If I told you that your tax dollars (130,000 of them) went to buying a "diversity" manual that asserts the government and other institutions create advantages that “channel wealth and power to white people" and calls on educators to “take action for social justice," what would you do? And if I told you that such a manual was required staff reading in Omaha, NE schools, what would you say?
Don't believe me? Read on to learn about “The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change."
The book is a manifesto on cultural awareness. But what it calls for, some might say, is quite counter-cultural. The Omaha World-Herald details some of the work's jaw-dropping statements.
For example, the book includes a quiz that determines a teacher's cultural proficiency.
"Only those educators who acknowledge the existence of white privilege in America, that 'white' is a culture in America and that race 'is a definer for social and economic status' can reach proficiency," the Herald notes. And those who don't? They're asked what they will do “to align yourself with the values expressed.”
Oh but it gets better worse. The authors also say we must reject the idea of being "color blind:"
The book says teachers must overcome irrational fear of homosexuality and reject the “color-blind” approach to teaching in which teachers treat all children the same. Instead, the group identity of students of color should be recognized and esteemed, the authors say.
The authors ask readers to reflect on several hypothetical cases, including that of a gay “teacher of the year” afraid to post family photos of his male partner for his school's Family Day, an African-American parent upset by a sixth-grade Early-American Day because African-Americans were enslaved in those days, and a principal whose attempt to reach out to Muslim students backfires when he announces over the intercom that students should welcome Muslims though they “might believe in violence.”
The book was approved by the Omaha school board in April, which means 8,000 copies will be distributed to all staff members, even down to the janitors. And it was paid for using $130,000 in federal stimulus money.
"The book is sort of a combination of Freud meets Marx meets Barney meets Ben Stein in his role as the teacher in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Herald columnist Robert Nelson writes.
And he's not the only critic.
Paul Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, and a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, told the Herald that in general, cultural proficiency is part of an agenda pushed by people “who think that we should have a teaching force that has a certain political perspective.”
He also wondered if the $130,000 could have been spent on something more useful.
“I would like to know whether the teachers are proficient in the subject they're going to be teaching,” he said. “It would be nice, if they're going to be teaching science, to be proficient in science; or math, to be proficient in math.”
According to school board President Sandra Jensen, the district doesn't necessarily endorse everything in the book. And she told the Herald she doesn't expect employees to adopt the authors' positions. Instead, the book is intended to open a dialogue.
“The purpose of providing this resource is to help staff see that people come from a multitude of different backgrounds which cause them to respond differently to the same set of facts, depending on their personal perspectives,” she said. “Recognition that one might have a certain perspective is critical to treating all people equally.”
That was echoed by Janice Garnett, OPS assistant superintendent of human resources.
“We're not saying that every idea in that book you have to accept,” she told the Herald. “Not at all. What we're saying is let's explore this whole concept and see where we want to be as a school district when it relates to the diverse student population we now serve.”
But considering the content, and Peterson's point that material such as this fits into a broader agenda, parents in Omaha might want to be worried.
In fact, parents in Atlanta, San Diego, and districts in Maryland and Canada might also want to be worried. In an interview with the Herald, one of the books authors, Franklin CampbellJones, said the book is also being used in those areas. A list on his company's website, CampbellJones & Associates, may offer a glimpse into its reach:
That means the authors' message has traveled coast-to-coast. A message the columnist Peterson calls "derivative, intellectually muddled, extraordinarily arrogant in its presumptions and so riddled with gobbledygook language stuffed into endless graphs, 'continuums,' charts and end-of-chapter quizzes that I found myself longing to read an advanced calculus book instead."
And your tax dollars paid for it.
Read the full story from the Omaha World-Herald.