“More often than not, the big work behind Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is moving towards collectivist culture and away from individualistic culture.”
“Education must acknowledge the racism and bias at the core of the educational system.”
Task Force Given Racial Equity Toolkits
By Peter Jovanovich
Rye City School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Eric Byrne, and Natalie Zwerger, Director of NYU’s Steinhardt Center, recently distributed sample toolkits “for promoting equity, inclusivity, and racial justice” to members of the Task Force on Race, Inclusivity, and Community. They were offered as potential sources of “inspiration”. The Center was hired by the District last year to guide the 66-member task force.
The toolkits are the product of a number of public–school systems, including Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and Nyack, as well as stand-alone educational groups. All adhere to this belief: Equity, or equality of results, is preferable to quality of opportunity. The Chicago Public School Handbook states: “We recognize the immediate and pressing need for racial equity to transform the experiences of young people. . . CPS prioritizes racial equity because of its predictable power across intersecting identities of gender, gender identity, socioeconomic group, and health status.”
A common theme of these toolkits is an emphasis on exercise of power within a school district – to change leadership, curriculum, disciplinary polices, indeed all aspects of schooling. For example, in the Anti-Bias/Anti-Racist (ABAR) Resource Guide, the authors assert that equity is not to be confused with equality: “It works towards examining POWER within institutions, and reimagines how structures can be built to flatten hierarchies within any given group.”
“POWER” to do what? Most of these toolkits explicitly call for “disruption” of schooling. The ABAR handbook insists that education must “not only acknowledge the racism and bias at the core of the educational system, but also explicitly works to disrupt that system with goals of equity and justice for marginalized communities.”
These toolkits advise school districts to exercise political power within their communities to promote their social justice/racial equity agenda. The Education Northwest Lead Tools state that a school leader who meets “Exemplary Equitable Practice” is one who “publicly advocates for and works to create and implement equitable and socially just policy at local, state, and national levels.” An exemplary school leader, in the eyes of Northwest Education, also “employs strategies for countering resistance to sustain the vision and its enactment.”
All of these toolkits insist that all differences in achievement, by racial or ethnic sub-group, are the sole consequence of bias and racism. As the Puget Sound Committee notes: “In order to eliminate racial inequities, it is essential that race be clearly called out and institutional racism be addressed within our own organization as well as in the broader systems with which we interact.”
The Nyack Public System toolkit states boldly: “WE BELIEVE that any achievement gap between white students and students of color (historically defined as black or African Americans, African, Native Americans /Indigenous or Alaska natives, Asians, Latinx students, native Hawaiian, or Pacific islanders) is unacceptable.”
Nyack’s mistaken assertion that Asian students perform below whites (they actually are the highest achieving sub-group in American schools), reveals an awkward fact that none of the toolkits addresses. Namely, if the racism and bias by white people explain all differences in educational outcomes, why do Asians outperform everyone else – including whites? This “Asian conundrum,” which challenges racism/bias theories of academic achievement, is nowhere mentioned or discussed in all of the toolkits.
On the contrary, these toolkits repeatedly and vigorously explain the gap between whites and others stems from “deep structures” and “systemically racist practices.” In order to eliminate racial inequities, ABAR states, “It is essential that race be clearly called out and institutional racism be addressed within our own organization as well as in the broader systems with which we interact. . . For example, a social studies curriculum will work to deconstruct master narratives to reveal hidden truths and whole stories, a classroom library will include a wide variety of texts by #ownvoices authors, and translanguaging within the community will be encouraged — whether it be in a Caregiver-Teacher meeting or a school assembly.” (Translanguaging is the theory that classrooms should establish an environment in which multiple languages can be spoken simultaneously.)
The toolkits, according to the District, were chosen by the Metro Center of NYU/ Steinhardt Center to help guide the Task Force. The District states: “The toolkits are for discussion purposes only — there has been no discussion about using them or considering them for use in Rye.”
Steinhardt advocates the pursuit of “racial and social justice through education.” The Center recently clarified its relationship to Critical Race Theory, the ideology that states that all structures and practices of American life, and education most importantly, are rooted in white supremacy. A recent posting by the Center on their website states: “We not only affirm anti-racist education, critical race theory, and all of their antecedents, we also call for more initiatives and reflective spaces that humanize us, that might help us to heal from the deep and lingering lashes of our history”.
Editor’s Note. All boldface and all caps spellings are from the original documents. Toolkit can be found below.