“Critical Race Theory” blasted its way into the headlines with the release of The New York Times’s “1619 Project.” The racial unrest of 2020 further catapulted the theory into the limelight as schools all over the country are eager to adopt it using the mold provided by Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist.
One brave student stood up to the establishment. He refused to go along with the nonsense. William Clark and his mother, Gabrielle Clark, are suing Democracy Prep AC in a Clark County, Nevada court.
Turning Toward Intolerance
For decades, America’s schools presented themselves as the protector of free expression. All the while, they grew increasingly less tolerant of traditional ideas and methods. This was one factor that impelled me to take early retirement from my public school teaching position in 2018.
Throughout the debate, I have wondered about the reactions of students to Critical Race Theory. From my perch now outside the system, I asked myself how students, especially Christian students, would fare under anti-racist ideologues.
Thanks to William Clark, the answer emerges. It is not a pretty picture.
Mr. Clark is a high school senior, set to graduate in spring 2021.
When he entered the school, Democracy Prep bore the name of tennis star Andre Agassi. He had set up a foundation to “provide underserved youth in Las Vegas with a quality K-12 education to prepare for excellence in college and beyond.”
That language appealed to Gabrielle Clark, a black woman whose white husband died shortly after William’s birth. She enrolled him there as a sixth-grade student in 2014. Since the student body is virtually all black, William has the lightest skin color in his class, a factor that led to the incident that triggered the lawsuit.
Caught in an “Anti-Racist” Vortex
In 2016, a national consortium based in New York City, Democracy Prep Public Schools, Inc., took over the Agassi school’s charter. Democracy Prep Public Schools, Inc. claims to be “a network of open-enrollment, high-performing, public charter schools” that aims to “educate responsible citizen-scholars for success in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship.”
The CEO of Democracy Prep Public Schools is Natasha Trivers. According to the complaint, “Natasha Trivers began implementing a very different ‘civics’ curriculum, although the generic name and syllabus provided to parents remained the same. Parents at DPAC were not made aware of the ideological turn in curriculum…. Trivers’ [sic] new DPPS curriculum inserted consciousness-raising and conditioning exercises under the banner of ‘Intersectionality’ and ‘Critical Race Theory.’ … [P]arents… like Gabrielle Clark were not aware of the turn towards coercive, ideological indoctrination until they began seeing the detrimental effects it worked upon their children.”
“Anti-Racism” in Action
William had the misfortune to be in a required class called “The Sociology of Change,” taught by Kathryn Bass. It proved to be a nightmare to the Christian boy. According to Schoolhouse Rights, the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is assisting the Clarks, “The student and his mother argue that he was coerced, under a ‘Critical Race Theory / Intersectionality’-based curriculum, to make statements contrary to his personal conscience and beliefs, and he was retaliated against when he objected conscientiously.”
For example, the DPPS curriculum required students to identify themselves according to a specific set of criteria and then align those identifications with the terms “Privilege” or “Oppressive.”
Kathryn Bass thoughtfully provided an example titled “Ms. Bass’ Identities.”
- Race/ethnicity/nationality: White, Irish, American Citizen – Privilege
- Gender: Female – Oppressive
- Socioeconomic status: Working-class – Oppressive
- Sexual Orientation: Bisexual – Both Privilege and Oppressive
- Disabilities: Mental Health – Both Privilege and Oppressive
- Religion: Agnostic – Oppressive
- Age: 22 – Both Privilege and Oppressive
- Language: English – Privilege
The Sins of the Fathers, Visited Upon the Sons
This process follows a concept known as “intersectionality.” Every person has an intersection of traits that plots their position as members of a privileged or oppressed class. Being lighter-skinned than his classmates, as well as Christian, heterosexual, and male, William was supposedly “privileged.”
Further, the teacher implied that William’s white father had committed a “real-life interpersonal oppression” upon his black mother. The classroom materials claim this was a double strike because “interpersonal sexism is what men do to women” and “interpersonal racism is what white people do to people of color close up.” Families “reinforce racist/homophobic prejudices.” She called his Christianity an oppressive ideology against which he should “fight back” and “unlearn.”
William objected. Miss Bass told him that his objections only confirmed his role as an oppressor.
Gabrielle Clark swung into action. She spoke to the teacher, who refused to relent. She talked to the principal, Adam Johnson, who backed up the teacher. She took it to the local Democracy Prep school board, which defended Mr. Johnson. Finally, she shared her concerns with the national DPPS organization, which stated its support for the curriculum.
William received a failing grade for the course.
A Highly Unusual Response
While educational bureaucracies generally back their own., this case is very unusual. During my teaching career, my colleagues and I were expected to dance carefully around our students’ mental states. Student “self-esteem” always prevailed over the content of the course. Any teacher conduct that a student found threatening would land the teacher in the office to be examined and warned. Principals bent over backward to appease parents.
Even in the rare instance in which the teacher is shown to be totally right and the student to be absolutely wrong, the usual attitude is to find some “accommodation” for the student that avoids “escalating the conflict.”
Moreover, schools will do almost anything to avoid lawsuits. Using public resources to litigate a losing case is anathema to them. Any objective legal analysis indicates that Democracy Prep is on very shaky ground. The school not only discriminated against Mr. Clark by giving him a failing grade, but the teacher held him up to ridicule.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this situation is the school’s open embrace of Critical Race Theory. With Covid mandated “distance learning,” parents like Gabrielle could review the materials they found objectionable. The Clarks have copies of these presentations because they came into William’s computer.
Time to Defend Our Children
Hopefully, the judges who hear William Clark’s case will protect his rights and innocence.
Unfortunately, this issue is not limited to public schools. In the world of “woke,” private and parochial schools are all-too-often more progressive than their public counterparts.
Recently, the National Catholic Educational Association hosted a virtual panel discussion called For a Time Like This: The Catholic School Response to Systemic Racism. Its participants were willing, even eager, to acknowledge that the Catholic schools played a role in creating the conditions that the Critical Race Theorists disparage.
Perhaps it is time for NCEA to do their homework. The correct message is that Catholic doctrine has always opposed racism. In fact, the Church provides the easiest, quickest, and safest path to just and harmonious relations between the various races and ethnicities. Based, as it is, on the Love of God for all people, it is as far removed from the hateful Marxist overtones of Critical Race Theory as Heaven is from hell.
The William Clarks of the world are too precious to abandon to Dr. Kendi’s corrupt and racist philosophy. I hope and pray he wins.
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