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February 2 2018

What Happens When Public Schools Become Social Justice Factories?

by Charlotte Hays

The public schools of Edina, Minnesota had long been outstanding, but then seemingly instantaneously the once stellar system turned into a mess--test scores fell dramatically and fears of being bullied increased. 

What happened in Edina?

As Katherine Kersten reports in a compelling piece in the Weekly Standard, the Edina school system opted to put social justice above academic rigor:

The shift began in 2013, when Edina school leaders adopted the “All for All” strategic plan—a sweeping initiative that reordered the district’s mission from academic excellence for all students to “racial equity.”

“Equity” in this context does not mean “equality” or “fairness.” It means racial identity politics—an ideology that blames minority students’ academic challenges on institutional racial bias, repudiates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s color-blind ideal, and focuses on uprooting “white privilege.”

The Edina school district’s All for All plan mandated that henceforth “all teaching and learning experiences” would be viewed through the “lens of racial equity,” and that only “racially conscious” teachers and administrators should be hired. District leaders assured parents this would reduce Edina’s racial achievement gap, which they attributed to “barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings.”

As a result, the school system’s obsession with “white privilege” now begins in kindergarten. At Edina’s Highlands Elementary School, for example, K-2 students participate in the Melanin Project. The children trace their hands, color them to reflect their skin tone, and place the cut-outs on a poster reading, “Stop thinking your skin color is better than anyone elses!-[sic] Everyone is special!”

Kersten quotes the description of a literature course for eleventh graders: “By the end of the year, you will have . . . learned how to apply marxist [sic], feminist, post-colonial [and] psychoanalytical . . .lenses to literature.” Students will have prepared in the tenth grade with an English course that highlights such themes as "colonization," "immigration,"  and "Social Constructions of Race, Class and Gender."

Orlando Flores and his wife, who fled a communist regime in Nicaragua, pulled their child out of the Edina public school system to avoid a kind of indoctrination that they said was all too familiar.

Indeed a number of the causes promoted now in the Edina schools might be ones conscientious parents prefer to address with their children at home. For example, one "racially conscious" elementary school principal pushes for same sex relations on her blog. Shouldn't this be left to mothers and fathers?

And yet, you can argue in favor of this kind of education because of the enormous help it has provided to minority students, right? Well, just the opposite--it has been incredibly damaging. Kersten writes:

Four years into the Edina schools’ equity crusade, black students’ test scores continue to disappoint. There’s been a single positive point of data: Black students’ reading scores—all ages, all grades—have slightly increased, from 45.5 percent proficiency in 2014 to 46.4 percent proficiency in 2017.

But other than that, the news is all bad. Black students “on track for success” in reading decreased from 48.1 percent in 2014 to 44.9 percent in 2017. Math scores decreased from 49.6 percent proficiency in 2014 to 47.4 percent in 2017. Black students “on track for success” in math decreased from 51.4 percent in 2014 to 44.7 percent in 2017.

The drop was most notable at the high school level. Math scores for black students in 11th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 31 percent proficiency in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2017. In reading, scores for black students in 10th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 51.7 percent proficiency in 2014 to 40 percent in 2017.

This experiment will have a lasting effect on the lives of Edina kids, both in terms of their working and cultural lives. Low achievement and resentment--these seem to be the virtues to be promoted by a school system that has destroyed itself.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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