February 25, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Evidence of critical race theory in Olathe schools

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Just as Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson argued to the State Board of Education that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Kansas schools, an email exchange obtained by the Sentinel shows CRT is being used in the Olathe school district.  

On July 13, Watson told KSBE members that CRT is not part of Kansas curriculum standards.

“It has never, ever included critical race theory, nor does it today,” he said.

While it may be true that CRT is not part of the “standards,” it does not mean the controversial theory isn’t being taught.

In fact, one Olathe parent emailed the board and superintendent a week before Watson denied the existence of CRT to discuss a curriculum decision taken as part of a state and federal government LINK Literacy grant to the district and curriculum for the New Teacher  Center.  The NTC has ties to the highly progressive Southern Poverty Law Center, saying they seek to “uphold the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center: to be a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people.”  

The parent said the curriculum had been on the agenda for the June 30 BOE meeting and noted a multitude of links on the district’s “Diversity and Resources” page, which has since been made “unavailable” by the district.

“This sharp turn into politicizing the social justice discussion in our children’s classrooms is wholly unacceptable and truly alarming,” the parent wrote. “The NTC curriculum is intended to be used in our early childhood teacher training. The linked teacher resources from the SPLC are to be used, at the recommendation of the District, by ANY teacher in the District to have these difficult and nuanced discussions from an entirely leftist political point of view.”

The parent notes that the link to the “Learning for Justice,” classroom “resources” page labeled “lessons,” are statements such as “For white children in particular, these stories offer a way of balancing the negative role that white people have played in maintaining a system of racism with concrete stories about people who have worked and continue to work to dismantle that system,” suggesting that all white people are racist, and includes lessons on “diversity” for children as young as kindergarten.

The lesson entitled “Analyzing Gender Stereotypes in Media” allegedly “helps students analyze and critique messages about gender that they get from various media. Students will focus on toys and toy advertisements, challenging themselves to think past what advertisements tell them about their gender identity.”

The “lesson” is aimed at grades K-5 — an age when parents might not want their children exposed to such concepts.

Olathe Superintendent of Schools Brent Yeager told the parent that no curriculum from NTC had been approved.

“The work we are doing with NTC (New Teacher Center) is part of our LINK Literacy Grant approved by KSDE and the Federal Government,” Yeager wrote. “The focus is only on supporting best early learning practices and professional learning for our early childhood teachers. NTC, like most national educational companies, does have work around equity, but that is not what is happening in Olathe. In addition, there is no curriculum from them our board is approving. It is only the professional learning that I have described above.”

It is worth noting that Yeager says the district’s work with NTC is approved by the State Department of Education, which means that Watson and the State Board of Education should be aware that white supremacy indoctrination is in Kansas schools.

The Sentinel asked to speak to Yeager about this story but the district said we would have to speak to a Communications staff member; no one returned our call by press time.

What is Critical Race Theory?

Theoretically, CRT is merely “a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States that seeks to critically examine U.S. law as it intersects with issues of race in the U.S. and to challenge mainstream approaches to racial justice,” and “examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States.”

Critics, however, point out that “critical race theory lacks supporting evidence, relies on an implausible belief that reality is socially constructed, rejects evidence in favor of storytelling, rejects truth and merit as expressions of political dominance, and rejects the rule of law.”

In 1997, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner argued  that critical race theory “turns its back on the Western tradition of rational inquiry, forswearing analysis for narrative”, and that “by repudiating reasoned argumentation, [critical race theorists] reinforce stereotypes about the intellectual capacities of nonwhites.”

Former 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski in the same year criticized critical race theorists for creating “insuperable barriers to mutual understanding” and thus eliminating opportunities for “meaningful dialogue.”

Moreover, while teaching students that race — and racism — infuse every aspect of their lives, it also argues that attempting to treat others “based on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin” — being “colorblind” in other words — is also racist: If you’re white.

Denials ring hollow

Watson’s denial was very carefully worded, and, as the Sentinel reported on July 14, Parents know what their children are being told and there is plenty of evidence documenting the use of CRT and its code name – diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For example, the Shawnee Mission school district spent $400,000 on Deep Equity training, which is based on critical race theory.  Deep Equity is based on the work of Gary Howard, who believes White people “are collectively bound and unavoidably complicit in the arrangements of dominance that have systematically favored our racial group over others.”  Howard – and by extension, the schools that use it – are effectively saying White people are racist simply because they are White.

Shawnee Mission’s diversity coordinator, Dr. Tyrone Bates declined to answer a simple question from the Sentinel, as to whether the district uses critical race theory in classrooms or for teacher training — instead, having spin from the district’s PR director sent on his behalf.

Additionally, Blue Valley showed students a video in which teachers criticized Whites, Christians, and Republicans for not listening to and being understanding of other viewpoints.

The use of critical race theory in Olathe, Blue Valley, and Shawnee Mission are not isolated incidents, as future Sentinel investigative reporting will reveal.

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