In mid-February 2023, administrators at an elementary school in Springfield, Ohio, called the police to intervene in a racially charged incident on the playground. According to the police report, a group of black students forced several white students to say “black lives matter” against their will.
Around the same time in Orlando, Florida, a teacher at Howard Middle School created and posted to his personal social media account a demeaning skit using students from his classroom. In it, white students bowed to their black classmates, feeding them snacks and fanning them. The teacher, now on administrative leave, captioned the video: “Black History Month. The shortest month of the Year.” Critical race theory is permeating public education across the country and aggravating racial hostilities, even among elementary school children.
At the end of February, sixth-grade teachers at Hunt Valley Elementary School in Fairfax County discussed heightened racial tensions with their students. There had been reports of racial slurs used on the playground. One teacher, in particular, told her students that the faculty instructs in detail about the living conditions of enslaved Africans to foster a sense of empathy among children. But it seems that the hyper-focus on racial differences in both primary and secondary education widens the racial chasm.
Across Fairfax County, elementary schools have replaced a standardized test for fourth-graders regarding Virginia’s colonial history with a critical race theory project. No longer are Fairfax County schools assessing students’ knowledge of Virginia’s settling and our nation’s founding. Rather, standards of learning have been reduced to intimate knowledge of the living conditions of different races. The project focuses in particular on the life of the white gentry versus enslaved Africans in the 1700s.
Aside from the critical race theory lessons at all levels in Fairfax County Public Schools, student groups work with the district’s several “equity officers” to present racially divisive material to their peers. On Jan. 30, 2023, students at West Springfield High School (WSHS) were forced to watch a disturbingly racist video on microaggressions, in the name of equity education. In the video, white people were illustrated as cartoon mosquitos taking bites out of nonwhite people with their microaggressions. In response, at the end of the video, the nonwhite people eventually exterminated them with flame throwers.
On Feb. 22, 2023, at the same high school, there was an assembly in honor of Black History Month. During the WSHS assembly, the black student association put on several skits, none of which were based on history. Rather, during the skits, the one white student member in the club repeatedly acted racist toward the black students, saying things such as, “All black people look alike.” These skits portrayed black students as victims of racism and the police, and the white student as the perpetrator.
Across Fairfax County, at Langley High School, students watched a Columbus Day PowerPoint presentation in October 2022 that mentioned the explorer only three times. Instead, activists seized the opportunity to make the day about “equity and inclusion.” One of the slides reads: “Take a moment to reflect independently on the ways in which Native Americans are subject to racial discrimination and/or insensitivity and why that is commonplace in American society.” This question might be a good one for the family dinner table, but it doesn’t belong in the classroom.
These lessons are not only in clear violation of Gov. Youngkin’s Executive Order 1 regarding teaching divisive concepts, but they are counterproductive for relationships among our children.
Consider Jane Elliot’s 1968 blue eye/brown eye experiment. She told her third-grade classroom that people with brown eyes are superior to those with blue eyes. Elliot then had the brown-eyed children place construction paper armbands on their blue-eyed classmates. The blue-eyed children weren’t allowed to drink directly from the water fountain, have second helpings at lunch, or play on the jungle gym or swings at recess. She also instructed the blue-eyed children to not do their homework, because they probably wouldn’t remember to bring it back to school even if they completed it. The brown-eyed children quickly internalized the message from their teacher and started to act aggressively toward their blue-eyed classmates. During her highly unethical experiment, Elliot switched the roles of the students, and the results were the same.
When people with authority, such as schoolteachers and administrators, tell children that one group is the oppressor and the other is oppressed, children tend to listen. These critical race theory lessons are fostering anger and aggression instead of empathy among children.
Teachers and administrators need to stick to the “three Rs” of education. Social and racial politics must be under the jurisdiction of families, not public education.
This article has been corrected since publication.