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Oregonians Respond to Ed. Dept. On BLM Resolution
Students and families express concern

Editor's note: This article first appeared as a blog on the website LibertyInEducation.org

On October 15, the Oregon Department of Education issued a Black Lives Matter Resolution. The resolution contains laudable statements supporting the equal treatment of Black students, fair treatment of all students, and removing roadblocks hindering student success. We support those messages of respect, understanding, and belonging.

The statements that bring concern for many students and families contain the words “equity”, “anti-racism”, and “systemic”, which sound reasonable on the surface, but are, perhaps, destructive or counter-productive. What exactly do these terms mean and how are they taught in the classroom? The phrase “Black Lives Matter” can precisely mean what it declares, Black students matter. But, could it mean something more? Does it bring unintended division into the schools when it is meant to unite?

“Equity”

This is not a new word for the Oregon Department of Education and most parents in Oregon are familiar with the phrase “equity lens”. the Oregon Department of Education has used this approach with distance learning, so it is not surprising that the Oregon Department of Education states their focus on equity in this resolution. In their Equity Initiatives, the Oregon Department of Education wants equal outcomes. Thomas Sowell, a Black author and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute has researched extensively on the causes of discrimination and disparities among Black youth. More than a decade ago he caught on to the “hoax”:

The biggest hoax of the past two generations is still going strong — namely, the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups. The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the "promise" of "equity." Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics. If black males get punished more often than Asian American females, does that mean that it is somebody else's fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about ‘equity.’

We wonder if the Oregon Department of Education’s “equity” policy is actually equitable? Is it beneficial to the communities we are trying to build? Or have these policies actually widened the gap? As Sowell suggests, perhaps there are other statistical differences that cause the achievement gap? There are differences in family dynamics, gender, income, personality, birth order, etc. In Sowell’s most recent book “Discrimination and Disparities” (2018) he continues to speak out against the focus of equal outcome. He states “children raised by two parents tend to have higher levels of intelligence but also that first-born and single children have even higher intelligence levels than those of younger siblings, indicating that the time and attention given by parents to their children greatly impacts the child’s future more than factors like race, environment or genetics.” Overall we feel that focusing on outcome over opportunity is more harmful than helpful.

“Anti-racism” & “Systemic Racism”

We have been hearing from parents across Oregon that their children are being told in class they are racist from birth. Sixth grade teachers are discussing the Breonna Taylor case and stating that the “killers will be held accountable”, and to “be prepared for large protests around the country if they are not”. Parents are listening to their children’s teachers delegitimize the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, and undermining our law enforcement. Other students are being taught about “white privilege” and inherited racial guilt. Do these teachings support the Oregon Department of Education’s mission, as stated in the resolution, to promote “educational practices that lead directly to the educational and life success of all Oregon PK-12 students”?

These are not the lessons of Martin Luther King. Rather, all of these lessons are rooted in theories from the Black Power Movement of the 1960s—an ideology that gave rise to Critical Race Theory. By definition, these ideas are simply “theories” and their impact on child development is unproven. Many black scholars are speaking out in opposition to teaching these topics to young people, especially without allowing for open debate or opposing viewpoints. Many believe these lessons are harmful for children of all races—division, guilt and permanent victim status leading to hopelessness are just a few of their unintended consequences. Recently, Kemi Badenock, a woman of color and Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, recently spoke out about the dangers of teaching Critical Race Theory:

In Oregon and around the world, parents, politicians, teachers, and others are beginning to question these teachings, which are divisive and dehumanizing.

“Black Lives Matter”

The Oregon Department of Education Black Lives Matter Resolution states:

WHEREAS, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued an advisory opinion that it is not a violation of the Hatch Act for federal employees to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black Lives Matter Global Network while on duty, including wearing or displaying materials related to the cause, because they address issues such as racism, which are not inherently aligned with a single political party and do not meet any criteria for a "partisan political group”.

If the statement “Black Lives Matter” is nonpartisan and teachers are supported in wearing Black Lives Matter gear, are they also supported in wearing other slogans such as “Blue Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”? If Black Lives Matter is a statement not representing a political agenda, then other slogans should also be acceptable. However, in the Oregon Department of Education’s “Training Toolkit” released with the Resolution, a teacher discusses how she handled a student saying “All Lives Matter” in one of the virtual classrooms. The student then wrote an apology letter.

Clearly only certain slogans and statements are being supported by the Oregon Department of Education. If Black Lives Matter is not in violation there should be equal treatment of other statements as well.

Recently Governor Brown rightly asked for the removal of symbols of the noose, the Confederate flag, and the swastika. We agree with this. Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill stated on the issue:

The Oregon Department of Education is committed to ensuring that Oregon’s schools are safe and inclusive for all students and staff, and the All Students Belong rule is an important step in that process. The noose, Confederate flag and swastika are being used to bully and harm students and staff, and this is particularly true for students of color. Students must feel like they are safe and belong in their own schools if they are to learn work and grow to their fullest potential. It is our responsibility to make sure that all of our school communities feel safe and welcomed, and we support youth to set a moral standard.

Does “all students” include students that have parents in law enforcement? Does “all students” include students whose families have escaped communism? We heard from an Oregon parent that escaped communist rule in Vietnam and she shared with us her thoughts on the raised fist. She states, “It represents communism. We hate communism. I lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for 2 years before coming to the United States. We escaped and now they teach communism to my children and they are confused. The United States is land of liberty! They don’t teach it anymore.” Are these students feeling they “belong in their own schools”? The symbol that BLM has adopted is the communist fist, which to those who have escaped communism, means “genocide.” Children with these family histories must feel like they are safe and belong in their schools too.

Although the ODE’s Resolution is well-meaning, we are concerned about possible unintended consequences. Does it enhance or reduce freedom? Assemble or divide? We believe that the most inclusive line in the Resolution are the last 3 words, “All Students Belong.” If ODE really believes this, they need to rethink their Black Lives Matter Resolution.


--Oregonians for Liberty in Education

Post Date: 2020-10-29 17:20:10Last Update: 2020-10-30 08:35:01



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