Westerly’s teacher training shows how “Culturally Responsive Teaching” smuggles radical racism into the classroom.

In October, the national good-government group Judicial Watch published training documentation from the Westerly, Rhode Island, school department received from a whistleblower.  The training was developed by Rhode Island’s Highlander Institute, which recently transformed from a legitimate educational organization helping students with “learning differences” into one of the state’s leading promoters of the racist ideals of critical race theory.

The common thread is that “learning differences” provides the reasonable cover under which the activists smuggle radical left-wing concepts into the classroom.  The idea is that “critical consciousness… can be a gateway to academic motivation and achievement for marginalized students.”  Behind this reasonable objective, two tricks are played.  The first is to assume that “marginalized students” have greater affinity for a left-wing ideology, and the second is to brush aside the opposing ideology that, presumably, has been serving non-marginalized students well.

How this works is going to take several posts to explain, but for the moment, let’s focus on one concept to which Judicial Watch makes direct mention.  Slide 36 of 53 introduces the concept of “Individualism vs. Collectivism,” wherein a “sense of self & success is defined by one’s individual goals or defined by collective wellbeing & belonging.”

On its face, this seems like a straightforward lesson in cultural theory.  Indeed, reading the side-by-side comparison of the two concepts on slide 37, Americans may recognize a need for balance.  The success of Western Civilization has arguably been that it leverages both “independence and individual achievement” and “interdependence and group success.”  Free marketers, in particular, make the point that the Western system of freedom, democracy, and capitalism maximizes our ability to collaborate even as we are driven by our own incentives.

One needn’t accept that theory in whole, however, to think that we can value “self-reliance” while also valuing “collective wisdom or resources of the group.”  A healthy society wouldn’t see this question as either/or.

But the Highlander Institute does see it that way, as indicated by a box the slide puts around the “collectivism” column, making the choice.  Another box in the upper right corner of the side explains why:  “Many *BIPOC* students come from collectivist cultural backgrounds.”

The theory is, in other words, that minority students were raised into a collectivist perspective (trick #1), so teachers would help them to learn and achieve by structuring their lessons and activities in a way that leverages their cultural comfort.

The question not asked (trick #2) is whether the majority of students, who are not “BIPOC,” are more comfortable learning within a framework of individualism.  Seventy-nine percent of Westerly students are white.  To the extent there really are racial differences in learning styles, shouldn’t Westerly schools build their training and curricula around those students, while accommodating the other 21%?

As we’ll discuss in later posts, when it comes to the majority of students the standard shifts.  The goal ceases to be maximizing motivation and achievement and becomes the enforcement of “equity.”  Favored (minority) groups have their heritage, experiences, and cultures reinforced as positive and defining, while disfavored (majority) groups have their own heritage, experiences, and cultures deconstructed and maligned.


Featured image from a Rhode Island Department of Education report that includes only a single, blurry white student among its many photographs.

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1 year ago

[…] teacher training that the Highlander Institute prepared for the Westerly school district exposed two tricks that smuggle racist critical race theory (CRT) into Rhode Island schools: assuming “marginalized […]

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