By Bea Wunston
Pittsboro, NC – Chatham County Schools recently implemented a required 2-day “white privilege” training for senior administrators, and a mandatory 2.5 hour equity training for all teachers and counselors.
Compulsory racially-focused training takes center stage, under the pretense of “Equity”
Since their “first full group equity team meeting” in April 2016, Chatham County Schools has adopted an ever growing focus on equity and social justice. In the weeks leading up to the start of the 2022-2023 school year, Chatham County Schools took a bold new step in their push to ensure that an “Equity” lens is forced into every classroom in the district.
While current CCS board members and administrators claim that the term “critical race theory” is not spoken aloud directly to students may be technically true, the teachings of critical pedagogy are being infused into every interaction occurring within the CCS organization. This is achieved through incremental changes to course curricula, conducting equity training for faculty and staff, and rewarding employees who display their dedication to the equity cause via awards, grants, and evaluations. Further, fear of reprisal is sown among employees, students, and members of the public who may chafe at the blatant politicization and unequal policing of speech and behavior within our public schools.
The Chatham County Schools “Equity and Excellence for Everyone (E3)” website features a list which includes Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and Courageous Conversations byGlenn E. Singleton among suggested books to read. This list of suggested resources has been present on the CCS E3 website for an extended period of time.
Seemingly no staff member who may interact with students in any significant way was neglected from this year’s list of equity trainees.
All teachers (Pre-K, K-5, Middle, High School, AIG* for all grade levels, ESL** faculty) were made to attend 2.5 hours of Equity training during the week leading up to the first day of school. School counselors were also required to participate in this training, much of which was led by Dr. Dutchess Maye of EduConsulting Firm.
All CCS school principals are required to attend “Principal Equity Lunch and Learn” events several times throughout the school year, with the first one having occurred in August 2022
Sampling of recent equity training required by Chatham County Schools.
CCS Senior Leaders leading the way.
Dr. Anthony Jackson has been Superintendent of Chatham County Schools since June 2021. Dr. Amanda Moran, née Hartness, has been Assistant Superintendent of Instruction since 2014 and reports directly to the Superintendent. Ms. Tracy Fowler, Senior Executive Director of Student Services, and Mr. Chris Poston, Senior Executive Director of Excellence and Opportunity, both are supervised directly by Dr. Moran (Org Chart, July 2022).
Current Chatham County, NC Board of Education members, who have presided over the implementation of this training, include Gary Leonard (Chair), Del Turner (Vice-Chair), David M. Hamm, Melissa Hlavac, and Jane Allen Wilson (CSS Board website).
Explicit “Critical Race Theory” and racialism at center of mandatory CCS administrator training
Images of so-called “Courageous Conversation” training, produced by Pacific Education Group, were recently shared with Chatham Monitor. This training, held over two days in early August 2022, was required for all Chatham County Schools district-level leaders. The printed workshop materials explicitly claim to be teaching trainees to put into action tenets of “Critical Race Theory” and develop “racial literacy and consciousness” (Image 2).
“Oppression,” “Entitlement,” “Racism,” “Color,” “Group,” and “Power” among vocabulary featured heavily in training documents
The word cloud image shown below gives a brief sense of the training’s emphasis through a visualization of repeated words—higher frequency words are show in larger font.
Created using WordCloud Generator by MonkeyLearn.
Please note, this word cloud graphic was generated based on a subjective survey of frequently repeated words contained in training document excerpts. Readers are encouraged to thoroughly read all training documents for themselves in order to personally determine whether or not this fairly reflects the content presented below.
Excerpts from mandatory training for CCS District Leaders – August 2022
Though it is unknown what verbal information may have been communicated in conjunction with the following printed materials, the ideological point of view communicated through the text and follow up questions is clear. It is worth noting that these images, though extensive, provide a only sample of the content included in training sessions, and therefore must be viewed as an incomplete picture.
Assumptions of White Culture
Participants were provided with the following list of stereotypical tenets of white culture shown below, including self-reliance, politeness, aggressiveness, conflict avoidance, action orientation, intentionality, rationality, cause-and-effect relationships, planning for the future, wives as homemakers, and “bland is best.” If these items are viewed as uniquely characteristic of white culture, then one wonders what language the author of this list might use to describe non-white culture.
Systemic Equity Transformation Framework
Diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) shown to include “Critical Race Theory: Tenets,” “developing racial literacy and consciousness,” “authorizing productive disequilibrium”, protocols for “talk[ing] about race and racism,” and examining beliefs that drive behaviors.
Racial Groups COVID-19 Comparison
White Privilege Exercise
Consistent with “Critical Race Theory,” this list of supposed examples of white privilege assumes that in the United States race is the primary deciding factor in every interaction or circumstance experienced by whites, and by extension also blacks. Any claim to the universality of human experience or individual responsibility is dismissed as myth.
Featured essays take aim at “Whiteness;” place blame on “entitlement” and “unawareness” of white men.
“In fact, I am convinced that racism, more so than any other technical, social or pedagogical condition, prevents us from actualizing our professional and moral obligation to develop and liberate the innate imagination and intelligence of every American.” White is a Color!, Glenn E. Singleton (Image 8).
Follow up questions include:
- “How closely does his description/definition align with your own personal concept of what it means to be White?”
- “What, if any, connections can you make between Singleton’s journey into Whiteness and your own everyday experiences as well as the experiences of people of color in your organization?”
“To contribute to an understanding of these barriers, this article describes white male entitlement, which is the converse of the institutionalized forms of oppression–racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and heterosexism–that penalize people within organizations for their membership in non-dominant cultural groups.” Entitlement, Randall B. Lindsey (Image 10).
This essay is a several page analysis of institutionalized oppression, primarily finding fault with white men.
Assigning Collective Guilt to White Men
“Thingification is something the vast majority of white people, particularly white men, never experience. Yet when confronted with this information, white men often respond by denying their individual participation in the process, and by identifying themselves, not as white men, but simply as people, something which only members of the dominant group are entitled to do.”
“Protestations to deny whiteness eliminate neither the fact nor the problem of white privilege. American culture is color-conscious. We sort people of color, to the advantage of some and detriment of others. To dissociate oneself from whiteness by affirming humanness ignores what whiteness has done and how we continue to benefit from it.” Entitlement (Image 12)
This treatise demands that individuals it claims possess “entitlement” accept the labels imposed upon them, i.e. Whiteness, white privilege, etc.. Any rejection or denial of these imposed labels is cited as evidence of unawareness and entitlement. According to this pseudo-logic, white men are culpable either way— whether they capitulate and confess to whiteness or whether they deny it.
The manipulative, circular indictment singularly directed at white males bears strong similarity to gaslighting, the “psychological manipulation of a person… that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.” (Merriam-Webster)
Further, Lindsey suggests any difficulties experienced by whites are inherently trivial, but the difficulties faced by non-whites are insurmountable without the active intervention of white educators.
“While white people do have pressures to perform, succeed, and survive, such pressures occur for heterosexual white men in a context absent the insupportable pressures of institutionalized oppression. An understanding of these pressures by all educators, particularly those in the most powerful groups in American society, is the foundation for creating a school system that addresses the needs of children as members of groups capable of learning rather than members of groups with deficiencies which limit their full participation in school or society.” Entitlement (Image 12)
Lindsey expects educators he claims are part of “the most powerful groups,” i.e. white teachers, must actively create school systems which compensate for institutionalized oppression. The assumed needs of students teachers personally perceive as non-white, and therefore oppressed, must be uniquely addressed to achieve theoretical parity with white students, who are conversely assumed to experience no notable deficiencies or limits.
Day Two of training included a list of 10 separate areas of inquiry into Whiteness, including unconscious bias, systemic racism, white culture, and formulation of a “personal action plan.”
Three Tiers of Courageous Conversation (R)
On this page, after recalling personal racial experiences and pursuing conversation, trainees are led to question their “beliefs about [their] own association with and relationship with racial privilege and power.”
What is Whiteness?
A great amount of effort has been put into specifying characteristics or states of being and attributing them to whites. Prescriptive exercises help white trainees cope with and make amends for their whiteness.
What does it mean to be White in Consciousness?
Here we see content centered around the implication that whites have the luxury of being unconscious of race, but non-whites do not. However, a sensible skeptic might ask if these assertions hold up to careful scrutiny. Who exactly is intolerant, fragile, uncomfortable, racist, or in need of humility? Presenting such bold, broad stereotypes about racial groups necessitates equally compelling justification, but such grounded reasoning seems largely absent. Perhaps the creators and purveyors of this content, rather than dealing out culpability to others, could consider self-reflection and determine if an element of arrogance has crept into their own far-reaching judgements and condemnations.
This quote attributed to famous abolitionist, Fredrick Douglass, promotes agitation, but also “freedom,” a word conspicuously absent from the rest of these training excerpts.
“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”
― Frederick Douglass
Perhaps Frederick Douglass, a former slave, didn’t know he was furthering “whiteness” by claiming “hard work is the key to success” (Image 1).
Proof of success of Critical Pedagogy (CRT) takes a back seat.
Scant evidence is provided within these selected training documents to support the ideologically narrow ideas presented. The content presented excuses itself from having to justify its conclusions with any broad evidence by instead proffering highly subjective interpretations of personal interactions (White is a Color!) and/or references to earlier intellectual proponents of the same perspectives of racial oppression, such as the work of Paulo Freire (Entitlement).
Did this training include any examples of the implementation of “culturally competent” teaching practices resulting in improved educational outcomes of the racial groups which have experienced systemic oppression? Perhaps offering such concrete evidence might be considered too aligned with “white culture” by constituting “objective, rational, linear thinking,” “cause-and-effect relationships,” or “quantitative emphasis” (Image 01), and is therefore simply not necessary. One could hope the “selected references” page, named in Image 15, might provide some much needed insights into the specific backing for the sweeping arguments and unabashed narcissism being held forth as reason for remaking schools in the service of Critical Race Theory.
Regardless of the lack of external supporting evidence, what is present in the body of these training excerpts is the rehashing and re-institutionalization of racial grievances. Is that what’s best for students? You decide.
Questions to consider:
- Does the Board of Education truly believe this type of training will improve “opportunity and excellence”?
- Regardless of whether motivated by good intentions or not, is it the role of tax-payer funded public schools to inculcate and enforce adherence to any specific, radical social theory?
- Will this training reduce racial strife and tension, or increase it?
Bea Wunston makes no claim to ownership of the text contained within the photographic images in this post. We are sharing it publicly because it this content was part of mandatory training for government employees of the Chatham County, North Carolina public school system.
*AIG: “Academically and Intellectually Gifted”
** ESL: “English as a Second Language”
Included as links within body text, or as parenthetical citations referring to images.