PORTLAND, Ore. – Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, a principal with Portland Public Schools, has become convinced that America’s “white culture” negatively influences educators’ world view and the manner in which they teach their students.
For instance, last year a teacher in the district presented a lesson that included a reference to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Gutierrez says that by using sandwiches as an illustration, the teacher was engaged in a very subtle form of racism.
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” asked Gutierrez, according to Portland Tribune. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
Um, Portland is an American school, and we assume the vast majority of students are American, whether they be of English, Portugese, Somali or Hispanic descent. And they probably all eat peanut butter and jelly.
Gutierrez is not the only Portland administrator who has become obsessed with identifying such forms of alleged racism. Almost all Portland school leaders have gone through “Coaching for Educational Equity,” a weeklong seminar on race that’s conducted by the Pacific Educational Group.
The Pacific Educational Group is the brainchild of Glenn Singleton. The group’s mission is enlighten the nation’s educators about how public schools promote “white culture” and “white privilege.” Those conditions are responsible for the black/white achievement gap that exists throughout America’s public education system, Singleton argues.
The Portland school district has certainly taken Singleton’s message to heart.
EAGnews.org has discovered that since the 2010-11 fiscal year, the cash-starved school district has spent $526,901 for services provided by Singleton’s Pacific Educational Group.
That dollar amount seems even higher when one realizes the Portland district is facing serious financial problems, and has been forced to lay off teachers and cut classroom resources.
What are Portland schools getting in return for all the money spent on PEG?
According to the Tribune, Portland educators are subjected to “intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives,” all based on Singleton’s premise that only by becoming aware of the pervasive “white privilege” can teachers change their classroom practices to reach minority students.
In addition to teaching that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist, PEG trains educators to view “rugged individualism,” “adherence to rigid time schedules,” and the belief that “hard work is the key to success” as traits of the dominant white culture.
In other words, every foundation of American culture is evil and wrong.
PEG teaches that minority cultures value “color group collectivism,” “interdependence,” group success, shared property, learning through social relationships, and making life choices based on “what will be best for the family or group.”
Upon receiving this revelation from PEG, educators are encouraged to create culturally sensitive lesson plans that make use of “group homework preparation,” “cooperative projects,” and “choral reading.”
So how’s this new approach working for Gutierrez’s school?
The Tribune reports that “Oregon’s Department of Education just last month identified Harvey Scott School (where Gutierrez is principal) as a ‘focus school,’ which means it’s among the state’s lowest performing 15 percent.”
That dubious distinction comes with a $5,000 check from the government, “along with a state-appointed coach” who’ll work with school leaders on an improvement plan, reports the news site.
Perhaps if the staff spent more time on academic fundamentals, instead of obsessing about non-existent racial issues, the students would learn more.
“I’m excited by the fact that we’re designated a focus school by the state,” Gutierrez told the Tribune. “It’s an added layer of accountability.”
We wonder how excited taxpayers will be when they discover Portland officials are wasting precious time and money to promote an ideology that considers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches “hate food.”