Theory of relativity

13Aug21

For something that supposedly doesn’t exist in any public school anywhere, an awful lot of effort and ink have been spent of late trying to convince us of it’s non-existence.

Critical race theory, they insist in no uncertain terms, has no place in public education.

The messaging usually goes something like this: “Of course we’re not teaching that. You don’t even know what it is. Where would you even get such an idea?”

Or as Wakefield School Committee chair Suzy Veilleux put it more succinctly this week, “Critical race theory is not being taught in Wakefield Public Schools.”

Well. That’s settled.

Apparently, education officials think we don’t know how to use Google.

At its June 29 meeting, the School Committee heard from Social Studies and English curriculum coordinators Jason Pavey and Margaret Messier about ongoing efforts to “incorporate diverse perspectives across the curriculum in order to acknowledge that perceptions are affected by race, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and personal experience.”

For those who survived the preceding sentence, one of the ways that the schools are “incorporating diverse voices” is by bringing in visiting consultants to show our own educators how it’s done.

Among those is Jamilah Pitts, a self-described “educational consultant and equity and justice strategist.”

Ms. Pitts is being brought in for four of the five professional development sessions this coming school year to train grade 5-12 teachers in “Culturally Responsive Teaching.” Pitts also agreed to do the Aug. 2 “retreat” for Wakefield school administrators.

“If you get a chance, look her up,” Pavey suggested at the June 29 School Committee meeting.

So, I did.

I found an article that Pitts wrote last year for a magazine called Learning for Justice. In a piece titled, Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care, she talks about ways that teachers can incorporate current events into reading assignments.

“Teachers can allow students to apply critical lenses, such as critical race theory and Marxist theory, to the reading of news articles to allow students to think more deeply about who is being most affected and why,” Pitts wrote.

So, even as we are told that critical race theory is not being taught in Wakefield schools, local teachers are attending professional development sessions led by a consultant who believes that students should be taught to apply CRT and Marxist theory to their school assignments.

Most parents have neither the time nor patience to read through tedious scholarly pieces on such topics as culturally responsive teaching (sometimes called “culturally relevant teaching”).

Educators know that. In fact, they count on it. Luckily, I have a high tolerance for boring screeds.

One such piece that I found was written by Professor Judith Briggs of Illinois State University. The title is, “Engaging Critical Race Theory and Culturally Relevant Teaching.”

“Culturally Relevant Curriculum,” Briggs writes, “promotes critical questioning and is committed to social justice. Finally, culturally relevant teaching is grounded in CRT.”

Would that be the same culturally relevant teaching that is currently being deployed in Wakefield Public Schools?

Another consultant that was highly touted at the June 29 School Committee meeting was Dr. Clint Smith. He hosted a virtual assembly for all Wakefield High School students last school year, and the Wakefield Public Schools have cultivated an ongoing professional relationship with Dr. Smith. Superintendent Doug Lyons suggested that people Google him.

So, I did. (I’m very compliant.)

One of the first things that came up in my search was a podcast hosted by Bakari Sellers this past June. I’ll let you listen to the podcast for yourself, but here’s the accompanying description: “Bakari is joined by author Clint Smith to talk about what critical race theory is and why it’s important to teach it in schools.”

Finally, if it’s so manifestly obvious that CRT is not being taught in public schools, why would the Massachusetts Association of School Committees find it necessary to publish a whole guide devoted to helping School Committees convince parents?

One indication of how insulated the guide’s authors are from the concerns of parents and citizens is the following offhand admission.

“In the 1990s, some colleges of education started incorporating CRT into their coursework to help aspiring school administrators and teachers better understand inequities in the context of education.”

But we are expected to believe that after being marinated in CRT, graduates of these colleges never allow it to seep into their classrooms.

If CRT is such a wonderful, positive concept, why deny its existence in the schools? Why not embrace and defend it?

[This column originally appeared in the August 12, 2021 Wakefield Daily Item.]



14 Responses to “Theory of relativity”

  1. 1 John Breithaupt

    Mark, Could you give us a specific, concrete example of something that would answer to the description of CRT, that has actually been taught in Wakefield public schools?

    • 2 Ed

      ““Settler colonialism exists on stolen land and uses many forms of violence to maintain control, including the attempted erasure of Indigenous people.” comes to immediate mind…

      Yes, the land has been stolen — it’s been stolen many times, starting with the other indgenous peoples from whom these indgeneous peoples stole it, not to mention those from whom the Committees of Public Safety stole it from during the Revolutionary War.

  2. 3 Ed

    Mark, you really have to go back to Herbert Marcuse and his Marxist views that there was no such thing as objective fact, merely Bourgeoisie opinion..

    Mark Levin’s _American Marxism_ (ISBN13: 9781501135972) is a good summary although the tentacles of Cultural Marxism run far deeper in the Wakefield Schools than mere CRT.

    If parents really knew what their children were being taught, they’d be on the front lawn of the school with pitchforks and torches….

    • 4 John Breithaupt

      Could you define ‘’cultural marxism’’ and then give us concrete and specific examples of the way it is being taught?

      • 5 Mark Sardella

        You’d have to ask Jamilah Pitts. She’s the consultant who advocates teaching it.

      • 6 John Breithaupt

        Matk, Are you saying then that you do not know what cultural marxism is? And if you don’t know what it is, how can you know for sure that it is being taught in the Wakefield Public Schools?

      • 7 Mark Sardella

        Did you read the column. John? Please point to where I said that cultural Marxism is currently being taught.

      • 8 John Breithaupt

        You did not say that cultural marxism is being taught, but you implied that CRT is being taught in the Wakefield schools, and CRT is supposed to be based in part on cultural marxism. What I am trying to get from you is a single specific instance of a lesson or lesson plan used in the classrooms of Wakefield schools that presents CRT and its concomitants to the students. You implied that the chair of the school is lying when she denies that CRT is being taught in Wakefield’s schools — you insinuate it — but you do not prove it. Because there is no proof.

      • 9 Ed

        John, this is a super-short version of the letter that I really ought to write to the Item, but I’ll see what I can do with a paragraph:

        Critical Race Theory (CRT) *is* Cultural Marxism, Marcuse was quite clear about that. It’s a substitution of race for social class, i.e all heterosexual White males are members of the “Bourgeoisie” ruling class and everyone else is exploited and oppressed.

        In fairness, there is no consistent lingo in the education field — and I’ve seen the same concept called a half dozen things — same thing — but “Cultural Marxism” is *generally* considered to be based on the beliefs of Herbert Marcuse as they were expanded 30 years ago by four professors at Harvard Law School.

        Furthermore, the “Social Behavioral Learning” that the Superintendent increased the budget to facilitate is also Cultural Marxism. That’s another three paragraphs to explain, though…

        But John, did you see the front page of today’s Item???

      • 10 Ed

        “What I am trying to get from you is a single specific instance of a lesson or lesson plan used in the classrooms of Wakefield schools that presents CRT and its concomitants to the students.”

        That would require *all* of the lesson plans being publicly published, and all of the classroom teaching being both recorded and also publicly available.

        While I’d have no problem with that, although I have no doubt that the teachers would. Should we make it public anyway?

        The problem, John, is that you can not concurrently deny us access to the primary sources and then claim that we don’t have that to support our argument. If we have secondary sources such as the school committee saying what it wants to intend to do, along with the people being brought in to train the teachers and what they openly advocate — what would a rational person conclude???

        John, you are making the case for TeacherCams — the case for recording *everything* that a teacher says to students and making that available for public review. Or of permitting parents to sit in the back of their children’s classrooms….

      • 11 John Breithaupt

        I am asking Mark to come up with examples of the teaching of CRT in the Wakefield Public Schools. That is all.

      • 12 John Breithaupt

        Lessons and lesson plans are not the secrets that you seem to make them out to be. Students bring their lessons home. Parents know what their children are being taught. If some noxious form of CRT is being taught in the public schools, it will surface soon enough.

      • 13 Mark Sardella

        It has.

  3. 14 Ed

    Mark, the Statement by AALS on Efforts to Ban the Use or Teaching of Critical Race Theory might be of interest to you:

    https://www.aals.org/aals-newsroom/statement-on-critical-race-theory/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: