It’s popping up across the country and right here in Rhode Island, and it’s likely to come to your town soon.
Three school districts have received demands from local taxpayers through massive APRA (Access to Public Records Act) requests for documentation on school curriculum. And at least two districts are reacting horribly. If the pace keeps up, we could have a social crisis across the entire state public school system.
It’s about race, specifically, “Critical Race Theory.” There is mounting worry, some say at least spotty evidence, that the curriculum is running wild with unchecked educators developing a stealthy mix of anti-white messaging strewn throughout the school day in the form of both formal and informal teaching.
It’s a part of the culture wound that many white Americans suffered during the Obama years with the scab ripped off when Donald Trump was elected. When it comes to the schools, angry accusations are that our kids are being fed perpetual and non-debatable “woke” thought without parental knowledge or approval.
Is it true and is it really a movement? And if so, is there a legitimate need to widen history and work on diversity?
Hard to tell, because there is no transparency.
When a local woman in South Kingstown peppered the School Committee with questions about the curriculum that her soon-to-be kindergarten-aged daughter would be facing, she was told to file her questions in writing. So, she asked for hundreds of documents through the APRA process, which by the letter of the law requires response within 10 days. The school system employees freaked out over the workload to respond, the School Committee chairwoman reacted immaturely and threatened to sue the woman and accused her of being part of a national racist movement.
When a local man in Westerly did much of the same with his School Committee, he was met with a $9,300 bill for the “calculated cost “of generating written response. Seems calmer, but an irresponsible and disrespectful stall tactic nonetheless.
Granted, the two separate APRA requests were over the top and the side show national and local media drama has inflamed dysfunction. But these people and all of us deserve answers.
And we need to take the temperature down.
South Kingstown, Westerly and every other school district in the state should prepare and publish dates for written and verbal presentations on how the issue of race and related subjects are being treated in the entire pre-K to12 curriculum. There should be nothing to hide and the mindset should inform and welcome discussion. This stuff is hard by its nature, so the expectation should be that it will be a grind.
Big picture, the Rhode Island Department of Education should be working on a state policy on same. RIDE is notorious for its educational mandates and certifications that come with seminars for educators. It’s time it comes out of the corner, train and lead and take the pressure off the districts who are caught in their own pressure cooker.
Parents and all taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on inside the school walls. Many false arguments that race and related topics should be exempt from curriculum will be exposed and deeply subdued when we actually all know exactly what is being taught and with what patience for differing points of view, consistency and quality control.
We’re not advancing the human condition with “gotcha” public records demands that are met with elected bodies responding with their best “gotcha” right back.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on MyRITV/Fox Providence and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC