Randi Weingarten, the gaffe-prone president of the American Federation of Teachers has outdone herself, and that isn’t easy. In a series of seven open letters over the years, I have playfully chided the union boss about her trove of inane and bizarre musings. But now she has jumped the proverbial shark.
Immediately following the National Education Association’s annual meeting, the American Federation of Teachers held an online conference, which began July 6th. As the keynote speaker, Weingarten kicked things off, and most of her 74-minute talk was typical rah-rah teacher union blather, including praise for Joe and Kamala, and the obligatory swipe at The Donald. But late in her talk, the bushwa really kicked in.
At the 60-minute mark, she described a “new culture campaign” that “some lawmakers (and Fox News) are using to distort history, limit learning and stoke fears about our public schools.
Let’s be clear: critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists—and, in particular, whether it has an effect on law and public policy.” (Emphasis added.)
I wonder how Weingarten can make such a bone-jarringly stupid statement when there is a boatload of evidence to the contrary. Just a few of the myriad examples from across the country:
- In Buffalo, students are told that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism, and kindergarteners were forced to watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence” which might kill them at any time.
- The Arizona Department of Education has created an “equity” toolkit, which claims that babies show the first signs of racism at three months old, and that white children become full racists – “strongly biased in favor of whiteness” – by age five.
- In Cupertino, CA third-graders are forced to deconstruct their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.”
- The principal of a school in New York City sent white parents a “tool for action,” which tells them they must become “white traitors” and then advocate for full “white abolition.”
- In Seattle, there was a training session for teachers in which schools were deemed guilty of “spirit murder” against black students.
- The San Diego Unified School District orders their students to “confront and examine your white privilege” and to “acknowledge when you feel white fragility.” Additionally, children are told to “understand the impact of white supremacy in your work.”
Then, Weingarten took the gaslighting to another level. If she really believed that there is no CRT in k-12, why would she have Ibram X. Kendi, probably the most vocal and aggressive CRT proponent in the country, speak at the conference? (His talk was touted as, “Hear from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in this free-ranging discussion with student activists and AFT members on his scholarship and on developing anti-racist mindsets and actions inside and outside classrooms.”)
Inviting Kendi to speak is like claiming that your organization does not involve itself in bank robbery, then turn around and have Willie Sutton talk to the flock about the joys of larceny. Yes, the same man who contends that capitalism and racism are conjoined twins, that white terror is as American as the Stars and Stripes, and that the only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination, spoke at the AFT shindig, yet she maintains with a straight face that CRT is not taught in schools.
Even more bizarrely, just three weeks before Weingarten made her claim dismissing CRT, AFT tweeted that Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram had appeared on “Good Morning America” and explained that CRT would “give our students the opportunity to understand the full breadth and depth of the American society.”
At the end of her speech at the AFT conference, Weingarten made a threat. “Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history. We have a legal defense fund ready to go. And we are preparing for litigation as we speak. Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong. Distorting history and threatening educators for teaching the truth is what is truly radical and wrong.”
Honest history? No one ever gets in trouble for that. As a retired American history teacher, I always taught the good, the great, the bad and the ugly about the country. My 8th graders learned what was in the California history framework, which exists as a curricular guide for teachers. Had I strayed from what I was mandated to teach, made stuff up and interjected wacko, agenda-driven theories as I went along, I would have rightfully been called on the carpet.
Any teacher who veers off their mandated subject matter should lose their job. If AFT wants to defend them, that’s their business. But using members’ dues to protect renegade teachers who teach crackpot ideas should be a wake-up call to all hard-working, law-abiding teachers. The latter really need to think twice about belonging to a union whose leader is Randi Weingarten.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.