Questionable Curriculum: Germantown School District

***Warning: Graphic Language ***

Despite Superintendent’s Denial, Critical Race Theory Is Found In Teacher Training And Other Materials

June 21, 2021

By MacIver Staff

This is the next entry in The MacIver Institute’s Questionable Curriculum series, an ongoing investigation into Critical Race Theory (CRT) and its use in K12 schools and teaching around the state. 

 

 

As MacIver previously reported, Critical Race Theory preaches that the United States was founded on racism, grew to become the successful nation that we are today because of this racism, and that our country, still today, is fundamentally defined by our racism. According to CRT and its practitioners, racism is found in everything that we do and everything that we do not, too.  

CRT takes the founding principles of this country such as equality, excellence, and equal protection under the law and replaces them with the communist ideal of equity, that is, every American, no matter their ability, work eithic, or moral fiber, should end up achieving the same result.

When we asked our readers for tips and examples of Critical Race Theory in their local schools, we were overwhelmed with the responses that came in. This next piece in the series highlights the Germantown School District, and how CRT appears in the Districts’ classrooms and teacher development programs.

 

Germantown School District

The Superintendent of Germantown Schools, Brett Stousland, has been adamant that Critical Race Theory is not present in the school district, save for two elective courses offered at the high school. In a letter to parents dated April 29, 2021, Stousland said “Currently, CRT is presented as a theory in just two high school elective courses; AP Literature & Composition and Critical Thinking & Writing. CRT is one of many critical theories that the students are exposed to in these classes.”  

According to Christopher Rufo, Director of the Initiative on Critical Race Theory at the Manhattan Institute, “There are a series of euphemisms deployed by its supporters to describe critical race theory, including ‘equity,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘diversity and inclusion,’ and ‘culturally responsive teaching.’ Critical race theorists, masters of language construction, realize that ‘neo marxism would be a hard sell.” 

So even though the education establishment will adamantly state “we do not teach Critical Race Theory”, they are often teaching Critical Race Theory to their teachers and their students under a different name.

Thanks to a FOIA request from a group of parents in the district, we can confirm that Critical Race Theory is more widespread in the district than Stousland is letting on. In fact, the very next day after Superintendent Stousland assured parents CRT was only “presented as a theory in just two high school elective courses”, many Germantown teachers participated in a “Cultural Responsiveness” seminar on April 30th, 2021 that studied books like Me and White Supremacy and Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching. 

 

 

During this seminar, the discussion ranged from how racism is “a system involving cultural messages and institutional policies and practices that operate to the advantage of White people and to the disadvantage of people of color”, “Why should Whites who are advantaged by racism want to end that system of advantage?” and “What is it about the curriculum and the culture of academic opportunity within the school that reinforces the notion that academic excellence is a largely White domain?”

Examples of White Supremacy Culture covered in this teacher seminar include:

  • “pushing students to work independently or write before processing verbally” which “can lead to stress and isolation” 
  • “superficially speeding through content or discouraging interruptions for questions”  

 

According to the discussion guide, teachers need to examine their actions “to see if they are further harming students of color, disempowering them, and creating a psychologically hostile learning environment.”

A key actor in the promotion of Critical Race Theory, or one of CRT’s alternative names, in the Germantown School District, appears to be Brenda O’Brien, the Director of Teaching & Learning for the district. According to the Department of Public Instruction’s salary database, Director O’Brien was paid a salary of $123,500, plus an additional $40,319 in fringe benefits, in the 2020-2021 school year. 

Back in October of 2020, O’Brien communicated with Linetta Davis (Linetta Alexander Islam) from Ubuntu Research & Education, a group “Fostering research-based accountability to create an equitable world.” In her biography on Ubuntu’s website, Davis states she chose to work for the company “Because fuck White Supremacy in education. I spent 15 years teaching in spite of it. Now the rest of my life will be dedicated to tearing this shit down!”

It appears that Germantown Schools were considering working with Ubuntu to arrange a workshop for a teacher in-service day on March 12, 2021. O’Brien said in a later email that the workshop was designed to “identify and learn about multiple identities and how they intersect, become aware of who may be left out of advocacy in schools, and challenge barriers and create solutions using an intersectional framework.”

The Intersectionality Workshop as proposed by Ubuntu Research for the teacher in-service would have cost $3,500. However, the district did not sign the contract and did not engage in a formal project relationship with Ubuntu. 

Instead, at the teacher in-service on March 12, 2021, staff discussed the book Me and My White Supremacy. The book encourages “People with white privilege to examine their racist thoughts and behaviors. [It] leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.”

“Self-Reflection” questions for teachers to answer after reading the book include:

 

  1. In what ways do you hold white privilege? Make a list of the different ways you hold white privilege in your personal life. 
  2. What have you learned about your white privilege that makes for positive experiences? Might have caused harm to others? Makes you uncomfortable?
  3. Author Robin DiAngelo designs white fragility as a “state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” How does your white fragility show up during conversations about race? Do you fight, freeze, or flee?
  4. Think back across your life, from childhood to where you are in your life now. In what ways have you consciously or subconsciously believed that you are better than BIPOC? According to the author – “Don’t hide from this. This is the crux of white supremacy. Own it.”

 

While the Culturally Responsiveness seminar was optional, 42 district teachers signed up to participate. The ultimate goal of the discussion was to “create ‘building-level action plans’ around improving the school experience through different lenses — policies, procedures, discipline practices, etc.”  

This content was provided specifically for teachers, but it is clear that the goal of the discussion was for educators to take what they have learned back to the classrooms. 

It appears that Me and My White Supremacy was not the only racially driven book pushed on district staff over the past few months. A document found via an Open Records Request showed staff discussions going through the books Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?, Culturally Responsive Teaching And The Brain, and Culturally Responsive Teaching And Linguistics were also used for staff discussions in April, 2021. Each discussion had corresponding self-reflection and group discussion questions similar to those presented at the teacher in-service. It is unclear the context in which these books were talked about, and whether or not these discussions were required by the district. 

This is not the first time Germantown parents have had reason to be concerned about Critical Race Theory and similar divisive principles infiltrating their school district. 

In an October email sent out to staff members, the Director of Teaching and Learning for Germantown Schools, Brenda O’Brien, provided teachers with a list of “social justice” books for their classrooms. The website provided has hundreds of woke books geared toward elementary students on topics including activism and organizing, early childhood anti-bias, LGBTQ+, and white identity. 

 

Social Justice Books Website

 

According to O’Brien’s email, if teachers find a book that they want, let her “know if you would want to add titles to align with your curricular topics.” She also goes on to give advice to staff on how to teach social justice to their students. By teaching elementary children to be activists and how to organize, it sounds like CRT is deeply ingrained in everything you do as a school district and starting at a young age. Despite what the Germantown Superintendent claims, CRT curriculum is certainly not limited to just two high school courses.

The MacIver Institute will continue to update this entry and others as additional information becomes available.

 

Questionable Curriculum: Critical Race Theory (Et Al) In Wisconsin – A Continuing Series 

If you have additional tips or examples of CRT in the classroom that warrant investigation, please contact us at: info@maciverinstitute.com.