Summer months in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) are typically the time for six weeks of summer school classes and Board of Education votes on the upcoming school year budget and programs. It is also generally a quieter time where all SDUSD Stakeholders have a chance to reflect on the previous school year and prepare for new school next year challenges.
One of the new school year challenges will be the implementation of school board approved ethnic studies along and anti-racism training for Students, Teachers and Staff.
This Sunday Reads provides an excellent article by Mr. Kwame Sarfo-Mensah on how to perceive the principals of “Critical Race Lens to Your Practice”.
We will show how the concept of a “Critical Race Lens” should not be restricted to implementation by just the rank and file district employees and Students but also applied to the SDUSD Board of Education.
We have decided to post this article in its entirety but strongly urge our readers to click on the title (in red) and read the full article and others in Education Post for themselves.
Article in its entirety:
In education, we have a tendency to overcomplicate things by getting caught up with sophisticated academic jargon for things that, I believe, are common sense. Differentiation, culturally relevant pedagogy, scaffolding … the list goes on and on. We can now add critical race theory (CRT) to the list of these terms.
Although I firmly believe that critical race theory provides a necessary lens for how racism shows up in our school systems, I’ve come to realize that the term itself has become a huge distraction for many of us educators. The reason why is because many of us are intimidated by our lack of expertise in the field and spending too much time worrying and scrambling to figure out how to use the theory in our schools. Additionally, the racist gaslighting and fearmongering tactics by right-wingers and conservatives have placed many of us in a perpetual and unnecessary state of “analysis paralysis.”
EVEN THOUGH MANY OF US ARE NOT SCHOLARS OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY, WE HAVE ALWAYS TAUGHT OUR STUDENTS AND FOUGHT FOR THEM IN THE SPIRIT OF THE THEORY.
I’m here to you that we’re totally overthinking this and giving way too much power to these politicians. Here’s why: Even though many of us are not scholars of critical race theory, we have always taught our students and fought for them in the spirit of the theory. We may not know all the tenets of the theory and we may not have read all the books from the theory’s founding scholars, but I can assure you that we have already been incorporating critical race theory principles into our practice in more ways than we probably realize.
I still encourage you to spend a portion of your summer break reading up on critical race theory texts and deepening your understanding of what it is. Although being a critical race scholar is not a requirement, reading a few CRT books will only help your cause. If you are still unsure about whether you’re applying a critical race lens to your teaching practice after reading all of this, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you actively challenging racist policies and protocols that marginalize students of color in your school?
- When determining curricular resources (ex. books, articles) to use in the classroom, particularly those centered around BIPOC, are you taking the time to assess for bias, as well as the historical accuracy and cultural validity of the content?
- Are you making the conscious effort to continually check your implicit bias at the door when teaching, engaging with, and disciplining your students of color?
- When teaching from a required curriculum that is racist and problematic, are you actively finding innovative ways to teach the curriculum in a way that is culturally sustaining and authentically speaks to the lived experiences of your students of color?
- If you have emergent bilingual learners in your class, are you actively engaging in translanguaging practices that view their native tongue as a necessary asset that is instrumental to their development as English language learners?
- Are you assessing the intellectual capabilities of your students of color through a deficit-based lens or focus more on their potential to thrive academically?
- Do you provide a safe space in your classroom for students to engage in open and honest conversations about race and racism?
- When you see a co-worker or colleague engage in a racist action on school grounds, are you calling in that colleague to educate them on why the action is racist and how they can change the behavior to not impose racial harm on others?
THE LITTLE THAT WE DO KNOW ABOUT CRT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR US TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AGAINST THE EMBEDDED RACISM IN OUR SCHOOLS.
Your responses to these questions will help you in building a personalized game plan for how you intend to strengthen your critical race lens to challenge racist practices within your school. This erroneous belief that we have to be critical race scholars before engaging in antiracist work breeds a perfectionist mindset that keeps us in a state of inaction. Instead of wasting our time worrying about what we don’t know about critical race theory, let’s shift our mental focus to what we already know. Believe it or not, the little that we do know about CRT is more than enough for us to take immediate action against the embedded racism in our schools.
Let’s block all the political noise and channel our energy into the work.
DISTRICT DEEDS ANALYSIS:
This article and other articles in the local press covering both the approval of ethnic studies funding and protests against it have primarily focused on how Students, Teachers and other district personnel should learn and deploy the concepts of ethnic studies and anti-racism education and training including Critical Race Theory (CRT).
These articles primarily emphasize the application of these concepts to the teaching “practice” and the impact on Students.
Through online research we have found no articles that hold a school board accoutable for applying these concepts to the disctrict leadership “practice:.
We have repurposed that eight item list of questions for Trustee President Richard “Tricky Dick” Barrera and answered those questions for him based on his actions during his term in office.
Here we go…
1. Are you actively challenging racist policies and protocols that marginalize students of color in the schools you represent?
During his term in office, Barrera has done everything to increase hos own political power at the expense of the marginalized students of color in the schools he represents. From allowing improper direct intervention by Board Members into school site management subverting Principals of color to pushing the SDEA contract on Gompers Prep for political gain, Barrera has sold out the marginalized students of color hundreds of times for his own political and financial gain.
2. When determining curricular resources (ex. books, articles) to use in the classroom, particularly those centered around BIPOC, are you taking the time to assess for bias, as well as the historical accuracy and cultural validity of the content?
In the 2021 Summer School Curriculum there are a grand total of ZERO school board mandated “curricular resources” for the thousands of Students participating. The only items even remotely mandated by the shallow, 3 week summer school “experience” is “Poster Paper” and “markers, crayons and colored pencils. The 3 week 2021 Summer School “Experience” is a total sham and seriously damaging to Students who need the most help and Barrera has led the approval process for this sham.
With that track record on a simple deployment of Summer School, Barrera has ZERO credibility to oversee and enforce the rollout of any BIPOC (black, indigenous, (and) people of color) initiative.
3. Are you making the conscious effort to continually check your implicit bias at the door when making decisions as a Trustee of the SDUSD?
The primary bias of Barrera is solely based on political power and financial gain and while totally neglecting Students of color and their communities. If his focus was based on the equity needs of students and communities, how could he have personally promoted and supported the Superintendent disaster of Cindy Marten to create a districts where “Racial Issues are Alive and Well in San Diego Unified“?
4. When approving a required curriculum that is racist and problematic, are you actively finding innovative ways to demand the adjustment of the curriculum in a way that is culturally sustaining and authentically speaks to the lived experiences of your students of color?
In fact Barrera, a person of color himself has actively allowed “racist and problematic” curriculum in the 13 years since he was elected in 2008. In an April, 2019 article from the local press:
“It has been nearly four years since the school board approved a resolution ordering an ethnic studies committee to explore implementing ethnic studies for all San Diego Unified students.”
Barrera was elected in 2008, created a committee in 2015, created funding with no plan in 2019 and approved funding again in June, 2021.
In other words, it has taken Barrera 13 years to finally implement an ethnic studies plan and is only doing so now for propaganda purposes to counter the massive exposure of SDUSD racist actions during the #NoMarten protests.
5. If you have emergent bilingual learners in your district, are you actively engaging in translanguaging practices that view their native tongue as a necessary asset that is instrumental to their development as English language learners?
Barrera voted in favor of the the removal of English Language Support Teachers (ELST) that were a critical part of engaging “emergent bilingual learners”. Why would we expect Barrera to do anything different now with a propaganda motivated ethnic studies initiative that he took 13 years to implement?
6. Are you assessing the intellectual capabilities of your communities of color Stakeholders through a deficit-based lens or focus more on their potential to thrive academically?
Promoting the SDEA intervention into Gompers Prep proves how Barrera views communities of color Stakeholders through a deficit-based lens. Gompers is a clear example of successful activism and support driven by a strong community belief in the potential of their children to thrive academically and socially without SDEA limiting interventions and restrictions.
Barrera has backed the SDEA in every single way possible to ensure his re-election with SDEA money and endorsements. Barrera picking the SDEA over the Gompers community is just another betrayal to add to the long list.
7. Do you provide a safe space in your school district for stakeholders to to engage in open and honest conversations about race and racism?
Barrera was the main driver of eliminating the “safe space” of public comment at the beginning of every SDUSD Board of Education meeting. After massive negative reaction, he has now replaced that beginning public comment by spearheading a ridiculous. useless propaganda campaign called “Boost Democracy” by using text message notifications.
The real solutions to establish a “safe space in your school district for stakeholders to to engage in open and honest conversations about race and racism” is restoring at the beginning of every board meeting the opportunity for stakeholder public comment on both agenda and non agenda items either in person or remotely.
Instead we are provided an ill advised texting plan…a watered down community involvement propaganda vehicle supported by the media hungry usual suspects that love to see themselves on TV or in the news.
The only “safe space” for community stakeholders “open and honest conversations” about race, racism or anything else in the SDUSD under Barrera will be when he is removed from office.
8. When you see a co-worker or colleague engage in a racist action on school grounds, are you calling in that colleague to educate them on why the action is racist and how they can change the behavior to not impose racial harm on others?
Barrera improperly recruited, appointed and renewed the contract of the most racist and racially damaging superintendent administration in the history of the SDUSD and then helped her get promoted to do more damage nationally. He cannot be relied upon to make any changes that do not suit him politically/financially no matter what the collateral damage is to a generation of SDUSD Students, Families and Employees.
With these 8 questions and answers we have been able to show how far away we are from being able “to take immediate action against the embedded racism in our schools.”
We urge ALL our readers to do the following 4 simple things to eliminate racism and improve education in the SDUSD for ALL Students:
- Force the SDUSD and Board of Education to be fully honest.
- Force the SDUSD and Board of Education to be fully transparent.
- Force the SDUSD and Board of Education to be fully accountable.
- Take action through protests, Uniform Complaints, Federal Complaints, Grand Jury investigations, public comments and every other legal means possible to force the first 3 actions.
We can do this together!
Now for our quote of the week dedicated to the power and voice of our communities:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the right daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a
reality….I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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