Updated: Feb 15, 2022
"Race", "racist" and "systemic racism" are the hot button buzz words and phrases of our era. In schools, in particular, "educators" --or at least people who like to call themselves "educators", I'm a shade old-fashioned, I figure if you want to call yourself an "educator" you should make an effort to actually "educate" someone-- show a near singleminded obsession with making everything about race. Fourth graders don't know fractions? It doesn't matter, it is probably all the fault of systemic racism! "Racism" is the everything excuse for the modern educator. In fact, racism may be the elite educator's one real subject of choice.
There is something frankly embarrassing about the modern educator's obsession with race. Adults, particularly adults who claim professional status, should be able to talk about more than one topic. Professional adults should have the self respect to actually focus on their jobs during working hours. Americans may be divided about a lot of things, but inherently we all think the primary goal of a K-12 teacher should be teaching. (At least during school hours. If you want to dedicate yourself to "the Revolution" do it after hours.)
If you have noticed NOTHING else about the school system over the last 2 years you have probably noticed that our public school system is systemically failing too many kids. Roughly 52% of the children with the misfortune of currently being enrolled in the California public K-12 system can't read at grade level. Nationwide specific school districts --Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles-- seem to have turned their back on the core mission of educating children. (If you want to get lost in the pre shut-down weeds of state wide test scores check this graph rich article out here.)
And yet, professional educators too often aren't talking about the abysmal reading comprehension scores of children enrolled in the public system. They aren't talking about the crisis of third graders who have learned NOTHING for the past two years. They aren't talking about grade inflation. And they are not talking about math. Instead, they're talking about "racism." Why? Maybe they are genuinely obsessed with racism. Maybe they see racism under their collective beds? Maybe they are kowtowing to a revolutionary minded union boss like Cecily Myart-Cruz? Maybe they dream of racism at night? Maybe they aspire to the elite and race obsessed heights of Harvard? Or maybe, keeping up a non stop litany of "systemic racism" is a way to distract non educators from the very serious problem that too many of our "educators" aren't doing a good --or even an adequate-- job of educating half of American school kids.
Then again, maybe our educators see racism everywhere and worry about "systemic racism" because their own reading comprehension skills are good enough to realize that the guiding forces within their own profession are promoting systemic racism within the school system. Yes, elite leaders of the twenty-first century education establishment are promoting institutionalized racism. They think people should be hired on the basis of skin color rather than qualifications. This is the very definition of racism.
Well over half a century ago the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., shared a dream of a future where we, as Americans, would be judged by the content of our characters and NOT the color of our skins. (You can watch the video here. There is still a magic to his words and his dream. Because America deserves big dreams.) A few years ago that dream was well on its way to becoming a reality.
Ten years ago if you had said that a respectable professional magazine would openly advocate recruiting new hires based on the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation, people would have stared at you in astonishment. These days, however, racial profiling is a completely normal trend in the world of education. Take a publication like "Education Week" for instance. Education Week is basically the house journal for school administrators. It has been in publication since the early 1980s, it is widely available in the publication section of university libraries. It has a flashy online presence... And supposedly it reaches over one and a half million regular readers.
Few things sound quite as dull as a trade journal aimed at aspiring primary school administrators. You can practically smell the magic markers, crayons and chalk dust. Most of the usual readers who absorb the material in EdWeek probably work in the school system. But perhaps average citizens should take a moment to peruse EdWeek and see what the people who work in the K-12 system are REALLY interested in. We'll give you a clue, "learning loss" during zoomschool gets short shrift, but regular readers get a heavy dose of woke race theory.
The illustration at the top of this page is a screenshot of EdWeek grabbed on the morning of December 21st, 2021. Just look at some of the titles of the articles headlined on the landing page. "4 Changes Schools Can Make To Recruit Teachers of Color and Keep them Around." Wow, just wow. Race based recruiting in 2021. Proud, vocal, erudite (pseudo erudite, these are admins after all, not the Diversity Dean at Stanford) and overtly and openly racist. Who cares if the kids can read as long as schools are pursuing the appropriate color based hiring agenda! Slide your eyes along to the next article. "The Vast Majority of Schoolboards Lack Latino Voices, What Can Be Done About It?" O.k. The editors of EdWeek are at least consistent about their interest in ethnic based recruiting. And the title doesn't look that bad, maybe, we can convince ourselves, they REALLY just want "Latino Voices" in order to promote stellar bi-lingual programs. Read the article, it really is all about ethnic tokenism. Check out the next article. "How Do Educators Feel About Staff Diversity? We Asked." Hmmm.... might be interesting to know how educators feel about teaching. Even a few educators might be interested in teaching. But... better to stay focused on the adults in the room rather than the metaphorical six thousand pound gorilla. (In case you don't know what the six thousand pound gorilla is check out the NAEP scores --basically an awful lot of kids in the education system aren't learning.) Slide your eyes a few millimeters to the side. The next race obsessed headline greets you. "Principals of Color Are Scarce. Here's What Districts Are Doing About It."
Well... we can tell you one thing the editors of EdWeek aren't doing, they aren't wasting their time pondering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. The world they are promoting is a world where people are hired, fired, promoted, and judged on the basis of the color of their skin. Character is irrelevant. Skill is irrelevant. And... for a journal that caters to people who have built their careers on the idea of educating young children, no one wastes too much time worrying about education, or the educational successes of children.
The people who are reading this are the people who are NOT wasting their time teaching your kids to read. They'll claim otherwise. The excuses used by the education establishment as to why kids can't read haven't changed much since the early 1980s when Dr. Rudolf Flesch wrote his great expose of the inherent teaching fails that were --and are-- common in the K-12 system. Educators claim they are overworked and underpaid, they claim parents don't understand, they claim there is a lack of respect in the classroom, they claim family values don't instill a love of learning, they claim kids just aren't "ready" to learn. When all else fails they claim "modern kids" have too many electronic distractions. (The "electronic distractions excuse" is an incredibly popular claim, and also a hilarious claim based on the fact that by dint of extreme research actual education researchers have discovered that some extremely young "prodigal" readers taught themselves to read by watching commercial television. So the evidence is in, pharmaceutical commercials are doing a better job of teaching 4 year olds to read than many teachers are.)
The past two years of "zoomschool" have revealed just how bad many classrooms have become. "Remote learning" was an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of young children. When "class" is on a screen in your kid's bedroom and you can see what is happening in real time and then you get the opportunity to have a zoom PTA meeting with a second grade teacher who starts cursing out concerned parents you don't need to be an "education expert" to know there is a problem with the schools. Nutty videos of disturbed political activists who "work" in the school system are part and parcel of the youtube experience now. But we've been making the mistake to think that the cursing finger flipping elementary school teacher in Roxbury, the Anarchist activist in Lake Natomas, the full time Trump-hater cavorting in front a classroom in Utah, and the entire Oakley Unified School District Board are unique examples of the 21st century educational experience. They aren't "special snowflakes" sprinkled through otherwise adequate schools. Instead these "educators" often represent the distillation of the political theories of the educational establishment. They don't deserve unique scorn because they aren't uniquely awful. In fact, many of them have just made the mistake of getting caught on camera saying the things "curriculum experts" have been pushing for years.
Take the "Lucy Calkins' Reading Units" issue for instance. Many ordinary Americans who don't work in the school system --but know people who do-- have heard a litany of complaints from their teacher friends about the arduous labor of prepping curriculum and making "lesson plans." If you didn't know better you would assume the average American teacher spent 14 hours a day 7 days a week over the Summer break prepping the Fall lesson plans. If the average teacher in California is doing that she, or he, is wasting her, or his, time. Most of the public schools in California purchase "instructional units" and pre-collated learning materials. (These aren't cheap products to purchase either. If your local school is training your kids to look at the world through a lens of racism they are spending a good chunk of your tax dollars to do it.) The Lucy Calkins materials occupy a significant amount of the market share of elementary school materials in the state of California. Currently there is a slow burn of outrage over the Lucy Calkins material because, in this season of "Critical Race Theory" obsession, people noticed that the Lucy Calkins material is steeped in the language and theory of CRT. (You can read about racism and the Lucy Calkins' curriculum controversy here in an article entitled "Units of Indoctrination.")
However, if you ignore the obsession with race that shapes the current Lucy Calkins material, there is a bigger problem with Lucy Calkins' Reading Units. Quite frankly they aren't good teaching tools. In fact actual experts on early reading development have called the Lucy Calkins material "deeply flawed." (There is a long and excellent piece available by clicking here that goes in to great detail about specific issues with early childhood development and reading instruction that you can access by clicking this hotlink. You might want to read it, take a few notes, and have a word with your local schoolboard. Because if your schoolboard cares about teaching kids to read they shouldn't be buying Lucy Calkins' material.) Basically if your local school wants to teach racism then they will probably successfully fulfill that goal with the Lucy Calkins material. If they want to teach kids how to be proficient readers they will probably fail at least half the children if they insist on using Lucy Calkins' Reading Units.
I'm an optimist. I do not want to believe that the public schools of America are staffed with people who promote racism. I do not want to believe that teachers promote indoctrination over education. I don't want to believe that our tax dollars are being squandered on "educational materials" that don't actually work. I don't want to believe that at an institutional level we have embraced mediocrity as the new normal. But I believe in looking at the evidence. And the evidence is overwhelming. The educational establishment --the people in charge of the schools, the people in charge of teaching the teachers how to teach-- are obsessed with race and don't really care that much if the kids can read and write.
Considering the abysmal reading comprehension scores in most K-12 Schools we're kind of amazed that a journal geared towards teachers would do anything other than publish articles about revamping the reading curriculum. Oh well... schools have their priorities, we shouldn't assume educating kids is the main priority. And we should definitely NOT leave the education of children in the hands of people who promote indoctrination over education. Kids deserve an education. If our schools can't teach half our kids to read we need to demand better. Now.