Teachers questioned how they could teach history and social studies through a social justice lens without rankling parents in the 'highly conservative county ... in the middle of Trump country.'
The curriculum-writing team in a suburban St. Louis school district plotted with a critical race theory advocate on how to keep parents in the dark about their efforts to inject leftwing social justice advocacy into their classrooms, according to a video of their meeting leaked online.
The video, posted on rumble.com in early July, is alleged to be a condensed version of a September 2020 webinar that members of the Francis Howell School District’s curriculum-writing team participated in. The webinar was hosted by their equity consultant, LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri. He was described on the call as a specialist in the study of “race, critical theories and knowledge.”
It’s unclear who edited the video, which appears to have been posted anonymously by someone with the online moniker “wokeatfhsd.”
During the webinar, King told the predominantly white team members that “This is not a safe space,” but rather a “racialized space,” because “In many ways a safe space is a space where white people tell us how not racist they are. And this is not that space.”
King said “the first thing we have to understand is that our social studies and our history curriculum is political and racist,” and “there is no such thing as neutral history.” He then asked the team members to question whether they are developing black history curriculums through the historical lens of the oppressor. “We have made those who have oppressed people, the oppressor, we have humanized them,” he said.
The nation’s founding “means nothing to black people,” he said, calling history “psychologically violent” but one-sided. He also seemed to justify violence in the name of racial justice.
“All of our wars was about freedom, violence,” King said. “But yet, when black people say, ‘Hey … we need to take over, man. We need to burn this place down, we need to do this, we need to do that.’ ‘Oh no, you should do non-violence to achieve freedom.’ It’s silly. It’s prejudice.”
During a question-and-answer portion of the webinar, teachers and staff on the call questioned how they could reframe their classes to look at history and social studies through a more racialized social justice lens without rankling parents in the “highly conservative” community, which one teacher described as “the middle of Trump country.” King agreed that teachers could do away with verbiage like “white privilege,” while still getting the progressive message across to students.
One white teacher on the call said she’s been teaching about white privilege for a decade.
“Kids are way more open,” she said, “but then they go home and they tell their parents, and then their parents get upset. I don’t advertise to my students when I’m teaching U.S. history that sometimes I would consider myself the anti-U.S. history teacher.”
Another white teacher said because they teach in a conservative county, “Sometimes I think we have deferred to letting that stop progress. We let noise keep progress from moving forward.”
In a paper he co-authored in 2018, King acknowledged that critical theory was developed in the 1920s by German thinkers who “sought to extend Marxist theory into the changing social, political, and economic landscape of the twentieth century by talking about how culture and ideology encourage and sustain social inequality.” In order to “remain true to critical pedagogy,” the authors wrote, “teachers should work to identify questions that are important to students’ lives and that encourage them to reflect on the ways that they are either privileged or oppressed by social dynamics.”
While the district’s teachers have privately discussed their efforts teach students through a decidedly progressive social justice lens, school leaders have publicly denied this is occurring. At a recent school board meeting, superintendent Nathan Hoven said the district has not adopted critical race theory into the framework of its curriculum. “We are not and have no interest in advancing any political agenda,” he said.
“While we support the work and many of Dr. King’s contributions, we vehemently disagree with any suggestions that teachers or staff hide the work we’re doing from parents and taxpayers,” the district told National Review in a statement provided by spokeswoman Jennifer Jolls. “We always strive to make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of students, and do so in a way that is transparent and accessible to all stakeholders.”
School board members recently voted to approve black history and black literature courses as high school electives, according to local media reports. “Students and parents requested these courses be added to the curriculum and we are proud to offer them for those who choose to expand their learning on these topics,” the district said in its statement.