Don’t let culture wars ruin our schools

We are a small, rural area, but some of our local students go on to some of the nation’s best colleges and universities. This includes “top 10” schools such as Stanford, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins, as well as our top-ranked “UCs,” led by Cal Berkeley then UCLA, among others. This is a credit to our district’s hard-working teachers, college counselors, and administrators.

As longtime residents and parents, we are extremely grateful for it. I should add we also are grateful for programs such as the Sierra College Fire Academy and our community college’s associate degree nursing program; education is not “one size fits all.” 

Our towns can benefit from this comprehensive education: In the past, for example, a “bring them home” campaign has sought to attract and retain young professionals and entrepreneurs to start a business here and help us thrive. We need to nurture this philosophy to help our local economy thrive. Let’s face it: We are a declining and aging population — not the ideal path toward sustainability. 

Despite our best efforts to prosper, there are some FRINGE (capitalized) efforts in our towns that risk undermining all this — you know, “one step forward, two steps back.” Case in point: At a Nevada Joint Union High School District board meeting on Wednesday, a trustee (Jim is that you?) requested the school board hear from a group AGAINST Critical Race Theory. Argh! 

Though I’d choose a less academic-sounding term, Critical Race Theory is an approach to studies which holds that “racism is systemic, and that even laws and policies that are race-neutral on their face can have racist outcomes,” according to Education Week. Duh!

But opposition is mounting in this era of culture wars: 27 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, the publication adds.

“In public discourse, critics of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives have misinterpreted and misappropriated the term, using it to refer to a host of educational priorities, from history lessons on the Civil Rights Movement to diverse classroom libraries to culturally responsive teaching,” adds Education Week

Meanwhile, while communities such as ours “zig,” the bigger world “zags.” Many of the nation’s top universities are celebrating the role of diversity, and rightly so. I learned that Johns Hopkins, for example, has launched an exhibit about the indispensable role of blacks in shaping the university. I learned a lot from the project. It stemmed from Johns Hopkins learning from its own past (its founder owned slaves), rather than sweeping it under the rug. 

I am hopeful that the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting will be full steam ahead with what our schools are doing. It is the right way to go, to be sure. 

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

5 thoughts on “Don’t let culture wars ruin our schools”

  1. Tonight I would like to see our law enforcement protect our school board from hate speech and social media “goobers”. Tomorrow I’d like to see the front page of our local paper with something other than a photo of a handful of “goobers”, armed with stuff they got from Newsmax, Fox, or the Enquirer at the market, protesting something they know nothing about. Dream on—

  2. What’s crazy is CRT isn’t taught K-12. There is no curriculum. These people are protesting something that doesn’t exist.

  3. CRT is not taught that much at Chico State, either. There are perhaps a few departments in the Social Sciences and Humanities where it might come up in classes (as it should), but it is hardly dominant. And in most departments (the Business and Agriculture programs come to mind), I doubt if it comes up much at all.

    1. Wow, not many comments in the last two months.

      Tony, doesn’t every faculty appointment at CSU Chico require a statement of fealty to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE) principals and other genuflections to Critical Theories of all sorts?

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