by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
A few weeks ago, a member of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s team contacted me and pitched the idea for a task force that examined instances of bias in the classroom. I immediately accepted his invitation to join the group.
On March 16, I joined Robinson, Rep. David Willis, Sen. Kevin Corbin, and a team of education professionals at a press conference announcing the launch of the F.A.C.T.S. (Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students) Task Force. At its core, the task force’s purpose is to advocate on behalf of parents and students. When educators use the classroom to impose their personal beliefs and ideologies on students, families often have few options.
Parents may file a complaint with administrators and school board members, but there are no guarantees that they take legitimate concerns about classroom proselytization seriously. Naturally, school officials often try to neutralize criticism of the teachers in their district, particularly if the teachers are using materials disseminated by central office staff. That is why parents often turn to the media, elected officials, or nonprofit organizations like the John Locke Foundation to attract attention to problematic classroom instruction. With the creation of the F.A.C.T.S. Task Force, families now have an online portal for submitting objectionable materials to a team of dedicated evaluators.
It’s regrettable that the F.A.C.T.S. Task Force is necessary at all. The code of ethics for North Carolina educators is very clear about the need for objectivity and fairness in all classroom activities. As part of their commitment to the profession, all North Carolina educators are required to acknowledge “the diverse views of students, parents and legal guardians, and colleagues as they work collaboratively to shape educational goals, policies, and decisions.” In addition, educators are told to “not proselytize for personal viewpoints that are outside the scope of professional practice.” Despite these admonitions about injecting personal bias into the classroom, it has become uncomfortably common.
In August 2019, Dina Bartus posted an image of a “diversity inventory” assignment on social media and lodged a complaint with Heritage High School administrators and the Wake County Schools. Her son’s teacher had distributed the assignment to students in her tenth-grade English class. The family rightfully objected to the requirement that students answer a series of probing questions about their religion, race/ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, country of origin, age, socioeconomic status, and gender.
In February, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher forwarded a copy of the “Privilege Self-Assessment” worksheet distributed to his middle school students. The worksheet asked students to identify their “privilege” by placing a checkmark next to personal attributes, such as socioeconomic status, religion, gender identity, nationality, and the possession of modern utilities. After the publication of my article, I learned that the school obtained the assignment (and others like it) from the United Way of Central Carolinas Equity Challenge. A student support team modified the “ungraded” assignments and distributed them during a “social and emotional learning time” during the homeroom period.
Unfortunately, many public school teachers fail to understand why families would object to the personally intrusive assignments described above or other types of educationally dubious activities conducted in the name of “equity.” Instead, they tend to believe that the F.A.C.T.S. task force is an assault on the teaching profession. And the response to the task force on social media has been nothing less than repulsive. Here is a sample of posts from the 43,000-member North Carolina Teachers United Facebook page about North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor:
“Shucking and jiving” is a racist term used to describe a black person who employs behaviors, speech, or mannerisms to appease white authority figures. Most of the other terms are well known.
Vile and hateful insults do not rattle a lieutenant governor who thankfully remains stubbornly focused on the needs of North Carolina families. Just nine weeks after being sworn into office, Robinson and his team launched a bold initiative that will begin “exposing indoctrination in the classroom and ensuring that our students are taught how to think — not what to think.” That is a worthwhile goal, and I am proud to be a part of it.