin color rather than character.
This video highlights Schoolhouse Rights’ CRT Checklist, and details what parents should look for when considering possible legal action in their schools. It also analyzes lectures from Penn State Professor Sam Richards – as well as “The Privilege Walk” exercise and “The Color Line” exercise – which can serve as case studies and examples of possible civil rights violations.
Transparency by school district administrators, attention to the needs of special education students, and fiscal responsibility are Conroy-Smith’s main concerns.
Helene Conroy-Smith, a special education teacher and mother of three from Delaware County, PA, is running for a seat on the Haverford Township School Board this November. A lack of transparency by Haverford Township School District administrators, along with a controversial Black Lives Matter BrainPOP video being shown to fifth graders in the school district, is what prompted her to run for school board.
“In my opinion the board and the school district administrators were not listening to the people, and so I decided . . . to run for school board,” Conroy-Smith said, explaining that her concerns over transparency and the controversial BrainPOP video were not being adequately addressed. “Once you close out parents in your community and only listen to a small body of your constituents – and it’s a very small vocal body that has political ties to large organizations – then I became the mom who was annoyed, and I had enough, and I had to step up.”
Conroy-Smith decided to become more vocal at school board meetings, presenting concerns from the “silent majority” – parents who did not like what was happening in the school district, but who were afraid to speak out.
“People are afraid to be cancelled, people are afraid to be talked about in moms groups – my name would get dragged through the mud in moms groups . . . parents are afraid, people are afraid,” Conroy-Smith said.
Because of “whispers” from concerned parents that things were going in the wrong direction, she now spends time working with moms and dads in the Haverford Township School District. “People are no longer feeling empowered,” she said, “so I’ve been working on educating them, helping them, talking about the points of their concerns and how to frame them to the school board. I have been behind the scenes working with many families.”
Many have thanked Conroy-Smith for giving them a voice.
Conroy-Smith has started a parents group called, “Give Kids Education,” which aims to put both rigor and transparency back into instruction. She believes in “equality” over “equity,” because all children are unique and are not going to end up in the same place. “Not every kid is going to go to college, not every kid is going to join the Marines, not every kid is going to go out and get a job right away. . . . We need to look at this and say how can we give every kid an equal opportunity.”
Critical Race Theory, and its various offshoots, have made students overly race-conscious, Conroy-Smith says, which can be polarizing to children and disruptive to learning. She believes in the traditional colorblindness of the Civil Rights Movement, and supports Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
She also supports diversity, and feels strongly that all children should feel welcome. However, diversity should be organic, and not contrived through identity-based school models tied to CRT.
Conroy-Smith has three major issues on her platform: One – more transparency from school district administrators, especially when it comes to curriculum and so-called “teacher resources,” which can come in through the back door from activist groups pushing CRT and other agendas. Two – more attention to the needs of special education students, who don’t always receive the rigor of instruction they need. And three – fiscal responsibility.
“When you’re implementing programs or purchasing curriculum, teachers should be appropriately using those programs,” Conroy-Smith said. “Because when you’re not using it with “integrity,” the kids are not going to necessarily learn, or have the outcomes that we usually see.”
The Haverford Township School Board general election is November 2, 2021.
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.
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.
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.
This is my conversation with Kyle Boyer, an educator, pastor, and member of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board. On June 14th, during the last TESD school board meeting of the school year, a dozen parents and community members challenged the school district’s equity initiative and use of critical pedagogy. After public comments were closed, Kyle addressed the meeting, calling the comments “hurtful and harmful,” and suggested what he witnessed helped explain why the Capitol was breached on January 6th.