On Wednesday morning, Fox News reported that the Department of Education (DOE) included the “Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning” from the Abolitionist Teaching Network in its roadmap for school reopening following COVID-19. Following the report, the Biden administration called the inclusion an “error” in a statement to Fox News.
“The Department does not endorse the recommendations of this group, nor do they reflect our policy positions,” the Department of Education (DOE) said in a statement. “It was an error in a lengthy document to include this citation.”
The Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN) guide certainly did not make the first draft by mistake, and it absolutely reflects a number of the Biden administration’s policies. The document is only 53 pages long, relatively short for anything produced by the government. It includes several pictures and graphics and several pages of references. ATN bases its content on critical race theory (CRT) in practice, and the Biden administration uses the language derived from CRT constantly.
How many times have you heard the words “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” fall out of their mouths? The language of social justice warriors is in every executive order, most daily press briefings, and the speeches of the president and other senior officials. The Biden administration declared racism a public health issue and proposed doling out COVID-19 vaccines based on skin color rather than age.
Granted, the ATN may be further left than the Biden administration wants to be perceived. Its staff page is a mish-mash of gender pronouns and activists posing as educators. One of its resource offerings is “Resources for Agitators,” which has odes to Angela Davis and a link to Assata’s Daughters, named after Assata Shakur, a member of Black Liberation Army and a fugitive from justice for murdering a police officer.
However, ATN also has ties to Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten, according to Fox. When Marten was superintendent for the San Diego Unified School District, the district brought in ATN Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors Bettina Love to give a presentation. Journalist Christopher Rufo received whistleblower documents at the time and reported:
According to new whistleblower documents, San Diego Unified held an even more radical training program featuring a speaker who believes American schools are guilty of the “spirit murdering of Black children.” The school district hired Bettina Love, a critical race theorist who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, for the keynote address at the August Principal Institute and for an additional district-wide training on how to “challenge the oppressive practices that live within the systems and structures of school organizations.”
According to attendees who spoke to Fox, Marten gave Love a glowing introduction. At least someone in the administration finds the ideas of ATN acceptable. The DOE “error” might not have sounded quite as hollow if the department didn’t include similar guides and concepts in its document. One is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL is simply a code for a curriculum where the critical theory praxis can hide.
It sounds good but it uses the framework to incorporate “anti-racist” practices to “intentionally dismantle racism” — yet another buzzword for parents to be alert to as it masquerades as quasi-mental health and self-esteem building while indoctrinating social justice concepts. Forty states in the country — representing more than 11,850 school districts, 67,000 schools, 2 million teachers, and 35 million students — are working with the Collaborative to create SEL guidelines for K-12 schools.
The Biden DOE document also links to the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, which seems to advocate for restorative justice policies that assume racial disparities in the application of disciplinary action are evidence of racism. The organization’s Equity page is pretty explicit in promoting equality of outcomes in the definition of the term. Another link goes to the Committee for Children. The top of that group’s website advertises its free anti-racism and anti-bias resources. The blog that pops up when you click on the link in the DOE document is titled “Supporting Racial Equity with Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and SEL.“
The Biden DOE document also includes links to the Social Justice Humanitas Society, “Building Community with Restorative Circles,” Restorative Justice in U.S. Schools, “6 Ways District Leaders Can Build Racial Equity,” and an article on “social identity threat.” While you may not come across the term “spirit murder,” the underlying concepts of critical theory practice and social justice activism are there. It may be “evidence-based” in some cases, but as Dr. Peter Bhoghossian, Dr. James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose demonstrated in the Grievance Studies Hoax, scholarship in the humanities is not always rigorous or based in scientific principles.
Perhaps the Biden administration should worry more about how they have a deputy secretary of education who ran a district where testing in 2019 showed only 41% of fourth-grade children were proficient in math and only 37% were proficient in reading. Or perhaps they should worry about how one of the wealthiest nations in the world has a district in Baltimore City, Maryland, that spends over $18,000 per student while only 13% of fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2019. With stats like that in urban districts nationwide going into the pandemic, how are children ever going to catch up and become proficient?
It won’t be through navel-gazing social justice initiatives based on critical theories.