By Caleb Parke, ,
Published November 02, 2017
A public high school in Minnesota implemented a required, race-based English course aimed at eradicating “white privilege,” but it wasn’t billed that way to students or parents, according to a public policy organization.
“Pre-AP English 10 constitutes an abuse of parents’ trust, taxpayers’ money and — most importantly — vulnerable children,” Katherine Kersten, a senior policy fellow for the Center of the American Experiment, told Fox News. “Edina citizens should hold district leaders accountable for substituting political indoctrination for a real education.”
The Minnesota-based think tank started researching Edina public schools after they heard students, parents, and teachers in Edina complaining about the aftermath of the 2016 election, when 80 staff members — most teachers — co-signed an editorial in the student newspaper bashing President-elect Donald Trump and aligning themselves with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.
“Many of you [students] have made clear ... that right now, you don’t feel physically safe,” the article read. “Know that we will do all that we can ... to fight for you,” and that “we will teach rebellion against a broken world.”
Kersten discovered a required 10th grade English course adopted in 2013 by Edina, focused on colonization, immigration, and social constructions of race, class, and gender. Kersten published a broader finding in a cover story titled: “Whose Values? Educational excellence threatened by ideology in Edina schools.”
Students, especially young, white males, said they constantly were humiliated.
One of the boys wrote on the “Rate My Professor” website that the class should be renamed, “Why White Males Are Bad, and How Oppressive They Are.”
Edina High School, located in an affluent suburb outside the Twin Cities, started experiencing lower test results and their ranking in the state started dropping since the race-based policies were implemented. For example, going from 5th to 29th in reading proficiency between 2014 and 2017.
For the English class, EHS claimed student assignments would be “carefully chosen” for “their rigor” because “we’re aiming for the top.”
While the school sold the course in one way, English teacher Jackie Roehl, one of the principal designers of the course, shared a more candid version in a book written for teachers called: “More Courageous Conversations About Race.”
“Understanding Critical race theory was a significant reason behind our school taking another step on our equity journey — incorporating a study of Critical race theory into our sophomore English classes,” Roehl wrote. “English teachers felt that our district’s mission to give all learners the ‘ethical values necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society’ could not be fully met without explicit discussions of race, racism, and Whiteness.”
Roehl added that they “encouraged students to examine the role that power has in the stories studied to get a sense of the ways Whiteness silences some voices and amplifies others.”
Roehl complained about confrontation at parent-teacher conferences, but she said she was able to stay on track because of her PEG (Pacific Educational Group) training.
She revealed that Edina schools started working with PEG in 2009 through diversity workshops and trainings that emphasize “courageous conversations that isolate race, and specifically, a study of critical race theory helped me reach the place I am today.”
It should be noted that a black teacher in Minnesota, Aaron Benner, slammed PEG’s race-based, regressive policies making it dangerous for teachers, and said the district discriminated him for it.
“PEG pushes the idea that black students are victims of white school policies that make it difficult or impossible for them to learn,” Benner told Fox News.
While PEG spokesman Kevin Cartwright told Fox News they don’t implement “any disciplinary policies that we incorporate in any district whatsoever,” in this case, Roehl credited PEG for the changes.
“We placed an equity lens over all staff development discussions — from literacy to home to assessment,” she said. “We even used specific reading and films from PEG seminars with our staff. For example, one three-hour session on critical race theory and the film, ‘The House We Live In,’ impacted many staff members, especially examining whiteness as property, and pushed them to understand the importance of equity work at Edina High School.”
Kersten told Fox News she believes the English course is the textbook definition of propaganda, where there is a hidden agenda, separate from what is shared with the public.
“The Edina schools’ new race-based ideology undermines all students’ ability to think creatively and critically — that is, to think freely,” Kersten wrote. “Students are learning to parrot orthodoxy back to teachers and to look nervously over their shoulders in case the authorities catch them in a forbidden thought or a ‘microaggression.’ They are learning that, at school, a top priority must be to please those in power. Disturbingly, some parents say that their children appear to see nothing out of the ordinary in this.”
EPS Superintendent John Schultz acknowledged in September the high school has failed to meet its First Amendment obligations, as reported by the Star Tribune.
“The district has invited a team of attorneys to conduct training on employee and student free speech rights and limitations, which was attended by administrators and all high school staff,” Schultz wrote.
The course is still being taught, but Kersten adds: “There is a lively and intense debate in Edina as parents digest this information.”
The Edina Public School District responded to Fox News with a statement:
“The curricula of Edina Public Schools are developed to align with the academic standards established by the State of Minnesota. Teachers are expected to teach the content, skills and knowledge necessary for students to master the standards and advance their learning.
“As part of the District’s regular continuous improvement and curriculum review process, including the gathering of insights and input from students and parents, adjustments are made to curricula so that teachers can adapt instruction to provide more choices for students, reflect best practice and meet individual student needs.”