Washington Schools – A Social Justice Fall Reopening?
The Coronavirus crushed the end of the school year. The last four months were marked by missed events and opportunities, the early hit or miss attempts of on-line learning and ultimately, the uncertainty of what will happen in the fall.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said plans announced by some schools to have students physically in school for just some days of the week isn't acceptable, saying they must fully reopen, stating, "Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their future."
Washington State's reopening road map is called "Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide". It includes some eye-opening statements that concern me and maybe you too?
In the introduction letter, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reydal, writes, "The Workgroup (putting the plan together) was influenced by the civil unrest across the country in response to overt racial injustice and inequality."
In other words, the group wants you to know that the people that put the plan together are "WOKE" and so this fall, among all their other many responsibilities, teachers are going to be expected to be social justice warriors as well.
Reykdal continues,"We know that despite real progress, educational systems and institutions continue to contribute to racial inequality and injustice. We know that we have a much higher responsibility than teaching content in classrooms."
I don't know about you, but I sort of thought that "teaching content in the classroom" was the reason I was being significantly taxed to pay for that classroom in the first place and it's the reason I was sending my daughter there. No?
Reykdal's next line is what stopped me in my tracks, Reykdal writes, "We know that each of us owns a piece of injustice." Hmmmm....which piece is mine again? Shouldn't I at least know that? Which piece is yours Chris? How about you, reader? What piece of injustice do you "own?"
What if we reject the premise that each of us owns a piece of injustice? I refuse to succumb to co-called "White Guilt." I reject group identity and fully support the concept of individual responsibility. Treat me as me and I will do the same for you.
I am not a stereotype of a group based on my skin color, despite how Chris sees it. I don't consider you to be a stereotype either. That would be racist. (Your choice of political party actually tells me more about you than the color of your skin does).
Each of us owns a piece of injustice -- Is this the way you thought the Superintendent's discussion of reopening schools in a time of COVID-19 would develop? Or does this seem all too familiar - like another opening for crises enabled liberal opportunism?
I expect my child to be taught the truth of America's history, the good with the bad, the whole story. I expect teachers to present the facts, the data, the information and leave any indoctrination or social justice re-engineering to eventually grow out of my child's processing of that information through their own experience and home-based values education, thus reaching their own educated conclusions.
In other words, Teach my kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Isn't that what we expect from our educators? Does the State's reopening plan inspire confidence that's what will happen?
Why bring this up now, Dave? Why pick a fight or make assumptions with a couple of months to go? The language of the justice fighters cuts both ways. If it's good to push back on oppression, then it should be true of all oppressions. Is it not an injustice to be forced into accepting someone else's definition of injustice? If educational resources of class time, face time, financial support are redirected from my child based on a conclusion with which I have disagreement, am I not now "oppressed"?
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The State's reopening plan speaks to setting priorities. I would agree that approach makes sense but do the "Priorities" make sense?
The State directive says -"The following is an articulation of our commitments for 2020–21, and we expect districts will make these priorities in their work"
So what is Priority One? Gotta be Health and Safety, right? I mean, it's all about education in the face of Coronavirus, so Job-One must be keeping kids and teachers safe, right? Priority Numero Uno = Safety, right???
On June 11th Superintendent Reykdal, posted this video about reopening where he said "Safety for our students and our staff is the Number One Priority". Check it out.
So, straight from the horses mouth, Safety comes first, right, I mean he said so, right?
Not so fast.
Go to horse's written plan and safety is NOT the number one priority. Nope.
Priority Number One is.......(page #8)
1. Support Students Furthest from Educational Justice The impacts of fear, hatred, and systemic and structural racism within institutions cannot be ignored, and they yield tragic outcomes. Washington’s public education system must engage in anti-racist capacity building, leadership, and resource allocation. Dismantling systemically racist structures will make progress on inclusivity ..... The work of Washington public schools is to prepare students for postsecondary pathways, careers, and civic engagement. Washington must create the conditions for each student to be educated in racially literate, culturally sustaining, positive, and predictable environments that intentionally prioritize the instruction and development of social-emotional skills, and mental health in addition to our primary focus on academic content.
What? "Support Students Furthest from Educational Justice" What does that even mean? What about Health and Safety?? Well, that really is Priority Number Two!
2. Prepare for Health and Safety in 2020–21 (page #8) OSPI is committed to supporting learning environments that protect student and staff health and safety
What can we draw from this? That it's Better to be WOKE than WELL? Too cynical? I'm not so sure.
If Educational Justice is the State's TOP Priority we better know what it is...so how do you define Educational Justice? Education justice involves schools and communities that work to provide equitable and adequate distribution of highly qualified teachers who can provide quality instruction, equitable access to educational resources, advanced courses, and a focus on restorative justice to ensure that all students graduate high school ready for career or college.
An insert in the 2020 plan reads - Message from the Superintendent:
“It is imperative that students get as much face-to-face time with their educators and peers as possible. Schools should plan to operate in the fall with in-person instruction consistent with health requirements, and meet the 180-day and 1,027 instructional hour requirements. Schools should use the guidance on continuous learning to inform service delivery only if school facilities must close again.” – Superintendent Chris Reykdal
That makes sense, so how can we expect that will go down? By Priority, how else? And what is the priority again? Here it is right from the plan:
• Phase-in by priority: (page #32) * Serve all elementary students first * Serve students furthest from educational justice first, including students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, students experiencing poverty, students of color, and other student groups
Ok, sorry to be a pain, but I have to ask - What do you mean "serve all these student groups FIRST"? How will that impact the "other student group" kids?
Chris just said Face-to-Face contact is best. Am I being alarmist? Are we talking about all the kids who are healthy, white, from two parent families, who speak English? Are these the "other students"? Will their experience, which happens to be the successful school experience by the way, will their experience be compromised by the State's redirection of education due to the "influence by the civil unrest across the country" and resulting inspired social justice priorities? That's what is sounds like. That's what concerns me.
What about you? The left says "never let a good crises go to waste." Is that what's happening here?
If those students who are Furthest from Educational Justice need extra help and focus, great, find a way to provide it. Given all the extra McCleary decision tax money the State is now pouring into education, education experts should be able to come up with something that works...because after all, more money always works best, right ...W.E.A.?
What I demand as a tax paying parent is that in all this timely Covid-concerned WOKENESS, just don't reimagine social justice education at the expense of all the kids who have showed up, on time, who did their homework, participated in the class work and who don't make trouble in the halls. Any perceived "advantage" they may be seen to "enjoy" is not their fault.
Teaching kids that doing the doing work pays off, that showing up prepared and thereby succeeding is a pretty good lesson for ALL to learn too. Let's not lose that, Chris.