DDHS class draws outside attention
I’m always leery when a local story brings national news outlets to town.
Take for example the coverage of a class taught for years at Delavan-Darien High School called “American diversity.”
Last semester, a parent contacted the school board with concerns about the class, but when a columnist at FoxNews.com picked up the story, the discussion turned into a full-blown national controversy.
Closer to home, this seems really to be about a parent exercising her right to question how her school is teaching her child, and how the school district is responding by reviewing the material when a parent raises a concern.
The outcome of that review likely will generate some disagreements of its own, but the process behind it is what any community member would expect from his or her school administration.
Of course, that doesn’t make for riveting reading on a national scale.
The parent’s concern centered on a portion of the class that discussed what’s called critical race theory and white privilege.
In a recent story in the Gazette, writer Catherine Idzerda explained it this way:
Critical race theory “recognizes that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture,” according to the UCLA School of Public Affairs.
White privilege refers to the idea that a person’s color can give him or her an unspoken advantage because of both conscious and unconscious prejudice.
The mother indicated she felt the class “does not highlight the richness in our nation’s diversity, but a blame game that offers an us-versus-them mentality.”
So are these appropriate topics to address in an elective high school class?
Considering the strong opinions expressed around the issue, the answer likely is yes.
Common sense says there are advantages to growing up white in America. And even if you don’t agree, I think it’s an issue that students should address while they’re at an age where they have both the support of the family and school to help give them perspective.
Keep in mind that these are the kids who in a few short years will decide on issues as wide ranging as affirmative action in higher education to the number of African-American head coaches in the NFL.
Everyone enjoys a good conspiracy theory, and some have suggested that the class is really a veiled attempt to indoctrinate the students with a leftist agenda.
However, in covering local governments for many years in Walworth County, I’ve seen that elected officials have little extra time other than working for what’s best for the future of their communities.
Predictably, national media outlets don’t quite see it that way.
Brendan Pringle of the conservative Young America’s Foundation spun it like this: “Rather than offering students a survey of the richness of our nation’s diversity, the course promotes none other than an “us versus them” mentality, and requires its students to read divisive materials from some of the left’s most radical mouthpieces.”
He calls it a case of blatant indoctrination.
His piece was referenced in a Jan. 15 column on FoxNews.com where Todd Stearns quoted the parent as saying, “They’re teaching white guilt. They’re saying to non-whites, ‘You have been oppressed and you’re still being oppressed.’”
Other than accusations, I’ve seen no evidence to support that assertion.
To his credit, a careful reading of Stearns’ FoxNews.com column lays out both the parent’s and district’s take on the class, but the headline, “Public school
teaches ‘white privilege’ class” easily can get its readers riled up.
Not long after, the left-leaning HuffingtonPost.com put its own twist on the story, writing that, “A Wisconsin high school is under fire after a parent accused a diversity class of promoting a critical race theory, alleging that students are being taught that minorities are disadvantaged by white oppressors, Fox News reports.”
The Delavan-Darien School District responded with an explanation on its website that lays out a timeline of the events, a description of the class from the course syllabus and the district’s plans to evaluate the course.
“In December, the parent shared concerns with the Delavan-Darien Board of Education during the public comments portion of the monthly board meeting,” officials explained in the website post. “Subsequent to the parent’s complaints and following two conversations in January with the parent, District Superintendent Robert Crist, Ed.D., decided to conduct a program evaluation and review of the course.
“The evaluation and review of the course will include the title of the class, the objectives to be learned and the materials to be used. This was presented at the January 2013 school board meeting.”
There’s not a whole lot more either the parent or the school district can do at this point until the district completes its review.
Fair enough, I would think.