There’s a movement in public schools across the country from Maine to California purporting to improve race relations. To this retired teacher, however, it’s more likely to make them worse.

A week ago, the Washington Free Beacon reported: “The San Diego Unified School District required teachers to attend a ‘white privilege’ training session in which they had to say they were racist and ‘confront’ their privilege.”

It’s not just in California that teachers are being instructed like this. Similar things are happening right here in Maine. “Diversity Trainers” across the country are collecting enormous fees for telling teachers they’re racist and, “You are upholding racist ideas, structures and policies.”

The Free Beacon article didn’t say whether any teachers objected. Nowhere could I find reports that any San Diego teachers spoke up in opposition to this “training.” I certainly would have. When I was subjected to previous politically-correct “in-service training” regimens and the presenter asked: “Are there any comments or questions?” I always had some, but I was always the only one. Public school teachers are not what anyone would call courageous. Never was I forced to say I was racist, though, because the “training” hadn’t regressed to that point 10 years ago. It has now.

A typical response to today’s in-service indoctrination would be this one from North Carolina teacher Laurie Calvert, who said, “I was a racist teacher, and I didn’t even know it.” I did multiple searches looking for “teachers object to anti-racist training,” and all I got were hits from teachers who endorsed the brainwashing and self-flagellated as Laurie Calvert did back in 2017.

Ever since the George Floyd video went viral, however, this brand of “diversity training” has become a big money-maker for “diversity trainers.” According to a November report in Realclearinvestigations, “The nation’s K-12 schools have been incrementally adopting multiculturalism and ethnic studies for decades, but such courses have been the exception rather than the rule. This summer’s Black Lives Matter protests have sparked anew level of commitment, a newfound urgency, and a new trend: anti-racist pedagogy.”

Here in Maine, MSAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter attended a diversity session run by Boston-based Community Change, Inc. which is another money-making “diversity training” institution where Maine resident Shay Stewart-Bouley works as executive director.

Superintendent Porter had attended one of her workshops, was troubled by the rhetoric at first, but then thought it was wonderful and wanted all his teachers to take it. He budgeted $30,000 to pay Stewart-Bouley’s organization until there was a community backlash last June.

The fallout began when the Cumberland/North Yarmouth district’s “Equity Committee” sent out a statement to the community last June. It read, in part, “As a majority white school district, we stand in solidarity with Black Movement leaders…We will work to assess our curriculum, educate our community within and outside of our school campus, dismantle the anti-Blackness all of us have internalized by living in a society built on white supremacy, and provide tools to interrupt anti-Black racism.”

On her Facebook page called Black Girl In Maine, Stewart-Bouley declares: “Racism is not just about personal feelings; it is woven into the fabric of this nation,” and “White women benefit from the status quo … Change would require burning down that system and building a new one — one where (White women) and their children might lose the shared superiority and protection they get by being attached to powerful White men.” Stewart-Bouley claims her movement is worldwide and “wherever there are Black people, there is a fight.”

She capitalizes White and Black and that’s clearly how she sees the human race: Whites are racists and Blacks are victims. That’s quite different from Martin Luther King’s dream of not judging people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It’s also pretty clear why some MSAD 51 taxpayers objected to paying Stewart-Bouley tens of thousands to “train” its teachers. They don’t want students “trained” to believe themselves racist if they were born white.

According to a Nov. 23 Portland Press Herald article, the MSAD 51 school board has decided to drop Stewart-Bouley’s organization, Community Change, Inc. and will instead hire the University of Southern Maine for its “equity work.” To that, Stewart-Bouley said, “I am entitled to my own opinions that I can share on my personal social media.”

True enough, Ms. Stewart-Bouley, but you shouldn’t be “training” teachers.

Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell, Maine. Reach him at tommclaughlin.blogspot.com.

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(2) comments

Scott Shallcross

Teachers lack courage? My grandson started kindergarten this year. At Thanksgiving he was asked what he was thankful for- without hesitation he said, "school." His teacher is a front line line worker risking her own health and her family's health just by walking into classroom. And there are tens of thousands of teachers across the nation who put fears aside every day to educate and care for this nation's next generation. Shame on McLaughlin and I prey for the many public school teachers who have died this past year.

JeffreyH

This is a complaint, not an argument. Nowhere does Mr. McLaughlin refute the historic, systemic and structural racism of the United States or of Northern New England.

I grew up in Vermont, spent almost a decade on the west coast, then moved back east to Maine. The overt and covert racism I've witnessed in the past 30-plus years here, including the MSAD 51 issue, has been jaw-dropping, dismaying and, frankly, bipartisan.

We have a lot of work to do here in Maine and in the region, and I for one am very glad that Ms. Stewart-Bouley and organizations like hers exist and do this work.

They should not bear that burden alone. We white Mainers need to stand up and push back hard against reactionary, ahistorical prejudice -- while, yes, we exercise the courage and insight to self-examine and heal from our own racism, whether vestigial or proudly overt.

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