Woke Teachers Vs. Parents
Matthew R. Kay is a teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. He also does teacher training and advocacy around “antiracism.” (I put it in quotes, because the term has specific ideological meaning.) In a 2019 interview, he said:
To teachers who “see” race and feel no need or desire to bring it into their lessons, I earnestly ask, “Why don’t you?” There are a few viable reasons why one would not wish to insert race into any particular classroom conversation.
You have to not only be willing to bring race into almost any classroom discussion, but you also have to agree with his particular woke interpretation of how to discuss race. And if you don’t? Kay recently wrote that “sometimes, you’ve just gotta step over them” — this, referring to those who disagree with his opinions about race and racism. He doesn’t want to change his opponent’s minds, but plow right over them. Such is the Social Justice Warrior mindset. There can be no good-faith opposition to their views.
Kay writes about “the intractability of individual colleagues’ racism” — which, if true, would be awful. But everything in his column leads one to suspect that all you have to do to prove yourself an intractable racist is to disagree with Matthew Kay. The point here is that Kay does not believe that dissenters deserve respect.
Over the weekend, he tweeted the following:
He made his Twitter account private after those tweets blew up. They ought to have blown up! Here is a public school teacher worried that parents will listen to what they are saying to students — and interfere with the teachers’ efforts at “destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia.” That is, Matthew Kay doesn’t want parents interfering with propagandizing their children.
How many teachers agree with this kind of thing? I find it utterly infuriating. This approach destroys the kind of trust that has to exist between teachers and parents for the school to be successful. I would not want my kid instructed by Matthew Kay, or any teacher who believed in his mission to turn kids against their parents’ beliefs. Seriously, even if you are progressive, you surely must recognize how, well, destabilizing this is of public support of public schools. It is an outrageous exploitation of a teacher’s relationship to minor students, and a violation of the parents’ trust.
UPDATE: A reader comments:
I am a university professor for whom curriculum theory is a primary research interest. I can tell you that this is boiler-plate stuff for education these days. Anyone who has received a graduate degree in education in the last few decades has probably had to marinate this stuff, regardless of whether they wanted to or not.
I recently had the chance to revisit an interview with Peter McLaren as part of my research. McLaren is a leading and influential scholar of Critical Pedagogy. McLaren (himself a white academic) writes:
“Whiteness is the privileging norm…it is equated with rationality while non-whiteness is considered irrational. Whiteness is not just about skin color but is entwined in systems of intelligibility enmeshed in colonialism, imperialism, Eurocentrism. I know some African Americans and Latinos who are white, who have accepted the terms of enfranchisement, which means to become culturally stripped and deracinated.”
This was way back in 1998. There is nothing theoretically new in what the teacher in Rod’s story is saying, beyond the fact that it has metastasized from the radical fringe and gone mainstream. Readers should keep in mind that the most influential educational thinker of the last half century was Paulo Freire. Freire was a Marxist humanist who cited Lenin and Mao as primary influences, and valorized Che Guevarra, Castro, and Vargas in his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
My observation is that most American parents are far too naïve about what the stated purpose of critical education is, or to the extent that this has become the accepted perspective in the field. This is likely because of nostalgia: we remember our own good teachers or experiences in the public schools. And certainly we could make an argument that most public schools are not radicals of this sort (although what percentage of these radicals do we want “teaching” our students?). What we miss, however, is that Critical Pedagogy rests on an extreme materialist philosophy that is actively hostile to both traditional conservatism and liberalism. Most teachers just absorb and replicate the philosophy because it’s how it is.
Don’t let anyone gaslight you. Many of our graduate schools of education are dedicated to producing teachers who will transform society and liberate our children from the regressive influences of their parents and communities.