Education & Indoctrination

Hold my Drink Podcast Blog, Episode 38

The pandemic had more unexpected consequences than thousands of deaths, shuttered businesses, and online classrooms. Its impact on education will be felt over the next few years and even into the future as a host of First Amendment lawsuits against schools emerge.

After the George Floyd murder in 2020, the world was gripped in panic over how we address diversity and equality. If discrimination and prejudice remain in 2020, clearly, we haven’t done enough to eradicate these evils, or so the story goes. And so, critical social justice initiatives that were already percolating throughout education, quickly bubbled up to the surface flooding our corporate spaces and educational institutions.

This may have gone largely unnoticed in our schools, were it not for online learning. This is when Gabs Clark first caught wind of some of the divisive teaching in her daughter’s classrooms. Curious to see if this was just a one-off fluke, she asked her son about his classes. What she came to find out, terrified her. Her son was forced to label himself across a multitude of identities, including race, religion, and sexual preference.

Gabs is biracial herself, but visually “presents” as black. Gabs married a white man, and their son is pale skinned. So much so that in an anti-racist exercise in a civics class that separated out the kids into white/oppressors and black/oppressed, his teachers insisted that he identify with the oppressors. When he failed to label himself appropriately, he was told he would fail the course. After several attempts to negotiate with the teachers and school leadership, they were forced to resort to a lawsuit.

As the fervor to address racism turned into a fever that spread like the very real virus that kept us inside for most of the last year, many schools turned their classrooms into social justice laboratories. What started out as a very real need to properly address our checkered history and uplift unsung voices, was hijacked. In many instances, the school board or even the teachers were not aware that the programs they were introducing were divisive. Many teachers, parents and students are looking to find ways to bring more diversity, cultural literacy, history, and social and emotional learning into their pedagogy.

So when programs like Just Communities, the National Equity Project, or Courageous Conversations were (and are) introduced with promises to fight racism, close the achievement gap and promote equity, many are eager to sign up. Anxious to solve these issues, schools signed contracts for tens of thousands of dollars to bring in people to both train teachers on this pedagogy and to direct classes for their students.

As parents worked from home, more and more, like Gabs, became privy to these new curricula. In addition to Gabs’ lawsuit, there is another suit against a California school district, where Hispanic students were singled out and asked to yell out slurs that they had been called, making several of the students uncomfortable and later complain to their teachers, teachers who were barred from attending the session with their students. Another coalition is suing a school board in Virginia for admissions discrimination. Teachers have started to speak out against these abuses and even resign. Parents have written letters and taken their kids out of schools.

How have programs that promote laudable goals of diversity and equality become the targets of lawsuits? Aren’t programs that help close the achievement gap worth the investment? The problems aren’t in the ideas themselves, but in the pedagogy surrounding the ideas. A pedagogy that relies on critical social justice theories and activism as its benchmark, trumping educational achievement and advancement in favor of indoctrination.

Critical social justice, academic theories around race, gender, religion and other identities, began in the 1960s and 70s and have been twisted and morphed into Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other similar “Culturally Responsive” programs dedicated to anti-racism in both the workplace and K-12 institutions.

Some of the original curriculum designers for the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum include people who are affiliated with groups like the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum who will have their lesson plans available for teachers teaching new ethnic studies courses. These courses include activist agendas and ideologies over intellectual enrichment, including lessons that highlight Boycott, Divest and Sanctions policies towards Israel. Other people involved in this space in California include educators who are members of activists groups like Union del Barrio that advocates for a political revolution.

Many educators and parents are looking for ways to build more diversity and equality in the classroom but worrying trends of ideologically focused activist education are threatening these important objectives.

In many cases, we see children in these programs engage in segregation that defies liberal values. Instead of bringing in more materials in the intellectual pursuit to study history more thoroughly through a variety of lenses and the experiences of different groups that were historically underrepresented in textbooks, the classroom reality too often reveals itself as a new effort to employ race-based discrimination. Critics of these new tactics are maligned as ahistorical rightists, whereas proponents are labeled as communist lefties as we continue to talk past each other in how to create the best learning environment for our kids.

In this week’s conversation with Gabs, I saw a silver lining. After hearing her story and following those of other multiracial families, it dawned on me that biracial kids may be what saves us from the comeback of segregation. When children of biracial couples recognize that one of their beloved parents is singled out due to the color of their skin, some will push back. When darker skinned parents realize their lighter skinned kids are being shoehorned into negative stereotypes, some will push back. These children and their families who straddle binary labels of race, may be the spokespeople for a universal humanity that moves us past this black and white moment, into a truly diverse, and colorful, future.

In the Hold my Drink — navigating culture with a chaser of civility, and Counterweight podcast, Episode 38, we speak with the Gabs Clark, a biracial and widowed mother of five children. After recently recovering from a disability that had her in a wheelchair for years, she stayed at home during the pandemic so her children could attend school online. What she discovered shocked her. In addition to the struggle to find a school that taught her daughter how to be a scientist instead of a social justice warrior, she found her pale-skinned son was being forced to identify as an oppressor or fail his civics class. After numerous attempts to negotiate with teachers, she filed a First Amendment lawsuit. Join us as we discuss her story, all with a chaser of civility, of course, and a peach tea, a shot of Southern Comfort, and a mojito.

Hold my Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we explore the truths of a chaotic and beautiful world, together.

Find us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or watch the conversation unfold on YouTube, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


To find out more about Gabs Clark and her case see her page on No Left Turn in Education.

What Jen is reading:

Florida’s Communist Problem, Thinking About Substack Blog, Timothy Snyder

13 important points in the campus & K-12 ‘critical race theory’ debate, FIRE’s Eternally Radical Idea Blog, Greg Lukianoff, Bonnie Snyder, Adam Goldstein & Ryne Weiss

Andrew Gutmann, Brearley Parent, Says Americans Terrified to Oppose Critical Race Theory, Newsweek, Aila Slisco

No Left Turn in Education brought to Federal Court the first known case against Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our nation’s public schools.  The Plaintiffs Gabrielle Clark (NLTE Nevada chapter head) and her son William Clark, filed suit in the Federal District Court of Nevada against Public Charter School Democracy Prep et al., claiming Defendants violated their Constitutional Free Speech and Due Process rights.