Teachers Unions Know Better

The laws are bad. I’ve said it. Others have said it. Laws are not up to the job of addressing the myriad issues and problems. But the problem not only isn’t going away, no matter how passionate Judd Legum’s denials.

This is no small matter, given that many progressives have rested their entire defense of CRT on the idea that it’s a very narrowly defined aspect of elite law school training. Judd Legum, formerly of [the now defunct] ThinkProgress, has said the notion that CRT is taught in K-12 schools is a lie. During an extended and furiously unproductive debate on the subject, MSNBC’s Joy Reid accused Manhattan Institute scholar Christopher Rufo—the leading anti-CRT activist—of “making up your own thing, labeling it something that already existed as a name, slapped that brand name on it, and turned it into a successful political strategy.”

There are some hills parents will happily die on, and the indoctrination of their children is one of them. Teachers unions, on the other hand, know better.

Like the AFT, the NEA is on board.

This doesn’t mean your child’s teacher is going to turn second-grade math into a “struggle session” about why its white supremacy to conclude that 2+2=4, or that your kid’s elementary school will be hanging signs over the door that say “hard work is racist.” If the issue is whether 9th grade American history needs to do a better job teaching about slavery and Jim Crow laws, that would be one thing. But that doesn’t appear to be what the unions are up to.

At its yearly annual meeting, conducted virtually over the past few days, the NEA adopted New Business Item 39, which essentially calls for the organization to defend the teaching of critical race theory.

“It is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory,” says the item.

It’s almost as if they’ve taken some right-wing nightmare and set it into curricular stone.

Consistent with its defense of CRT, the NEA will also provide a study “that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.” The implication is that these critiques are aspects of critical race theory, which in a weird way makes this an example of the activist left basically accepting the activist right’s new working definition of CRT as “all of the various cultural insanities.”

And you thought the states that required the teaching of the “1619” revisionist “history” was bad enough? Wait until junior comes home from school to inform you that if you’re not an anti-racist, you’re a racist complicit in oppression and he won’t eat his broccoli because of the patriarchy.

Will this happen? Who knows? No doubt there will be resistance by teachers and school boards that reject this ideological indoctrination, but there will be others that embrace it and believe it’s their righteous duty to turn little Suzy into an avenging angel against anthropocentrism. After all, who knows better about how to educate the young’uns than the educational establishment, as represented by teachers unions?

This has the potential for an explosive war between parents and teachers, parents and school boards, that will end up proving disastrous for education. As the “adults” fight, the children fail to be educated, the attitude toward education and teachers shifts from valued to loathed, and schools and teachers become the putative enemies of parents who refuse to let some woke teacher instill her flavor of racial morality in their little darling.

How far this will go, how real this will get, is unknown as of yet, but one thing is abundantly clear. Parents will not quietly acquiesce to the conversion of their second graders into social justice warriors. It’s the perception of harm to children that will do the damage long before actual damage is done, as children only have one chance to be a second grader and parents aren’t about to let the NEA or AFT ruin it for them with their “academic frameworks.”

It’s not as if our educational system is doing such a great job teaching math, science, reading or, well, much of anything. It’s not as if there’s a lot of downtime to fill with lessons about the evils of white supremacy and why hoop earrings are microaggessions. And it’s not as if parents send their children to school to be indoctrinated into critical race theory or any of the racial or gender permutations that lack a usable name so they can be condemned.

So as long as schools have been doing an extremely mediocre job before, and then lost at least a year of meaningful education during the pandemic, will parents be happy to have their children welcomed back to elementary school classrooms with tests seeking the correct spelling of “cis-heteronormative”?

What we’re talking about, and where this is going, has become more the battlefield than what we’re depriving children in desperate need of an education. They will never get another chance to be in second grade, and if we blow it on culture wars, we have abused them. But will parents hand their kids over to the AFT and NEA because they’re the “experts” in reimagining a curriculum based on Kendi? This is going to be a fiasco.

16 thoughts on “Teachers Unions Know Better

  1. Paleo

    They aren’t going to stop. Because the people pushing this are not teachers and administrators concerned about children. They’re religious zealots on a crusade.

    Note that late yesterday they pulled Business Item 39 back off the internet. If it’s so benign and popular, why do they go to do much trouble to hide it?

    How in the world do do many seemingly intelligent people get caught up in something so transparently stupid?

    1. SHG Post author

      This all came out of academia, and one of the most zealous sources is the Columbia University Teachers College, which is probably the foremost leader in educational policy in the nation. Others are certainly involved as well, but don’t discount how deeply embedded this notion is in education and that the “foremost minds” in educational policy are, and have been, pushing this as hard as they can.

  2. John

    They just fell into the “Defund the police” trap. Instead of defending the rights of teachers to teach all aspects of American history and the dangerous precedent these new laws are setting they went full on CRT and drowned themselves.

    1. SHG Post author

      Defund police, like CRT, like Free Palestine, like microaggressions, like cultural appropriation, like affirmative consent, like make up your own pronouns, like so many other “reforms” and fixes, are sadly all wrapped together to some greater or lesser extent. Who believes what, and what exactly they believe, is often hard to pin down, hard to express, hard to question because it’s all a constantly moving target that any individual can plausibly deny. And yet, this is the net product of social justice. I wouldn’t pin any particular mantra onto any particular person, but that doesn’t change the thrust of wokeness in all its glory.

  3. B. McLeod

    Trying to discuss CRT has become worse than trying to discuss BLM. If you have a dozen people in the discussion, chances are that no two of them will have the same concept of what CRT is.

      1. Guitardave

        (this is also a reply to your reply to John)
        The method is known…

        ” So, let’s get back to imagining reality, not as what we all know it is (i.e., an actual, material thing that exists), but as a construct people use to validate certain officially-sanctioned beliefs and perceptions and invalidate other beliefs and perceptions, more or less like a system of morals, except instead of dividing things into to “good” and “evil,” it divides things into “real” and “fake.”

        Now imagine that you were an immensely powerful, globally hegemonic ideological system, and you wanted to impose your ideology on as much of the entire world as possible, but you didn’t have an ideology per se, or any actual values at all, because exchange value was your only real value, and so your mission was to erase all ideologies, and values, and truths, and belief systems, and so on, and transform everything and everyone in existence into de facto commodities that you could manipulate any way you wanted, because they had no inherent value whatsoever, because their only real value was assigned by the market.

        How would you go about doing that, erasing all existing values, religious, cultural, and social values, and rendering everything a valueless commodity?

        Well, you wouldn’t want to destroy reality completely, because people wouldn’t stand for that. They would freak right out. Things would get ugly. So, instead, you might want to go the other way, and generate a lot of contradictory realities, not just contradictory ideologies, but actual mutually-exclusive realities, which could not possibly simultaneously exist … which would still freak people out pretty badly.

        Naturally, there would be one official reality that you would force everyone to rigidly conform to at any given moment in time, but you would change the official reality frequently, and force everyone to conform to the new one (and pretend that they’d never conformed to the old one), and then, once they had settled into that one, you would change the official reality again, until people’s brains just shut down completely, and they gave up trying to make sense of anything, and just tried to figure out what you wanted them to believe on any given day.

        If you repeated that process long enough, eventually, nothing would mean anything anymore, because everything could potentially mean anything … at which point, you could basically tell people anything you wanted and they would go along with it, because what the hell difference would it make? A narcissistic billionaire ass-clown could be a Russian agent and literally Hitler. A half-assed riot could be an “insurrection.” Children could be born “systemically racist.” Men could menstruate. ”

        Excerpt from,
        The War on Reality
        CJ Hopkins

        1. PseudonymousKid

          Damn, GD. Now that I have an idea of what this guy thinks, why don’t you take a stab at it yourself? Pops isn’t so mean that you shouldn’t even attempt to put together a thought of your own. Besides, getting put down from time to time is half the fun.

          This guy is so close to class consciousness and yet so far away with all his talk of “globocaps” and “globally hegemonic ideological systems” and commodification. It’s at least interesting. He wouldn’t need very much reeducation at all to be a true comrade.

          But he’s a bit hyperbolic like our host about all of this, no? The opposition hasn’t coalesced yet maybe because it is hard to hit a moving target, but luckily it’s not impossible. Progressives going after the kiddies might just be the last straw or at least the motivation needed to put together a cohesive response. Synthesis of the “realities” might not be fun, but it’s bound to happen as the pendulum swings back. Meanwhile, I have some fiddling to do.

          1. Guitardave

            I can spew some verbiage when necessary, but you know it’s almost an American tradition that when someone has a rap that’s way better than yours, you just say, “oh yeah?…what he said.”
            Some days you just don’t have the time to reinvent a less than perfect wheel.

            Like most all of my favorite writers, I don’t always agree with everything one says, but thought provoking subjects and a sharp wit keep me coming back.
            Scott and CJ both do that.

            PS; Is that a bass fiddle or one of them little squeaky ones?

  4. Dan H.

    As a former teacher who was trained back in 1988-1990, a lot of the ideas that are being labelled CRT now (I preferred Identitarian) were being discussed and implemented in diluted form. Some of them come from seemingly benign theorizing. Even back then, we saw students from the Self Esteem building classrooms come out as entitled reformers who felt oppressed by the expectation that they should do their homework. Happily then people didn’t get outraged at the teachers for having that expectation (mostly). There was also the problem of prioritizing girls over boys because of a perceived problem in girls’ self esteem (brought on by the anorexia and cutting scares) even though the suicide rate for boys has always been much higher than girls.

    There is a lot of concern about the achievement gaps between economic and ethnic groups that teachers struggle to address. The leaders in teacher education have a lot of theories about these gaps that have unfortunately made the curriculum less rigorous and less helpful to students who want to get ahead in the world and we seem to be hitting the peak of it right now.

    Our society would be well served by an audit of the effectiveness of these trainings on student performance. There should be some accountability for what has happened to education in this country and how it is has largely contributed to so many of problems it attempts to solve.

    1. Rengit

      Audits would be nice in theory, but the problem of why these initiatives and theories aren’t working is never, “We were wrong”; instead, it’s some variation of, “We didn’t go far enough”, “They’re even more disadvantaged than we realized”, “We need to be more radical”, etc. Teaching has become heavily credentialed and professionalized, and as you say, ed school curricula has been knee-deep in all brands of critical theory, progressive education, unschooling, and pedagogy of the oppressed for decades longer than other university departments, so this mindset is incredibly difficult to course correct away from given two generations of teacher cohorts that either deeply believe this stuff or at best consider it a respectable academic position that outsiders (legislators, PTAs, school boards) shouldn’t be allowed to butt in on. That influential article about white privilege and invisible knapsacks came out in 1988.

      The likely outcome is we end up going back to the times where trusted members of the local community taught at school. These hypothetical schools may or may not be private, so this could be a death rattle for public ed.

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