ST. PAUL, Minn. – More and more frequently schools are making headlines for incorporating controversial teachings surrounding gender and race.
Delano and Edina school districts are the most recent to come under fire for taking on the contentious topics. Minnesota Department of Education is also making waves, developing a “gender toolkit” to help teach schools how to handle transgender and gender nonconforming students.
In Delano, an attempt to promote inclusivity within schools has sparked controversy. The Delano Teachers Union printed rainbow-colored signs and distributed them to all union members. The colorful signs read “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming, Safe Space for Everyone.”
The signs come less than two months after a family’s home was vandalized with racial slurs. Jeremy Wenzel, union president and social studies teacher at the high school, said the race-driven attack has teachers seeking ways to be more welcoming to students.
“It moved us in an urgency to create that common voice,” Wenzel told the Star Tribune.
While many teachers and faculty members have come out in support of the poster, the choice of colors is raising eyebrows. The rainbow color scheme, well-known as a symbol of the LGBT community, has some parents bothered. Rather than emphasizing inclusivity for all, the poster seems to be focusing on the gay and lesbian community.
Delano is not the only school district coming under fire for posters found in classrooms. Edina school district’s Highlands Elementary has received criticism for engaging students in a “Melanin project.”
The “Melanin project” involves kids tracing their hands and coloring it to match their skin tone.
— Katie Mahoney (@Highlands_ELEM) April 26, 2017
— Katie Mahoney (@Highlands_ELEM) March 15, 2017
It was also recently announced that Highlands received a grant allowing 4th and 5th graders to take part in Stages Theatre Company’s “Perspectives on Peace” (PoP) project. PoP is an the arts residency program that “illuminates current world events and broadens students’ attitudes toward tolerance, respect, understanding, and peace.”
Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has also made headlines this past week with the leak of their “Toolkit to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.” As Alpha News reported, the directive has caught the attention of over 60 state lawmakers, who joined together to write a letter to Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, calling the toolkit “fraudulent” and a “harmful agenda.”
Dan Lattier, Vice President of Intellectual Takeout, believes the integration of extreme race and gender teachings is becoming more prevalent in schools. However, he notes the teachers and administrators incorporating the controversial subjects into teachings do not see the view points as extreme, instead believing they are spreading truth. Despite this, Lattier has “serious reservations” about certain views being integrated into classrooms and teachings.
“However, from what I’ve seen [in Edina], the purveyors of this gender and race ideology don’t see it as “extreme”; they simply view it as “truth,“ Lattier told Alpha News. “I have serious reservations about teaching children at such a young age to view the world through the lens of race. I also have serious reservations about thrusting a very particular view of “equity” and “justice” on young children before they’ve really engaged with history and philosophy, and before they are really capable of having a mature understanding of current events. To me, that’s a form of propaganda.”
Lattier believes some increase of teachings on race and equity comes from Pacific Education Group (PEG). He pointed out several school districts in Minnesota are contracted with PEG, who provide teachers schooling on racial equity.
“Several Twin Cities school districts, along with other districts around the country, contracted with a group called Pacific Educational Group,” Lattier said. “These districts spent millions to have PEG come in and provide teachers and staff with “white privilege” training under the guise that “systemic racism” is the primary reason that so many students of color are not performing well in today’s schools.”
Recently, Alpha News reported on Osseo school district’s battle over PEG funding. A split decision from the school board left Osseo in limbo over whether or not they would continue funding for PEG. Critics of the racial equity group argued the controversial teachings were not getting the results they were hoping for, making the $45,000 contract a waste of school funds.
Lattier notes for parents concerned about various teachings complaining to the school often does not work. He recommends parents who truly believe the ideology is harmful remove their child from the system.
“It’s worth noting that most public school districts are funded on a per-pupil basis. If one parent decides to not send his or her child to the local public school, that school loses out on thousands of dollars,” Lattier said. “If a large number of parents made the courageous decision to protest a district’s curriculum by removing their children from its schools, then, perhaps, that school district would tone down its ideology. When it comes to the education system, money talks.”
He also encourages parents to read good books with their children, and have conversations around the dinner table.
“These kinds of basic actions will often be more effective than some direct attempt on the part of the parents to counter the messages their children receive at schools.”