By Ian Gargan
Pennsylvania educators recently attended a presentation hosted by the Justice Leaders Collaborative, a Michigan-based social justice training organization that purports to “deepen the understanding of equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice.” The politically charged online seminar offered attendees a peek into how the CRT movement views those who oppose them. The Justice Leaders Collaborative’s position is that opposing CRT puts you on the far right. They also claim that CRT causes white people moral panic due to their fear of losing political power.
The hour-long seminar, offered to members of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators across the state, was attended by over one hundred administrators and teachers. Afterwards, many of them claimed that they didn’t know much about Critical Race Theory and had actually thought the class would be a useful tool in helping them answer the myriad of questions about it from the public. But after the link to the online seminar was provided to a Chester County parent through a Right-to-Know request, the content was quickly deleted.
Shayla Reese Griffin, co-founder of the Justice Leaders Collaborative, was the main presenter. She explained how racism is not only about people’s individual actions or feelings of hatred, but a system of unearned advantage that white people have over people of color. And that it is a system that will continue even when we are not consciously thinking about it.
During her talk, Griffin mostly criticized the anti-CRT movement and its alleged goal to maintain political power by stopping people from learning about “real” history. She claimed that by allowing schools to teach real history to white students, we could potentially produce a new generation of adults who would have a stake in making the world more equitable, and in turn make those same adults less willing to support far-right policies.
She continued by encouraging educators to stand firm on teaching CRT, despite the pushback from the public. Attendees were asked what side of history they wanted to be on and signed a pledge to join the fight. Griffin asserted that many of the people who are attending board meetings to combat CRT were not even parents. “This is really a fight for the future of our nation, and really a fight about what the purpose of schooling is.,” she said.
Mark Di Rocco, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, claims they were just trying to get more information about what CRT it is and is not. But the presentation was one-sided and came to a blanket conclusion that if you didn’t agree, you were a racist. One look at the Justice Leaders Collaborative website would have given Di Rocco a clue. The mission statement is to ‘dismantle a system of privilege and oppression- in all areas of our life.’ Clear enough?
Justice Leaders Collaborative provides teachers with tips about teaching CRT without actually using the term. Common buzzwords include cultural awareness, unconscious bias, cultural proficiency, and courageous conversations.
So, this year after picking up the pens, pencils, and notebooks, keep in mind that your back-to-school list isn’t completed. Parents and families must now actively monitor our kids’ curricula for possible divisive teachings.