Author: Larry Sand
Date: November 29, 2022
Instead of glomming on to politically motivated gambits, we need to get back to educational basics.
Little did I know that when I was teaching in the 1990s and “multicultural education” became all the rage, that it was just the beginning of an onslaught of radical endeavors that shows no sign of abating. As 2022 winds down, let’s take a glimpse at a small sampling of the schemes that have been inflicted on America’s children over the past few years.
As a former teacher, I loved teaching math because there was clearly a right and wrong answer. Feelings, opinions and political dogma didn’t matter. Now however, with the ascendance of racialism, if you insist on right and wrong answers, you just might be considered a racist. Really.
In fact, in 2021, the proposed California math framework recommended eight different times that teachers use “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction ” as a resource. This radical drivel insists that addressing student errors, focusing on getting the right answer, and requiring students to show their work is a form of white supremacy. Objectivity, you see, is now racist.
Another iteration of the framework stressed “student-led instruction.” But it’s been shown repeatedly that direct instruction led by a qualified teacher is more effective in teaching the subject.
However, due to citizen outrage during the “public comments” period, the state walked back some of its wackier ideas, notably dropping the over-the-top “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction.” The battle still rages, and now the state won’t be adopting a framework till some time in 2023.
But whatever is ultimately decided, 2+2 still equals 4.
Social Emotional Learning
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) took off in the 1990s when the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) came into being, and hosted a conference with researchers, educators, child advocates, and others in the field. By integrating SEL in schools, the faithful claimed that they could “teach students critical life skills that will not only help their personal development but also their academic performance as well” and this, in turn, “creates a culture in which students and teachers respect one another and enjoy being together, further strengthening relationships and motivating both students and teachers to do their best.” While undoubtedly well-intended by some, SEL has become a joke. A bad joke.
As first implemented, SEL was purely therapeutic in nature. It took a very dark turn, however, in 2020 when CASEL announced an ideological shift to “Transformative SEL,” which calls for students to “critically examine root causes of inequity.” So now, kids are being radicalized and taught to feel good about it, though many are more confused and angrier than ever.
So to unruffle the feathers, there is now a move to get all classrooms a pet. Yes! For just a few bucks, a school can get a bunny for the kids to hug, and all will be good!
Since bunnies don’t work for violent kids, what do we do then? After the Columbine shootings in 1999, many school districts adopted “zero-tolerance” policies. This blanket overreaction led to outrageous consequences like a 7-year-old Maryland boy being suspended in 2013 for chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and saying, “Bang, bang.” Even loopier, in 2017, a middle school student in Ohio received a ten-day suspension for “liking” a picture of a gun on Instagram.
But over the last few years a new fashion has emerged: Restorative Justice (RJ). This touchy-feely new-age bilge is much more dangerous than zero tolerance, as it affects far more students and their teachers, and has taken root throughout much of the country. It emphasizes “making the victim and offender whole” and involves “an open discussion of feelings.” RJ came into being because blacks are far more likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. The suggestion here, of course, is that white teachers and administrators tend to be racist. But the racial bean counters never get around to explaining why the racial disparity exists even in schools where black principals and staff predominate.
So has school violence and other anti-social behavior been minimized?
Well, no. As Hechinger noted in 2019, “No studies could prove that the RJ programs were causing any of the positive changes that the advocates had noticed.” And since the Covid-related school shutdowns took place, school violence has ballooned. Data collected by the Institute of Education Sciences earlier this year show that one in three school leaders report an increase in student violence and fights. Also, over half reported an increase in classroom disruptions. Additionally, per a recent poll, one in seven secondary school teachers experiences violence from a student at least once a month.
Perhaps getting a supply of comfort bunnies in teachers lounges would help heal the educators’ wounds?
Ah! But one school has shown that it has a zero tolerance attitude towards young miscreants! A first-grader at Viejo Elementary School in Mission Viejo, CA, was punished and humiliated for drawing a Black Lives Matter picture for her friends, in which she included the reprehensible sentiment that “any lives” matter. As reported by Kira Davis, the school’s principal Jesus Becerra questioned the girl about her artwork. She was forced to apologize to her friends for drawing the picture, and then deliver the apology in front of all her fellow students and school staff on the playground. On top of the apology, she had her recess time revoked for a spell, and was forced to sit on a bench while her classmates played during their free time.
Had the girl beat the tar out of another student, she could have been eligible for RJ, but when you commit a crime as serious as this, zero tolerance for her!
Critical Race Theory has made racism acceptable…if you are black. In Virginia, hub of the Confederacy, Albemarle County Public Schools now has an anti-racism policy which teaches children to view themselves and their classmates through the lens of race, “putting people into boxes like privileged vs. unprivileged, oppressors vs. oppressed, victimizers vs. victims, haves vs. have nots—all based entirely on their race.”
At the same time, on the college level, whites are often relegated to second-class status. At Berserkeley, white guests are now banned from the common spaces at the Person of Color House, an off-campus housing option for University of California students, as shown by a photo of the guest rules, which was recently posted on Reddit.
By the way, if you don’t think you are biased, the National Education Association disagrees. Most recently, the teachers union posted on its website, “Are You Biased? Yes You Are.” The piece’s main takeaways are that implicit bias has become embedded in our culture, starting at a young age. Secondly, despite educators’ good intentions, implicit bias and microaggressions are prevalent in classrooms. But the good news is that brainwashing – I mean training – can help educators “untangle these biases and create welcoming environments for students.”
Phew! It sure is a relief that the teachers union, the greatest purveyor of systemic racism, is now lecturing us on our biases.
So just where have all the education schemes left us?
The scores on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) taken in early 2022 – after the nation’s Covid panic subsided – were released in October and showed that just 33% of the nation’s fourth graders are proficient in reading and 36% are proficient in math. The eighth graders did even worse: 31% are proficient in reading, while just 26% showed proficiency in math. According to the report’s authors, the national average score declines in mathematics for fourth- and eighth-graders were the largest ever recorded in that subject.
And things weren’t exactly peachy, pre-pandemic. On the test given right before the shutdowns, scores in both reading and math declined for 13-year-old students, the first drop registered in 50 years.
Things are especially bad in our big cities. In Detroit, while 72% of the city’s students graduated from high school this year, only 8% of them are academically ready for college.
Baltimore is even more pathetic. At the city’s Patterson High School, only 3% of students are at grade level, 79% of students tested at the elementary level, and 18% had kindergarten and first-grade skills. Additionally, 41% of the city’s high school students have a GPA under 1.0.
In Boston, just 25% of black elementary students test at grade level in English. To deal with the failure on the k-12 level, some college instructors no longer grade students on writing. Two Boston University professors ludicrously explain that “ungrading” “inspires students and creates equity.”
There are not enough bunnies in the world to combat the destruction our education flavors-of-the-month have wrought. Schemes come and go, but their malign effects are monumental and everlasting.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.