By Ben Velderman
SAN FRANCISCO – At the heart of the education reform movement is a desire to close the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and socio-economic groups.
In broad terms, students in high-income, predominantly white suburban school districts tend to have better reading and math skills than their minority peers in low-income, urban school districts. The National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that math and reading scores of white students are roughly 25 points higher than those of African American and Hispanic students.
Many education reform advocates argue the achievement gap can be reduced through more school choice and accountability for educators. Defenders of the status quo – mostly teachers unions – argue that the problem can be solved with more money for public education.
But the San Francisco-based Pacific Educational Group offers a much different explanation for the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Plainly stated, PEG believes that African American and Latino students are being discriminated against by the nation’s public schools, which have been designed to promote a curriculum based on “white culture” and “white privilege.”
PEG says concepts like hard work and planning for the future are traits of “white culture,” and implies that minority students cannot be expected to respond to a curriculum based on those values. They say black culture is more in tune with “collectivism,” presumably the type applied in Cuba or North Korea.
“So our schools often falsely assume that kids of color can and will simply change and thrive in an environment based on white culture,” says one teacher in a PEG promotional video. “Now, when our schools and society truly value our black and brown youth – and that’s shown through school culture, and practice, and policy – then we’ll start to see equal performance.”
Pacific Educational Group Founder Glenn Singleton claims that his group has delivered this message at seminars in hundreds of schools across the nation.
Illinois’ Evanston Township High School is one of PEG’s clients. Education Action Group has learned that from February 2009 through January 2012, the school has spent $234,330.61 with PEG for training sessions, copies of Singleton’s “Courageous Conversations” book, “District Equity Assessments,” among other things.
That’s an awful lot of money to spend on an effort to separate children into culturally opposite groups, focus on the things that make them different and teach them to mistrust our nation’s overwhelmingly successful economic system.
PEG promotes Critical Race Theory
The Pacific Educational Group makes no secret that its prescription for closing the achievement gap is based on the Critical Race Theory, which argues that racism (or white privilege) is so ingrained in the American way of life – its economy, schools and government – that things must be made unequal in order to compensate for the nation’s innate racism.
According to PEG, white culture is based on “white individualism” or “white traits” like “rugged individualism,” “adherence to rigid time schedules,” “plan(ning) for the future,” and the idea that “hard work is the key to success.”
The minority cultures, according to PEG, value “color group collectivism.” This entails “fostering interdependence” and group success, shared property, learning through social relationships, and making life choices based on “what will be best for the family” or the group.
The Pacific Educational Group is essentially saying that when schools emphasize the values of “white culture,” they are setting African American and Latino students up to fail.
A 2008 seminar PEG conducted for the Minneapolis school district quoted extensively from the book “Bridging Cultures, Between Home and School.”
The book bemoans the “uniformity of values and practices” that exists in school districts all across the country. Teachers need to understand “the deep value orientations underlying the beliefs and behaviors of different cultures” if they hope to “make real connections with students and their parents,” PEG quoted the book as saying.
This is done by having “school personnel to understand and accept a collectivistic value perspective, although it differs from the values built into schooling. …,” according to the book.
Collectivistic. There’s the key word that tells us what PEG’s mission is really about.
Black Americans have demonstrated they are just as capable as anyone of being on time, planning for the future and working hard. We can point to millions of black students who have excelled in America’s public school system for years and became successful adults in mainstream society.
We believe most black students who continue to struggle are stuck in sub-par urban school districts. Their hope lies in school choice and their ability to have access to quality schools.
The need to introduce “collectivism” into the classroom comes from Marxist educators who have been working overtime to indoctrinate American students into a school of thought that opposes private property and capitalism. This is not an effort to create better opportunities for black kids. It’s an effort to undermine fundamental American values at the grass roots level.
As editorial writer Vince Carroll wrote for the Rocky Mountain News in 2006, after PEG was paid to do a seminar for teachers at a nearby school: “The program also promotes a world view in which American society is relentlessly oppressive; in which individuals, even today, remain at the mercy of their racial origins.”
What PEG says teachers should do
Once teachers become aware of the innate racism that exists in their classrooms (and in their own worldview), PEG directs them to counteract the racism by engaging in “Culturally Relevant Teaching.”
This requires teachers to create culturally sensitive lesson plans. Such lessons are created in several stages.
First, teachers are taught to see their students according to their race. PEG doesn’t put it quite that bluntly, but it does instruct teachers to identify “focus students,” adding that “it is preferable for all the students to be of the same racial group.” (“African American and Latino focus students” are the only groups identified by name in PEG’s Minneapolis Power Point presentation.)
Once the groups have been identified, teachers are told to design lesson plans that their “focus students will be highly engaged in and excited about” – lessons that incorporate their cultural characteristics and interests.
Considering that PEG sees minorities as coming from a culture of “collectivism” instead of “individualism,” it is not surprising that “culturally responsive” teachers are instructed to make use of “group homework preparation,” “cooperative projects,” and “choral reading.” (No, we don’t know what “choral reading” is, either.)
Next, teachers are to put these culturally sensitive lessons into action, while paying special attention to how the focus students respond. Teachers are to make sure the focus students are “engaged during the lesson,” and that they are “able to express their understanding of the desired outcome.”
After the lesson is done, teachers are to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. PEG advises them to “discuss and reflect with colleagues.”
Noticeably absent from the Pacific Educational Group’s training materials is any discussion of how “culturally relevant teaching” impacts nonminority students, either for good or ill. PEG officials also fail to mention the overall effect of segregating white and minority children by teaching and treating them differently.
We also wonder how holding African American and Latino students to a special standard in school helps prepare them for the grown-up work world, which very much values hard work and personal initiative, not to mention being on time.