A woke offensive has taken the nation’s schools by storm in the aftermath of the George Floyd fallout, but instead of the intended purpose of solving racial inequities it’s irritated parents of all persuasions.
In interviews with DailyMail.com, parents say they’ve been overwhelmed by education reformers seeking to impose anti-racist agendas on America’s schools. They describe the efforts as well-intentioned but often rushed, condescending, insulting and poorly timed, coming during a global pandemic when most families are just trying to get by.
‘It’s a whole cottage industry right now, a whole lot really fast that even a good-hearted liberal like me has trouble digesting,’ said a Manhattan mother who was recently mandated to sign on to a 90-minute, anti-racist Zoom seminar for her pre-teen daughter’s school.
‘The stuff is intense,’ she said in an interview with DailyMail.com. ‘They actually told us, ”The most dangerous place for a black person to live is in a white person’s imagination.’ And they told us that as a truth. They’re presupposing uniform white aggression.’ My thought was — ”Please don’t say that to my child.” My daughter’s imagination is not dangerous.’
Parents say they’ve been overwhelmed by education reformers seeking to impose anti-racist agendas on America’s schools. The exclusive Dalton School in Manhattan is mired in controversy after an eight-page memo of staff’s anti-racist ‘demands’ was leaked, proposing sweeping changes to staff training and the curriculum
The ‘8 white identities’ document was apparently designed by the Slow Factory Foundation off a curriculum reportedly created by Barnor Hesse, a professor at Northwestern University
Joe Borelli, a New York City councilman who serves on the education committee, said he’s been flooded with complaints from constituents about the woke movement in schools and noted many parents are seeing it for the first time because their children are taking classes from home.
‘When parents are listening to the background noise of their son or daughter’s education, they hear first hand what’s happening in the classroom,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘The public would be shocked at how little focus City Hall has on making schools better rather than making schools part of some woke utopia.’
‘This whole woke movement is horrible for society,’ argued public school parent Carrie Letke of Ann Arbor, Michigan
Their mission is to right wrongs of an education system they decry as institutionally racist, a goal most parents support. More than 80 percent of Americans — including 59 percent of conservatives — agree education should teach children about the history of racism, according to a recent poll commissioned by The 74, an education news website. The number varies by political ideology. Just 59 percent of conservative respondents agree.
How schools bring about those reforms topped the agenda last week when administrators across the country came together virtually for the School Superintendents Association’s annual conference.
‘How do you go about doing this (reform) so you don’t do it in an antagonistic way where you’re in essence making the situation worse because people get riled up?’ Daniel Domenech, executive director of School Superintendents Association, asked DailyMail.com. ‘It has to be done carefully.’
He conceded that hasn’t always been the case.
‘There’s a tremendous backlash,’ he said. ‘It’s a battle that is going to be fought district by district, school by school. There are unfortunately people who don’t want to accept or see the reality and will fight everything.’
A Portland principal was branded a ‘BLM Marxist’ by angry parents after she claimed the education system is built on a ‘system of oppression and white supremacy.’
In New York City, a high school principal sent parents a survey asking them to reflect where they land on an eight-point scale of ‘whiteness’ from ‘white supremacists’ to ‘white abolitionist.’
The exclusive Dalton School in Manhattan is mired in controversy after an eight-page memo of staff’s anti-racist ‘demands’ was leaked, proposing sweeping changes to staff training and the curriculum.
In San Francisco the school board voted to strike the names of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and dozens of other historical figures from the district’s institutions deemed to have ties to racism or have ‘dishonorable legacies.’
‘This whole woke movement is horrible for society,’ argued public school parent Carrie Letke of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a high school English department chair recently challenged the ‘whiteness’ of Shakespeare and supported efforts to replace him.
‘Why are we constantly focused on race, race, race, color, color, color,’ she said. ‘Everyone’s open to be receptive of things, but they’re jamming it down our throats in the worst way.’
In Pennsylvania, Elena Fishbein (pictured) states that she pulled her children from a local public school after a ‘Cultural Proficiency Committee’ drew up a plan ‘to offer explicit lessons on equity and race for our students.’ She launched the grassroots group ‘No Left Turn in Education’ to fight ‘indoctrination’
In New York City, a high school principal sent parents this survey asking them to reflect where they land on an eight-point scale of ‘whiteness’ from ‘white supremacists’ to ‘white abolitionist’
Letke was home last week when her son, a senior at Ann Arbor’s Community High School, started complaining when his teacher turned a literature class into a lecture on social justice, racism and gender neutral bathrooms.
‘My office is below his bedroom, and he was on this Zoom session on racism and inclusivity,’ Letke told DailyMail.com. ‘He didn’t agree with some of the teacher’s comments, but was like, ”If I were to raise my voice, it would change the way they treat me.”
The woke movement in education has ignited passion on all sides, with some on the right denouncing diversity plans as Marxist and leftist indoctrination.
Last summer, a district in Southlake, Texas introduced a plan to require diversity and inclusion training after a video went viral showing some of its students laughing as they shouted the N-word, according to local press reports. Parents packed school board meetings to oppose the plan, arguing it would create diversity police and discriminate against white children. Some even pulled their kids out of the district, and one mother sued, halting the plan’s implementation.
In San Antonio, one parent said her 15-year-old daughter’s school, which is almost entirely white, doesn’t even attempt reform because of the anticipated backlash.
‘Black History Month is in February, but it hasn’t even been brought up at any of our schools,’ the mom told DailyMail.com. ‘People wouldn’t know it’s Black History Month unless it popped up on their phone. Everything’s just swept under the rug.’
In Pennsylvania, Elena Fishbein states that she pulled her children from a local public school after a ‘Cultural Proficiency Committee’ drew up a plan ‘to offer explicit lessons on equity and race for our students.’ She launched the grassroots group ‘No Left Turn in Education’ to fight ‘indoctrination.’
‘The fight for America begins in the classroom,’ she says in a video on Facebook. ‘It is D-day. Wake up right now!’
‘They’re telling your kids they are privileged and guilty if the color of their skin is white.’
A change in curriculum is a direct response to the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a father-of-three from Bethesda, Maryland, said he’s concerned about students being force-fed ‘Critical Race Theory’ programs that teach the effects of systemic racism on American life.
‘Parents are afraid to speak out,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘They don’t feel like they can fight this. They’re afraid of being canceled, being called a racist, of their children not being allowed to go to school. And this is happening in the land of the free.’
A student at Princeton University, where the school president declared that racism ‘remains embedded in the structures of the university itself,’ told DailyMail.com he’s bothered by the rhetoric of conservatives who deny a need for reforms.
‘They don’t say they’re against equality,’ he said. ‘They say they want to move preemptively into a post-racial society. But it takes work. We first have to acknowledge, deal and repair the historical damage before we move into a world without racism.’
Roberto German, who with his wife Lorena co-founded Multicultural Classroom, which works with schools to promote anti-racism efforts, said he and his wife have been threatened for their efforts and outspokenness.
During the height of the George Floyd protests in May, his wife tweeted: ‘Educators: what are you burning? Your White-centered curriculum? The Amy Cooper next door? Your anti-Black behavior policies? The school’s racist policies? Your racist ass principal….’
‘We’ve received threats and been bombarded by hate mail, people calling us ‘coons’ and saying, ‘Die n*****,’ Roberto German told DailyMail.com. ‘We’re not in this to spread hate and we don’t want to receive it.’
Alicia Williams, who founded Teach Woke, an organization that provides race and equity workshops for schools nationwide, told DailyMail.com that she’s not surprised by all the hostility.
‘There’s always resistance when there’s change, when black and brown people want equality, when white folks want to hold onto their power and their privilege.’
In Oregon, Sheila Warren, the black president of the Portland Parent Union, said she’s been fighting with public school officials for years to make changes that could help fellow minorities, but said the district rarely consults with the black community.
Joe Borelli, a New York City councilman who serves on the education committee, said he’s been flooded with complaints from constituents about the woke movement in schools and noted many parents are seeing it for the first time because their children are taking classes from home
The Dalton School put out a ‘commitment to anti-racism’ memo which some parents think is overboard
‘We’re up against institutional racism, liberal, white astute parents who want things their way,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘These liberals are worse than people who are racist up front.
‘Their whole ”woke” thing is offensive to us,’ she added. ‘That word came from our community. People are appropriating it now, the white folks. They talk about equity and anti-racism, without consulting the people who are most impacted, which in our case is the people of color.’
In Manhattan, the mother who was forced onto the Zoom session for her daughter’s class said she wishes the school would consult parents before reworking the curriculum.
‘When I ask my daughter what she’s studying in history or reading in English, it appears to be a very new and, I would say, slavery-specific theme,’ she said. ‘Everything seems to hover around this one topic of race.’
‘These schools, their hearts are in the right place, and we all hate racism,’ she continued. ‘But I’m not sure the school cares about how I feel or my kids feel about what they’re doing.’
‘And honestly, it’s a crap year to focus on this given the pandemic sh*t-show of schools,’ she said. ‘It’s hard for parents to have the necessary conversation when we’re struggling to find work. What’s happening here is a bunch of white, liberal progressive parents, in a pandemic, trying to grapple with very important action from schools that takes a lot of bandwidth that parents don’t actually have this year.’