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Critical Race Theory Predominant in Fort Worth ISD Policies, Training Materials

Parents, students, and teachers in Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) are concerned about the amount of critical race theory seeping into the district’s administration and instruction.

The district claims that critical race theory is not part of its curriculum, but critics remain skeptical. 

Critical race theory has its roots in Marxist philosophy and examines society with race and racial hierarchy as the primary concern for societal ills. It then seeks to deconstruct cultural institutions it defines as racist. 

Its critics say it lays the foundation for divisive identity politics that group people as either victims or oppressors.

Critical race theory language and concepts can be found throughout FWISD publications. 

One section of the House Bill (HB) 3979, recently passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott, forbids teachers and administrators from making certain concepts, like critical race theory, part of a course or requiring students to learn them. This section prohibits lessons that teach collective guilt or inherent racism. 

FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, who also chairs the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents, signed on to a letter opposing HB 3979. 

Scribner’s opposition to the bill is unclear given FWISD’s claim that its curriculum does not include critical race theory.

Scribner became the superintendent in October 2015 and within a few months the district began increasing its focus on equity and inclusion, creating a Racial Equity Committee in February 2016 and adopting a policy to “fight institutional racism.” 

The district’s website uses critical race theory language about race and institutions, stating that the policy “recognizes that major historical and societal factors in our nation impact the inequity that exists within public schools. Purposeful action can be taken to identify, acknowledge, and overcome racial and ethnic disparities between students.” 

The district distinguishes its equity policy from the existing nondiscrimination policy, which aims to “[protect] students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, [and] disability.” 

By definition, equity is concerned with the same outcome for everyone, while equality is concerned with the same opportunities for everyone. 

In a letter on June 10, 2020, Scribner wrote “We must immediately resolve to denounce any form of racism and make a personal commitment to anti-racism.” Antiracism is a term used by critical race theory proponent Ibram X. Kendi, an author and founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.

Kendi assumes in his book, “How to Be an Antiracist, that “[e]very policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”

The district’s division of equity and excellence offers a number of professional development opportunities to its faculty and staff, including seminars titled “Equity Circles,” which allows participants to “practice how to incorporate the practice of [c]ircles into the everyday life of the school community,” and Foundations for Racial Equity in Education (F.R.E.E.).

Scott Blanco-Davis, a teacher at the district’s World Languages Institute (WLI), participated in a “Beyond Diversity” training in late January, as part of his willingness to serve on the FWISD’s Equity Committee.

Blanco-Davis believed that the training would be about creating an equitable atmosphere for all students to have a high level of achievement like WLI has been able to secure.

However, when he attended the training, he says he was shocked at some of the content. The training utilized “Courageous Conversation” curriculum, developed by the Pacific Educational Group. It believes “systemic racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished capacity of all people—especially people of color and indigenous people—to achieve at the highest levels,” language closely associated with critical race theory.

The curriculum included a “white privilege exercise” with a survey that Blanco-Davis felt was specifically designed to line up the participants by skin color.

“I could not believe that in this age I was being asked to line up by my ‘white privilege’ and being scowled at by people who felt I was in the wrong place in line and who did not even know my background or history,” Blanco-Davis told The Texan

He found the training to be “the single most professionally demeaning and emotionally disheartening experiences I have endured in my 29 years as an educator. The tone was confrontational, divisive and at no time was there an attempt to de-escalate mounting emotions. What should have been something to bring people together let participants leave hurt, angry and confused.”

As a result, Blanco-Davis contacted the Equity and Excellence director, Sherry Breed, by e-mail to inform her that he would not be serving as a member of the district’s equity committee and to express his concerns about the training. 

“I cannot be a part of any group that is allowed to silence and belittle another group like I experienced over the course of our training,” he wrote in the email. 

In her reply, Breed offered to meet with Blanco-Davis, expressed her regrets that he would not be serving on the committee, and said she was saddened that he “felt belittled” during the training, but that was “[his] truth and [his] experience.”

Blanco-Davis, who is married to a Colombian woman, believes in being accepting and having conversations about challenging topics. WLI, at which he is a teacher, is a multicultural school with many minority students and has a higher accountability rating than FWISD at large. 

All of the students at WLI are multilingual, and the 52 graduates in 2021 earned a total of $4.2 million in scholarships. 

This is the kind of achievement that Blanco-Davis thought he would be helping to generate throughout FWISD, but said what he experienced instead at the “Beyond Diversity” training “was not equity but at best selective equity: at worst divisive political tactics which have no place in public education.”

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