February 6, 2020 · OPINION
The bias of our school system’s anti-bias initiative
By John Green
What do we expect of our public schools? This is an important question. What our kids are taught will be our futures, for better or worse.
Josef Stalin, former dictator of the Soviet Union, said: “Education is a weapon, whose effects depends on who holds it in his hands and at who it is aimed.”
Our schools are both educating and socializing institutions. The question is how far does the socialization go “and at who is it aimed?”
In 2009, Fauquier County Public Schools adopted a diversity/anti-bias program developed by the Anti-Defamation League. The program had teachers telling students that what they were told by parents and churches may not be true. That’s not the schools’ job. Also under the heading of “Extremism in America,” the program had bios on more than 25 white American men listed as American extremists. No blacks, Hispanics or Muslims were listed. The message: All American extremists are white American men. This is biased information in an anti-bias program for kids.
Today all throughout America and Fauquier County, our educators are introducing a new program. Schools, perhaps fearing some backlash, are doing it with a low profile. They say the program does not change the curriculum. It’s just a change in process. It’s called the “Deep Equity Process.”
The program is based on the work of Gary R. Howard. He believes schools do not treat minorities fairly. He has written several books on the subject, such as “We Can’t Lead Where We Don’t Go: An Educators Guide To Equity.” Mr. Howards appears to mean we owe something to all minorities. You can buy the book on Amazon for $243.62 new or $99.97 used (as of Jan. 20). Why so expensive? I believe educators want to keep a low profile in what they are doing.
The Deep Equity Process goal is equity and social justice for all students. Mr. Howard says 95 percent of all teachers are white. And the white folks cannot understand the systemic inequalities suffered by all minorities. He says all whites should explore their own experiences. Mr. Howard leaves little doubt that he believes the white man is the cause of all these inequities. He believes we must start by hiring more minority teachers and re-educating all white teachers in how to understand the inequalities suffered by minorities.
The Fauquier schools introduced equity training this way: “Teachers are aiming for a modern concept of fairness.” How is that different from the old?
The school system’s Science, Health and Physical Education Instructional Supervisor Nikki Jenkins said: “Equity in the classroom can be defined as giving students what they need.” You don’t know now?
Finally, Ms. Jenkins said equity “can be as simple as making sure everyone has eaten a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner; that levels the playing fields for students.”
Their plan is larger than what they are saying.
Most Americans believe our schools have the job of educating our students to be self-sufficient and knowledgeable citizens of the USA. This is not just some old quaint belief; it’s necessary to maintain a nation. American students rank far down the rankings for student performance among developed nations. It’s not getting better. American businesses seek foreign employees because they can’t find enough educated and trained Americans. This is a disgrace!
Our public education system is “aimed” in the wrong direction. Equity for all is the cry of socialism and, in the end, socialism has always failed. Americans believe in equal opportunity. We know that works. The professional educators are “aimed” the wrong way. We have the power to get it back on target.
Jeffersonian American · February 21, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Scholar Boyd Cathey observes if we want to discover the actual basis for the unbridled and frenzied hatred of Confederate monuments— or of the hatred of stricter voting laws— or of the attacks on perceived “police brutality” (directed at blacks)— or of countless other assaults on envisioned examples of “white oppression” and “white privilege,” then Critical Race Theory (CRT) is the explanation- now a foundational part of our modern public school indoctrination system.
Cathey notes as CRT posits that the accumulated past is, by definition, unjust and a deep-seated history of systemic oppression by dominant white populations, often through violence, enslavement, and economic despoliation, any remediation must be essentially radical. And thus, the old classical “liberal” idea of “equality” and “equal justice” and “merit” (as remedies) must be completely redefined. Nowhere is this more prevalent than as found in today's Government-run public schools nationwide (and as found in Fauquier County's "Goals 2015" agenda with is distinct emphasis on teaching multiculturalism and diversity at the expense of teaching our local students to appreciate our uniquely American culture and American founding, among other essential historic truths Fauquier students are not being taught under the radical iron grip of the Department of Education and such disastrous cancers as "Agenda 21" and "Standards of Learning," among other criminal education initiatives in the name of our hapless American youth currently condemned with their attendance in America's modern-era public schools. Just how long has this raging American Culture War with Prussian-styled public schools been going on?
Cathey notes with the conjunction of CRT with Cultural Marxist theory about culture— and the gradual undermining and transformation of traditional society— that has produced what we see on most college campuses (and increasingly in public schools), and what we observe now reigning triumphant in Hollywood, what is constantly broadcast via the Mainstream Media, what permeates our politics, and, yes, in how our very language is being shaped, censored and abused.
In short, it is a multifaceted Revolution against both God and Man, against the Divine Positive Law and against the very laws of God-given Nature. It is an advance unit of the “rough beast” (to use William Butler Yeats’ poetic imagery), of the Anti-Christ, itself. Certainly, it must be met in spiritual battle, but it also must be opposed practically on every front with resolution and intelligence. And that means rigorous educational reform— steps like greatly increased home-schooling and starting new religiously-based private schools (and colleges) with the eventual privatization of our public education and an ironclad insistence that our colleges return to their original mission.
And, foremost we must recognize that the very concept of “equality,” the old classic liberal totem that has regulated much of American life and dictated American ideals since the conclusion of the War Between the States, is not what our country’s Founders envisaged. They understood that the liberal idea of “equality” (whether of result or opportunity) violated God-given human nature and the natural order of things. Egalitarianism leads inevitably to the government-sponsored equivalence of truth and error, to an open door to the incendiary legions of radical ideology which have used the demand for “equality” as a weapon against that very liberal order—and to infiltrate and undermine our educational system, itself.
One-hundred and forty years ago, the great Southern theologian and polemicist, Robert Lewis Dabney, debated the first Virginia Superintendent of Public Education William Ruffner over public, state-run education. “Providence, social laws, and parental virtues and efforts, do inevitably legislate in favor of some classes of boys,” he declared. “If the State undertakes to countervail that legislation of nature by leveling action, the attempt is wicked, mischievous, and futile.” Dabney understood that there could be no such thing as secular or value-free education. The liberal ideal was flawed fatally from its inception. “There can be no true education,” Dabney insisted, “without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity.” If the nonjuring state replaced the parent (and church) as primary purveyor of education that would undermine the Founders’ vision of the old republic and leave our educational institutions open to aggressive ideology. We must stand against these epigones of Evil and send them back to the lower reaches of Hell from whence they came.
To read the entire article and other American history not being taught in Fauquier County Public School Government Authorized Textbooks:
brandonj · February 13, 2020 at 9:02 am
You'll never achieve equity until you fix this:
Of course, the schools can't fix this, so some snake oil salesman comes up with a socialist feel-good framework for schools.
How far have we fallen that schools *must* provide meals for students? Are you telling me a parent can't buy a dozen eggs and make breakfast for a dollar in the morning?
The reality is that taxpayers aren't given a choice. If households were allowed to opt out, you might very well see people pursue private education. Instead, we are forced to pay for systems we may not use or agree with. I think most sensible conservatives agree that subsidizing the commons is fine to a degree, but the cost of public schools is getting out of control. Where do you draw the line in your pursuit of "equity"?
Jim Griffin · February 12, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Mr. Whitehead: Thank you for the invitation. I may do just that -- I adore education and I teach. I feel sure that if I do visit I will find just what you describe. You are a fine representative for it and passion for education is the foundation of a great school.
J. Whitehead · February 12, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Mr. Griffin. Come to Randolph Macon. You can't miss it! Big gold dome on a hill overlooking Front Royal. School motto is "Power To Rise" and "City Upon A Hill". They have an open house on Feb. 17th. You will find a highly diverse student body from all walks of life, from all over this nation, and around the world. Draw your own conclusions. I believe you will find them to be self-evident.
Jim Griffin · February 12, 2020 at 12:37 pm
We are agreed on this, FCPS *can* deliver these outcomes. So we ask the same question of private schools: Could they produce the same outcomes across a diverse set of students "from Goldvein to Paris? ... Remington to New Baltimore?"
My suspicion: Both public and private schools can produce these outcomes, and both fail on occasion. *Every* school is found wanting in some way.
Equity for all is a hope, a goal never to be fully realized but always driving efforts, a wish we hope becomes true, much like fitness or lifetime success. Our schools should strive for reach beyond its grasp -- otherwise, as Browning said, what's a heaven for?
J. Whitehead · February 12, 2020 at 12:23 pm
Mr. Griffin Kettle Run is a great school and does produce outcomes that are favorable for a vast majority of the student body. The Kettle Run zip code has strong socio-economic factors that support long term positive education outcomes. I am pleased your family has been served well.
I question if FCPS can deliver those same outcomes across the vast socio economic tapestry of Fauquier. Can this be done from Goldvein to Paris? Can this be done from Remington to New Baltimore?
Perhaps our underserved population of students would benefit from a rigorous, highly structured school that requires an extra mile effort. If you examine the data on subgroups at Kettle Run High School even this school is found wanting.
Jim Griffin · February 12, 2020 at 7:37 am
Our son is receiving an excellent education at Kettle Run High School and though he is a sophomore we are already seeing very good outcomes, such as a recent first place finish at a college Model UN conference, and more. Neither is he an exception; His fellow students are also doing well in theater, music and other activities.
He is inspired by Kettle Run grads now attending, as examples, West Point or MIT. They stay in touch and pass along tips.
No surprise, we experienced this level of educational care at Coleman Elementary and Marshall Middle. We chose Coleman over Wakefield from the beginning in part because we were so very impressed with Mrs. Seward and her student-run media program. At Marshall Middle we found, for example, a top-level history program.
FCPS has first-rate teachers supported by school administrators. I do not think it fair to assert "FCPS cannot deliver this."
We see after school advancement through additional learning without the handicap (in our judgment) of uniforms/appearance codes, mandatory athletics or bans on handheld devices. We prefer real world conditions. I could go on, but no need because we are delighted by the education provided.
We are all fortunate for choice, so it is good to note we are both satisfied, you and me. Our choice is paying dividends in exceptional public school education. Thank you, FCPS, for making this reality.
J. Whitehead · February 11, 2020 at 11:43 pm
Liberty grads are special. I taught at Cedar Lee many years ago. I remember the challenges many kids faced. I remember helping a student's family hook into real water and a septic tank. This was a big upgrade from the hand pump in the front yard and the outhouse in the back yard.
If President Trump is able to deliver on his promise for school vouchers and school choice their will be options. There needs to be options for our underperforming subgroups. FCPS needs competition. Competition for scarce education resources will change the nature of education. There will be better outcomes. Better outcomes, that is something everyone wants from education.
I purchased 20,000 dollars worth of educational resources to send Doodlebug to Randolph Macon Academy. Here is what I have received in return. Small class sizes, engaging teachers, mandatory after class help, 2,000 hours of actual uninterrupted instruction time, mandatory participation in athletics, a strict adherence to common senses rules, high attendance standards, consequences, rewards, uniforms, appearance code, positive recognition, no cell phones, no social media, no foul language, a community of encouragement, increase in reading comprehension, increase in vocabulary, increase in mathematics, increase in hands on science, a sense of self reliance, and above all a sense of self respect.
FCPS cannot deliver this. Even with a 2016 per pupil of expenditure of $12,479. This figure is only slightly below that of Loudoun, Fairfax, and more than Prince William.
I paid over 40,000 dollars in taxes to Fauquier County last year. Most of those dollars went to the public schools. I am not getting the return for the investment that I should. Public education has existed in this county for 150 years now. How much more time do does public education need to get it right? We are out of time.
J Obrokta · February 11, 2020 at 10:25 pm
How fortunate that you are able to send your daughter to a private school. It is wonderful that you and your family are able to make that kind of decision, and that you have prioritized education for your kid(s). I hope that she does well there.
Of course we have a lot of families in our district who will continue to send their kids to us because that is their only option. And we will continue to do our best to make sure that they all get a great education. I'd still put our best Liberty grads against any of the grads from the local private schools, but I admit I am a bit biased on that one.
As for your ideas that the public schools need to embrace ideas like lower class sizes and mandatory after school help, it is great to see that you are already on board with important ideas that are a part of our equity process. These things have a bit of cost, but surely if we are interested in improving our community then ideas like the ones you have listed are worth it in the long run.
J. Whitehead · February 11, 2020 at 9:58 pm
Mr. Obrokta. I send my daughter 35 miles up the road and back everyday to Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal, Virginia. It is worth every mile and every penny. FCPS seeks the lowest common denominator for all groups to achieve the Shangri La of "equity". Your poor example of eliminating AP summer assignments is a testament to why the equity programs in FCPS are a false hope. Expectations must be raised, not lowered. Class sizes must be reduced not packed to the gills. After school help should be mandatory for all underperformers. Don't even get me started on the "white humiliation" that the equity movement has unleashed. You may want to adjust your chin strap. People are waking up and a great push back is coming. Equity is "code speak" for taking scarce education resources from a successful group and redistributing those resources to less successful groups all in the name of egalitarianism. Those scarce educational resources are the "peoples money". We earned that money. We elected a school board to wisely and efficiently spend that money. And now we want it back and we will get it back.
J Obrokta · February 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm
Mr. Goodwin - While I appreciate that you apparently followed my recommendation that you can find Howard's book on Amazon, I am really disappointed that you ignored my recommendation to read the whole book before you judge it. As I already stated, there are things in the first few chapters that a lot of readers, myself included, are likely to question. But you should really finish the whole thing before you start posting your opinions about it on a public forum.
Donkeyfarmer - Please know that the teaching of equity is a program of lessons for our teachers, not for our students. Our teachers will continue teaching geometry, biology, P.E., etc. The goal is more to help our teachers better understand the students who are in our classrooms. As I have been saying, helping teachers to improve their own practice is not an evil conspiracy but just professionals working to do their jobs well.
jim goodwin · February 11, 2020 at 5:25 pm
Every parent that sends their child to public school in Fauquier county owes it to themselves to go to Amazon, search for "We Can't Teach What We Don't Know" by Gary Howard and read what little Amazon allows you to for free. I'm betting a few pages will give you enough information. If you want to read the whole thing, buy it used so Howard doesn't benefit from the sale.
DonkeyFarmer · February 11, 2020 at 5:04 pm
Why are our teachers focused on social equity? I don't send my children to school to be preached to about all the social injustices in the country. No wonder kids are being homeschooled or put in private schools.
jim goodwin · February 11, 2020 at 4:02 pm
God almighty! I just looked at the preview on Amazon of "We Can't Teach What We Don't Know." I had it pick a page at random. It landed on page 61 where the author interprets Genesis 1:28 and concludes that "This granting of dominion over all things is the original seed from which White supremacy later sprouted."
He capitalizes "White"!
I have so had it with intellectual elites pitting groups against one another. This has to stop or it will end very badly for all of us.
jim goodwin · February 11, 2020 at 12:31 pm
Mr. OBrokta, you actually didn't directly say that the summer assignment work would be included within the course. I would have to assume that's what you meant by "...we still have the same high expectations for learning outcomes by the end of a course." So, fair enough. In that instance, your adjustment of the opportunity doesn't produce lowered expectations.
Beyond that, I think what we have is a very different view of what opportunity means. It seems to me you're saying an opportunity isn't equitable if there are individuals or groups that can't participate based on their personal situation. Therefore, the opportunity must be adjusted in order to make it equitable.
Is that a fair assessment?
J Obrokta · February 11, 2020 at 12:01 pm
Mr. Goodwin - as I think I explained previously, if a teacher chose to eliminate a summer assignment in order to increase equity of access he or she would still need to include that work within the course. As already stated, no one is lowering expectations in our pursuit of equity.
jim goodwin · February 11, 2020 at 10:46 am
I'm not looking for a fight. I'm looking for clarity and to highlight areas where Marxist/Socialist/Progressive doctrine is manifesting in our society.
In the example you provided, are summer assignments rolled into the curriculum for the school year or are they eliminated altogether?
If it's the former, bravo! If it's the latter then haven't you reduced opportunity? If a student wants to pursue more challenge, are the summer assignments still available?
DonkeyFarmer · February 11, 2020 at 10:29 am
Goodwin made a very good point, explained himself clearly, and you dismiss him as "looking for a fight." Do you view anyone that does not agree with you as "looking for a fight?"
J Obrokta · February 11, 2020 at 10:15 am
It is clear that you are just looking for a fight today. That’s fine.
But it is dishonest of you to include some of my remarks while ignoring others. As I already said, a choice like ending the practice of summer assignments doesn’t lower expectations since we still have the same high expectations for learning outcomes by the end of a course.
Your analogies don’t apply to what we are doing because our work is designed to provide opportunity and not limit it. And that doesn’t mean we are promising equality as you insist, only that we are committed to providing true equality of opportunity.
jim goodwin · February 11, 2020 at 9:52 am
I appreciate your thoughtful response. But it seems like you just outlined exactly what I meant by "soft bigotry of low expectations."
"So after studying issues of equity, a teacher would be more likely to stop giving summer assignments for their AP classes. This would change one variable that would make it more possible for highly capable students from lower-income families to participate in our most challenging courses. This change would allow schools to run more sections of high level courses and push more students to reach their full potential. As I said, no one is talking about lowering expectations for any student group."
The teacher stops giving summer assignments for their AP classes. So, the expectation that a student from a lower-income family might struggle more in meeting summer requirements means that we strike that requirement for all students. Lowered expectations for all!
"...no one is talking about lowering expectations for any student group."
Right. Not talking about it because it's shameful maybe? Because we don't want people to understand what's really going on?
The universe is built on inequality. Nothing would move if everything was is equal. What you're doing is trying to defy the laws of physics.
A person with a physical challenge, like a missing limb, doesn't get to force everyone else in society to go through life with a hand tied behind their back. They can either work through that challenge to become productive on whatever level they can or they claim victim status.
J Obrokta · February 11, 2020 at 9:14 am
I know that when people hear words like equity it is common to assume that it is just about race. It is to some degree, but it is also much broader than that.
As for your assertion that we are somehow lowering expectations for any group of students, that idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
While I don’t officially speak for the county, I’d like to help you and anyone else struggling to understand our process better appreciate what we are doing.
Here is a good example. We know at all of our high schools that the make-up of our advanced placement (AP) courses doesn’t match the general make-up of our school, meaning that AP classes tend to be filled with a lot of white students. When analyzing how this came to be we surely have more variables to consider than we can count on two hands, and some of those variables are difficult to address. But there are some that are obvious and easily changed by a school or by its teachers.
It is common practice for our AP teachers to give out “summer assignments” that need to be completed before the start of a course. As we study the issue of equity, we come to realize that completion of summer assignments are highly correlated to a family’s income level. In general, families that have a lot of wealth also have kids who have no problem getting a summer assignment done. Students from lower-income families tend to not do that kind of work, and are then excluded from those classes. The reasons that this is true again has a lot of variables, a few of which might be that wealthy people better understand the school system and force their kids to do homework and summer work. Or households of lower income are more likely to have a single parent, and that parent simply doesn’t have the time in addition to working long hours to monitor summer schoolwork completion.
In short, when we look deeper we realize that our AP classes aren’t just filled with white students, they are actually filled with mostly wealthy white students. This is unfortunate as we know that there are many students who are not wealthy, both white and non-white, who could succeed in our high level courses.
So after studying issues of equity, a teacher would be more likely to stop giving summer assignments for their AP classes. This would change one variable that would make it more possible for highly capable students from lower-income families to participate in our most challenging courses. This change would allow schools to run more sections of high level courses and push more students to reach their full potential. As I said, no one is talking about lowering expectations for any student group.
And AP courses are by definition filled with high expectations. So any content that used to be in a summer assignment would still be mastered by the students in the course, but the teacher would find a way to make this happen within the course rather than dumping it on students on their summer break.
I know that is a long explanation, but I hope you found it worth reading. Issues of equity are complex and are worth the time spent in better understanding them. This is really just our school system working to make sure that all of our students are getting a fair shot at success, and there is nothing evil in that.
Jim Griffin · February 11, 2020 at 7:32 am
"You can buy the book on Amazon for $243.62 new or $99.97 used (as of Jan. 20). Why so expensive? I believe educators want to keep a low profile in what they are doing."
Odd comment: Educators do not price books -- book publishers and retailers do. Libraries buy and lend them for free, strong competition for high prices. Indeed, free lending and library purchases is the reason academic publishers price high, and not because they hope for obscurity through low sales numbers.
jim goodwin · February 10, 2020 at 6:41 pm
If the guidance from this Deep Equity program has teachers considering race as a means of determining how someone is taught or treated, that is deeply disturbing. And historical inequities? That's fantastic. So, because someone's ancestors were slaves or slave holders, they must be treated differently? There's no equity in that. This is the soft bigotry of low expectations and anyone that buys into it should be ashamed.
Rgibbs · February 9, 2020 at 12:01 pm
Your opinion is a great opportunity to bring equity in our schools to light. Mr. OBrokta’s commentary provides great insight into how social equity is being addressed in our schools. There is a great visual that represents the school’s role in social equity whereby two students are peering over a fence. One student needs no assistance to peer beyond the fence. The other needs a box or step to share the same view. You may contend that the student should take carpentry to build his/her own box to see what the other is seeing. In order to realize his/her aspirations, the student will need to level their own playing field.
You would have to first realize that even in capitalist or socialist societies there are historical inequities that shape young lives.
Our public schools are a microcosm of the greater society. They are an instrument for change. As an educator, I experienced cultural proficiency training through the public schools. I’ve sat next to my colleagues who contended that it was their jobs to teach content not equity. That there are haves and have-nots. Can’ts and won’ts. Who is telling our kids they can’t or won’t?
It shouldn’t be our schools. For the professional development Mr. OBrokta is experiencing to be effective, he and others will have to dig deep to become self-aware. For teachers who truly keep kids at the center of what they do, they will build the box for the child and give him or her skills to make it in a world of inequities.
Public school teachers partner with families to teach more than academic content. Together, we raise humans who can see opportunity where there is struggle. And make no doubt about it, it is a struggle worth addressing. I’ll take empathy over narcissism any day.
Rob Gibbs—19 years as an educator
J Obrokta · February 8, 2020 at 9:47 am
As always, while everyone in our schools appreciates the fact that you take the time to care, you have once again missed the point of what we are doing.
You ended your opinion piece by saying that "Americans believe in equal opportunity." That is exactly what we are attempting to do through this process.
I have been one of the teachers being trained in this professional development. So far I have had a number of experiences in my training that led me to reflect on my own teaching practices and whether or not my practices actually deliver equality of opportunity to all of my students.
As for Gary Howard's book, the full curriculum of lessons that we are using for our professional development is expensive if you wanted to buy it for your own reading. But that curriculum is based on a book that he wrote called "We Can't Teach What We Don't Know." That book is available on Amazon for about $20. Anyone who is interested in the ideas that form the basis of what we are doing should pick up a copy of that book. I admit that when I first read that book I had a knee-jerk reaction against some of what he said in the first few chapters, but by the end of the book I saw a lot of value in his writings. So if you read it, make sure you finish the whole thing.
LHS Social Studies
Jerome Fields · February 8, 2020 at 8:24 am
It is good to be involved in our schools, truly involved by volunteering and being part of the process such as running for the school board or attending PTA meetings.
Everyone has a right to their opinion, but unless it is based in fact, then it is just an opinion. If you said the grass was purple, then it is up to you to prove it is, not just take your word for it.
No one is making you send your children to public school. Don't like it find an alternative. If you don't think that religious schools are indoctrinating your children into believing that Jesus was a white Christian, then maybe you should ask them if they know that Jesus was Middle Eastern, Jewish, had dark skin and brown eyes.
Silii · February 7, 2020 at 12:46 pm
Most of us went to public schools and learned about the separation of church and state. Now, the religious right wants total religion in the schools. Public schools are not churches, teachers are not religious instructors, principals aren't preachers. If you want your kids to have religious instruction, send them a private religious school.
Virtus · February 6, 2020 at 8:03 pm
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