Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.
When some 200 parents crowded into a highly charged, heated Loudoun County, Virginia school board hearing on June 22nd to air their displeasure with curricula and teaching in area schools, they were expressing the same discontent that parents across the country have more increasingly begun to feel as they witness the radical ideology that informs much of public-school education today. Though one teacher did give a powerful statement on how she disagreed with the hijacking of education by a core group of teachers with a leftist, extreme ideology, the school board, and presumably a majority of the district’s teachers, were obdurate in their defense of current practices in public school education.
At hand in this case was a debate about transgender policy proposals requiring Loudoun County Public Schools employees to use students’ preferred names or pronouns. The use of artificial pronouns, randomly chosen by children or adults who arbitrarily decide to shift their gender, and the whole emphasis on transgender rights and how they impact decisions about school bathrooms, among other items, is part of the chronic indoctrination taking place in schools where woke teachers, captivated by paroxysms of tolerance, virtue signaling, and political correctness, have attempted to deflect parental opposition and tailor instruction so that students receive a highly-politicized, radical education—much of what passes for learning being little more than in-school training for activism and a new generation obsessed with race and their role as either oppressed or oppressor,
The scene at the Loudoun County meeting has been playing out with increasing frequency around the country, with parents expressing similar sentiment about their unhappiness with the content and ideology behind much of what passes today as pedagogy. Rather than being understanding of parents’ concerns, teachers and school boards are increasingly combative, pushing back against parental complaints, rejecting suggestions for more transparency with curricula and teaching materials, and expressing outright indignation at the notion that parents—the very taxpayers who pay the salaries for teachers and bloated school system bureaucracies—should push back against the practices of the Nanny State, a society in which the government, not the family, instructs on morality, culture, race, sexuality, and faith—much more than the reading, writing, and arithmetic that public school education was nominally created to teach.
More troubling is the fact that educators keep pushing the boundaries of acceptable content for curricula, widely incorporating, as one current problematic topic, critical race theory (CRT) into teaching so that black students are taught they are victims and oppressed by virtue of their blackness alone and white children taught that they are the privileged oppressors by virtue of the color of their skin.
CRT has gained traction by race-obsessed educators seeking “restorative justice” or racial equity, with the unproven assumption that making permanent victims out of minority students and guilt-tripping white kids because of their alleged privilege somehow ameliorates and transcends racism, but many are unconvinced that CRT is anything more than leftist ideology designed to shift power to marginalized groups by maligning and labeling the white majority as irredeemable racists.
The obsession with race in public school instruction gained even more oxygen with the ascent of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the renewed focus on racial injustices exposed by the death last year of George Floyd gave new urgency and justification to further indoctrinating children about racism, and, after several of the high-profile police shootings of black suspects, law enforcement’s interaction with black America.
As part of National Black Lives Matter at School Week, an ethnic studies “Identity Lesson” from the Seattle Public School system, for example, “Do Black Lives Matter in America?,” designed for use with 4th and 5th graders, had the obviously biased theme of “Police Violence” and was clearly designed to instill in young minds a mistrust of and contempt for police officers.
The lesson plan instructs that “Students will use current statistical data to determine whether black people are being treated fairly by American law enforcement” after they have been helpfully provided with a one-sided view of police-involved shootings on a website called Mapping Police Violence, in which police enforcing the law, of course, is characterized as “violence.” The elementary school children led to the inflammatory website discover in bold headlines that “Police have killed 482 people in 2021,” “Black people are most likely to be killed by police,” “Police violence is changing over time,” “Police killed Black people at higher rates than white people in 47 of the 50 largest US cities,” “There is no accountability” for police who shoot black suspects, and even if black criminals are committing crimes, so-called police violence is actually “not about crime” because “Levels of violent crime in US cities do not determine rates of police violence.”
Is this a productive and useful message to drill into young students’ minds: that police are predominantly racist murderers who randomly kill black young men without any justification? That there is an epidemic of so-called police violence in America’s urban centers that focuses almost exclusively on black suspects?
Is mistrust of law enforcement a positive message for any students, and especially for black students in inner-city neighborhoods where their interaction with police officers is statistically more likely? Will not these preconceived, ill-advised, and factually incorrect attitudes about police behavior be likely to make black adolescents disrespect law enforcement? Might it subtly encourage them to resist arrest in the event they are stopped and questioned? Make them more apt to believe that criminal behavior is justifiable if the law enforcement establishment is itself immoral, murderous, dangerous to minorities, and acts in illegal ways on a regular basis?
In fact, the narrative that white police officers are killing unarmed, innocent young black men at a rate that is excessive and based on racism is a complete inversion of the truth. There are approximately 10 million arrests annually and out of that number only 1000 suspects are shot and killed by police; a Washington Post database indicated that actually, since 2015, ninety-one percent of black men killed in police shootings were armed and that only 2% of the victims of police shootings were unarmed black men.
The Washington Post’s database also revealed that, far from there being an epidemic of killings by police of unarmed black people, as the media and BLM movement have been widely and loudly claiming, in 2019, there were actually only 14 unarmed black victims (compared to 25 unarmed white victims). And those 14 black victims, while being unarmed, may well have been resisting arrest, assaulting the police officer, going for a weapon, or about to harm either himself or others. That they were unarmed did not mean they were not engaged in, or had previously been engaged in, criminal behavior.
Apparently, the conclusion that teachers wish children to come to, revealed by the Seattle lesson plan as one example, is that there is widespread, blatant racism in the behavior of white police officers that compels them to use disproportionate deadly force against black people in an unjust, illegal, immoral way.
There is, of course, an alternate interpretation of those facts, one which is actually the truthful conclusion that one would come to when honestly reviewing that data. Black people, it is true, are only 13% of the U.S. population, but they also make up 60% of prison populations. Are those high numbers the result of racism on the part of the entire criminal justice system, including police officers, or could it be something else? Could it be that black men are killed in interactions with law enforcement because they are more likely to be involved in criminal activity? That would also explain why they are over-represented in prison populations, as well. But this has nothing to do with the racism of white police officers and everything to do with the behavior of black men.
So, instead of having an elaborate graph indicating the national locations of police shootings where a black person was shot, educators’ way of driving home this misleading and false narrative of police racism toward black people, it might have been just as instructive, for instance, to have a graph indicating the frequency and location of shootings where black people were killed, not by police, but by other black people. Unlike the minuscule percentage of instances where white police killed black men, the percentage of black people killed by other black people, according to the FBI’s Universal Crime Report, is a staggering 90%.
Instead of instilling fear in impressionable children about murderous police officers looking for black victims, they may be better served by understanding that black-on-black crime is a far more grievous and prevalent problem than the rare, though still unfortunate, instances when unarmed suspects are shot by the police. In Cook County, home to Chicago, for example, out of the 875 victims who died from gun violence last year, 78% were black, even though only slightly more than 26% of Cook County’s residents are black. A 2019 report by the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute noted that while the number of adolescents killed by a firearm in Chicago in 2016 was approximately three times the national rate, for Chicago’s young black men between the ages of 15 and 19, that rate was nearly 50 times the national rate between 2013 and 2017.
Perhaps some of these young black men, who frequently grow up in fatherless homes (estimated to include over 57% of black children) and join gangs as part of their adolescent development, would be less likely to enter that life and embrace criminal behavior if they were taught personal responsibility, morality, a striving for academic and professional success, and a desire to become a productive member of society instead of being indoctrinated in classrooms by counter-factual information about an endemically racist, murderous law enforcement system which is not to be trusted and which has malign intentions whenever it interacts with the black community.
Obviously, police brutality, and especially if it is inspired by racism, is something that should be universally denounced, just as it generally is—including by law enforcement itself which does not wish for its ranks to be tarnished by the misbehavior of a very few bad actors. But an elementary school curriculum that portrays all law enforcement as being capriciously violent; that asserts white police officers target and disfavor black suspects in the enforcement of justice; that suggests that police officers unnecessarily use deadly, dangerous tactics against suspects during arrests, particularly with black suspects; that promotes the notion that incarcerated minorities are in prison without justification and as a result of their skin color; that lends credibility to the naïve and dangerous idea that “restorative justice” requires defunding police departments and substituting them with some kinder, gentler form of social protection; and that convinces black children to never trust law enforcement and the justice system because it is irredeemably racist and will never treat them fairly—all of these ideas, clearly articulated in the Seattle school system example, serve absolutely no purpose in helping minority children prepare for roles as citizens in what should be a color-blind society.
When did it become the appropriate role of public school teachers to be social activists who promote a left-wing, radical view of law enforcement to impressionable children? Why are these biased, toxic views of police being taught at all to grammar school-aged children, particularly when so much of the content is either lacking context, contorted, or counter-factual? Why the obsessive focus on black interaction, and only black interaction, with law enforcement and the one-sided approach which vilifies and condemns white officers?
If teachers want to assume the responsibility for teaching morals and tolerance, they might better concentrate on building a child’s self-esteem in a way that, instead of labeling them as a perennial victim in a racist society controlled by white privilege, encourages the development of productive individuals with the ability to embrace opportunity in a color-blind society in which they can prosper and co-exist with their non-minority peers.
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