Seattle Public Schools recently held a racially charged teacher-training session that convicted US schools of committing “spirit murder” against black kids and demanded that white teachers “bankrupt [their] privilege in acknowledgment of [their] thieved inheritance.”
According to whistleblower documents from the session that I’ve reviewed, the trainers began by claiming that teachers are colonizers of “the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Puget Sound Coast Salish People.” Later: “The United States was built off the stolen labor of kidnapped and enslaved black people’s work.” The image of a black-power fist removed any lingering hope that the presentation might involve a modicum of nuance.
Organizers identified themselves by gender pronouns and race. For example, one speaker was identified as “He/Him, White.” It has become commonplace in academia and corporate settings to list gender pronouns, but this was perhaps the first example of an institution promoting workplace race-labeling. (The district didn’t reply to my request for comment.)
The main message: White teachers must recognize that they “are assigned considerable power and privilege in our society” because of their “possession of white skin.” To atone, they must self-consciously reject their “whiteness” and become dedicated “anti-racist educator[s].”
Any resistance, no matter how well-argued or factually grounded, was dismissed as a reflex of white teachers’ “lizard-brain,” which makes them “afraid that [they] will have to talk about sensitive issues such as race, racism, classism, sexism or any kind of ‘ism.’ ”
In the most disturbing portion, teachers discussed “spirit murder.” Schools, according to “abolitionist” pedagogue Bettina Love, who invented the concept, “murder the souls of black children every day through systemic, institutionalized, anti-black, state-sanctioned violence.”
What’s the goal here? Simply put, to transform Seattle schools into activist organizations.
At the conclusion of the training, teachers had to explain how they will practice “anti-racist pedagogy,” address the “social-justice movements taking place” and become “anti-racist outside the classroom.” They were told to divide the world into “enemies, allies and accomplices” and work toward the “abolition” of whiteness. They must, in other words, abandon the illusion of neutral teaching standards and get in the trenches of race-based activism.
Unfortunately, this kind of training is not an aberration — but a reflection of deep ideological currents within Seattle Public Schools and the wider teacher-training industrial complex. In recent years, the district has rapidly expanded its Department of Racial Equity Advancement and deployed “racial-equity teams” in dozens of neighborhood schools. The stated goal is to “advance educational racial equity,” but in practice, these programs often serve to introduce, perpetuate and enforce a specific ideological agenda and a new racial hierarchy.
This is a tragedy for students. Seattle public schools have been closed to on-campus learning since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. In September, the school district reported that fewer than half of students attended any of the school’s remote-learning offerings, with even worse attendance rates for minorities. Rather than address this crisis, which has doubtlessly expanded racial disparities, the district prioritized “white-privilege” training for teachers.
Unless there is a change of course, this new orthodoxy — gradually replacing academics with activism — will yield an educational disaster. School districts will aggregate students on the basis of identity and subordinate traditional learning to the latest fads from woke academe. When those inevitably fail, desperate teachers and administrators will be tempted to drop the old “three Rs” (reading, writing, arithmetic) in favor of the new: racism, racism and racism.
In this sense, the educational woke regime mirrors the corporate one in function: All this ideological garment-rending and chest-beating serves to disguise the social and material failures of institutions. Teachers can ostentatiously “bankrupt their privilege” in front of their colleagues, but it will do nothing for third-graders who are struggling to read or graduating high-school seniors who can’t solve a single algebra problem or compose a legible sentence.
Sadly, if past is precedent, the racial fever gripping Seattle schools will soon spread to the nation.
Christopher Rufo, Discovery Institute