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September 9, 2021 · OPINION

“Social engineering” letter full of old inaccuracies

By David Jeck
School Superintendent

I don’t typically respond to letters to the editor regarding Fauquier County Public Schools, but one recent submission created a teachable moment that could not be passed up.

The author of “Social engineering replaces education in our schools” repeats many of the same assertions he’s made over the past several years. We’ve tried to correct him as best we can, but it apparently hasn’t made any difference. The problem for us is, if we don’t tell our story, someone else will. This creates a dilemma for us because the narrative presented is simply a repeat of the same incorrect information that, if shared over and over again, is bound to convince at least some people that it is accurate.

First, parents in our community are paying attention. They do ask questions. They are engaged with their teachers. They are quite concerned regarding what we teach and how we teach it. The author’s admonishments of our families are misguided. They do care, and they let us know quite often just how much they care.

The Deep Equity “program” has not existed in Fauquier County since January 2020. The author would have you believe that this program is a living, breathing part of our daily curriculum. It is not. The training he is referring to was for teachers only, and it was voluntary. The book he referenced was one small part of the training we offered. I doubt any of us agree with all that was contained in the book, the point of it being to offer a different perspective, to challenge us, to make us uncomfortable at times.

Equity is, by definition, the goal of providing ALL kids with what they need, when and how they need it. This, by the way, includes kids “at the top” who are already benefiting from the provision of equity. Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, Accelerated courses, Gifted and Talented Programs are ALL programs designed to challenge those kids, to give them what they need in order to succeed at the highest levels. That is what equity attempts to do for all.

Why is it so threatening to the author to apply the same standard to students of color, disabled students and impoverished students? Do they not deserve it? The goal is not to take anything away from any student but to lift every student up. Why is this so troubling?

Pedro Noguera left the University of California-Berkley in 2000. He is not “from” there. He is a nationally renowned “whole child” advocate who has worked tirelessly to promote the idea that giving the neediest of our students the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. The traditional educational system designed around the principle of equality and modeled after an educational structure that is now about 120 years old has not helped these kids. Nationally, they continue to languish and underperform. It hasn’t worked for a lot of these kids because they need something different from us, just as those “top” kids need something different from us also. The difference is that we give those kids what they need gladly, but we balk at providing equity for the other kids. Why? Why do we do that?

Critical Race Theory and providing equity for all students are not nearly the same thing. Attempts to construct a relationship between the two are theatrics designed to frighten people. One is a controversial race theory involving inherent bias within many social constructs and “a collection of critical stances against the existing legal order from a race-based point of view.” The other, equity in an educational setting, begins with getting to know and understand our kids, figure out what their needs are, and then providing for those needs. That’s it. Moreover, FCPS does not advocate for, endorse, support, or include CRT in any part of our curriculum. Certainly, a teacher, a high school civics or government teacher, for example, might discuss this with his or her students. Teachers also discuss communism with students, but that doesn’t make them communists.

The author wrote: “Here is what the program is based on: 95 percent of all teachers are white, and white folks cannot possibly understand the problems of blacks and other minorities.” Well, that is one part of the training we provided two years ago to about 80 teachers — just one part, but there are many others.

Still, the problem the author referenced is real. There are many kids who continue to fall behind and it is our job to figure out how to reach them. Denying that it is a real problem is intellectual dishonesty. Of course, we (myself included) have difficulty identifying with kids who are completely different from us. These are often impoverished students, disabled students, students who come to school hungry, who regularly witness violence in their homes, who have no hope of going to college because they feel powerless to pay for it, and who often live with substance abuse and it’s the aftermath. Does the author believe that all teachers are somehow intrinsically empowered to understand and help these kids? Many do not, which is one of the reasons many chose to participate in the staff development we provided.

Lastly, his reference to George Orwell’s “1984” and attempt to connect the “age of big brother” with public school education is troubling at best and laughable at worst. Has the author read the book? The message of “1984” includes the dangers of mass conforming and doing the same things the same way over and over again without thought. Being punished for daring to think differently and challenging the status quo. Controlling thought and distrusting abstract thinking. This sounds more like the thoughts and beliefs of the author, not of those who simply want to think differently and to help all kids.
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