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One of conservatives’ pet peeves so far as liberals go is their constant cry of “racism” anytime anything that threatens entrenched, liberal interests crops up.
Usually, we see this in relation to proposals to reform entitlements, or require people to show ID or swear an affidavit before voting (both inherently raaaaacist!). But sometimes it crops up in other areas, too, because, well, it’s easier to cry “racism” in relation to just about any policy out there than fight it on its actual merits.
Which, to take the example of the Common Core state educational standards, is feasible, depending on your perspective and who you ask. While I and many others remain skeptical of the program, it may surprise you to learn that there are conservative voices on both sides of the Common Core debate (Bobby Jindal and Rick Snyder are two who happen to support Common Core; Glenn Beck and the Heartland Institute oppose it). And on the Left, unsurprisingly, we have a bunch of sainted teachers unions like the AFT (run by Randi Weingarten of “Rubber Room” fame) and the NEA, who do not want under any circumstances for teachers to be held accountable for meeting for any standards. Much less Common Core.
But critiquing Common Core based on the teachers’ unions arguments, or conservative arguments, is not the chosen route of Dr. Donald Smith and Dr. Sam Anderson, founding members of the National Black Education Agenda. In an op-ed published last week, they advocate for New York dumping the standards because according to Smith and Anderson, it promotes some sort of white supremacism because the standards “assume an American population embodied with a similar history of freedom and cultural ‘neutrality’ or ‘universality.'”
According to Smith and Anderson, the standards– which they concede, accurately, do not mandate or advocate specific curriculum materials, such as particular books or historical texts– are objectionable because “the ‘sample’ of illustrative texts rarely contains any books or writings by Black authors, and for that matter, any writings by Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Asian writers. The ‘illustrative’ texts for student readings in the formative grades K-5 contain no readings identifiable as written by authors of color.”
The problem for Smith and Anderson appears to be that diversity-oriented texts (or any other texts for that matter) are not mandated. In fact, per Smith and Anderson, the fact that the Common Core appears to allow flexibility in text selection may contribute to “an ongoing process of ‘educational genocide’.”
Regardless of whether one likes Common Core or not, or even whether one simply does not care, it feels long past time that this type of critique was forcibly retired. Yes, it’s hard to argue against proposed education policy in a state like New York if you argue that, well, the policy would make teachers do their jobs (and we can’t have that!) or that Glenn Beck’s criticisms of the policy in question are valid and worthy of consideration (it’s New York, not Texas). But something being “hard” is far too often used to visit the “racism” well and tar other people for what pretty clearly seem to be well-intentioned motives.
Say what you will about Jeb Bush or Bobby Jindal, but it’s not reasonable to accuse them of promoting “educational genocide” though it is plausible to believe leveling that accusation provides a useful cover for trying to ensure teachers can have jobs for life and routine pay increases where, say, they don’t actually do their jobs.