Letter from a parent

Last week I was forwarded an unsigned mass email from Columbus Academy (presumably from Ms. Soderberg and/or the Board) discussing the Critical Race Theory (CRT) training and curriculum at Columbus Academy, and finally understand why the Board and Ms. Soderberg refuse to meet with the Pro CA Coalition (PCAC) – it is because what the PCAC is alluding to is, regrettably, true. Columbus Academy has, in fact, been incorporating the teachings of CRT in the school’s curriculum, simply calling them something else.  I didn’t have to take the word of other teachers, staff, parents, or even residents I know in the community – the letter states it in the couched speech of education lingo.  Though it wasn’t difficult to decipher, here are the facts as Columbus Academy lays them out in their own words in the email:

1) The email references strategic mission (2017), which states, “Our Mission – Columbus Academy – an independent, coeducational college preparatory school – enriches its academic tradition of excellence by valuing a broad diversity of students as it seeks to develop the complete person: mind, body and character. The school rewards rigorous effort and accomplishment, fosters compassion, respect and moral courage, and insists on integrity, fair play and community service. Academy strives to develop and sustain a community of thoughtful, responsible, capable and confident citizens eager to engage in a pluralistic and ever-changing world.” (Pg. 3, on my copy)

I submit that you cannot simultaneously value “a broad diversity of students as it seeks to develop the complete person: mind, body and character” while at the same time condemning another group based on race and calling that group of students racist and bigots.  

2) The Vision states: “The Vision – Imbue Columbus Academy’s excellent academic tradition with critical thinking, creativity & reflection by…” (Pg.4, on my copy)

I submit, that if you do not present all the facts in an open and reflective classroom where all students are valued equally, you cannot have critical thinking, creativity, or personal reflection.  The narrative at Columbus Academy is already set, and one race is vilified based on political beliefs, gender, and race.

3) Our motto is referenced in this document (Under Goal 3). “Frame our motto “In Quest of the Best” to ensure this concept of excellence arises from students’ striving for exceptional qualities of mind, body and character that remain grounded in respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion, honesty, moral courage and integrity.”

Wouldn’t “In Quest of the Best” (which I hear is being replaced), include respect of all people, irrespective or gender, skin color, heritage, religion, etc.?  That isn’t the case if teachers are calling students and other teachers racist based on a trait they cannot change and something they have never exhibited. (And, yes, it IS happening at Columbus Academy and the administration and Board know it and encourage it.

5) The Ethics and Character Formation includes the following (Under Goal 2): “Teach the value of difference and ethics through elements of cultural competency that emphasize skills, attitudes and knowledge needed to engage in a pluralistic society and ever-changing world.” Nowhere in any Cultural Competency training that I have taken over the years have I ever seen it put forth that one race should be vilified or preferred over any other race.  In fact, I was taught that we were all created equal and are due respect regardless of race, gender, or religion.  This is NOT the case with CRT. In CRT one of its pillars is that anyone that is white, is racist based merely on skin color. This is exactly what I have observed at Columbus Academy at an increasing alarming rate. Sad, but true.

6) The email mentions how they addressed the George Floyd incident.  They ask, “shouldn’t we have addressed it?”  Sure, it needed to be addressed, but you have never addressed violence and hate towards Asians, Hispanics, LEO’s, other students, and even staff that don’t agree with CRT 100%, etc.

7) Teachers are calling students racist based on their skin color only, with no response by the Administration and Board.  Silence is tacit approval.

8) Teachers are teaching from a primarily CRT perspective with no counter discussions, also with no response by the Administration and Board.  Silence is tacit approval.

In short, the email, and addendum attached to it, doesn’t pass the duck test. From Wikipedia: “The duck test is a form of abductive reasoning. This is its usual expression:  If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.” Calling CRT something else doesn’t change the fact that CA is now including CRT in its academia, the same way that calling a duck a swan doesn’t change the fact that it is still a duck.

I am very familiar with Cultural Competency classes, as I had to take classes in it many years ago at the place where I worked.  In its simplest form, it was to get us to understand each other more deeply to help us better work together.  No harm-no foul. That is NOT, however, what is going on at CA. To call it Cultural Competency education would be a misnomer at best!  To have teachers call students names and belittle students based on their race or gender is nowhere in any Cultural Competency training I have ever heard of! And to be clear, belittling and calling students names IS happening at Columbus Academy in the name of Cultural Competency.  

The fact that neither the board nor any administrator reached out to the PCAC after they raised concerns regarding many other minority issues speaks volumes!

We must LEARN from the past, don’t LIVE in it.  We must move forward, while remembering where we came from.  Keep the good, change the bad.  This is where CA is floundering.  The policies being instituted bring back a segregated way of thinking; a RACIST way of thinking.

Everyone is offended by something.  We can all find something to be eliminated from society/school because it is offensive to someone for some reason. I could, for example, be offended by the following:

La Crosse: Offensive due to cultural appropriation of a Native American sport as well as Indigenous Peoples’ religious reasons. Will Columbus Academy be eliminating the sport?

Football: Offensive as it used to be segregated until 1946. Will Columbus Academy be eliminating the sport?

Baseball: Remember the Negro league? The MLB was segregated until 1947! Offensive! Will Columbus Academy be eliminating the sport?

Track:  Offensive due to it being derived form a Grecian sport (Olympics) 3,000 years ago!

Spanish and other Romance language classes: Very offensive to be taught to our students for a variety of reasons! They are primarily a white, European language.  Words are not gender-neutral! They have “Os” and “As” on the end of them indicating gender. Is that not offensive?  We are already calling Latinos, LatinX! Will Columbus Academy be eliminating the classes?

Security & Calling the Police at CA: Patently offensive! Columbus Academy is, on the one hand, calling for the defunding of the police for hunting and killing off certain groups of people, while on the other hand calling them in for support.  That is inconsistent with current teaching at Columbus Academy regarding how racist the police and security actually are.  Will Columbus Academy be modifying or eliminating the way police are involved at the school?  Although FBI and other data supports an alternative narrative about policing, it is not included in any discussions at Columbus Academy! Why? No one denies that there are a small percentage of bad cops, just like no one denies that there are a small percentage of bad teachers, however I don’t see anyone calling for the defunding of education.

Chemistry Classes:  Racist and offensive! Many discoveries and advancements were by white men! Should we only teach about the discoveries of one, favorite, in vogue race or gender, and marginalize the accomplishments of those that have been traditionally taught??  Will Columbus Academy be modifying or eliminating the classes?

Of Course Not!  That would be preposterous!  It’s a 2-way street – ALL students should be respected, and voices heard, not just one special group. Include everyone and put it in context!  Again, WE must LEARN from the past, WE cannot LIVE in it.  There is an adage that my High School Health Education used  to tell us 15+ years ago that is still true today – “Do the right thing! Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone.” Columbus Academy has lost its way.  It is standing with a national trend in schools that pits people against other people; race against race; gender against gender.  Columbus Academy should stop this nonsense and teach we are ALL valued, and we are all in this together, and together we can achieve more than what you may think. I expect better for my children and I expect better from Columbus Academy.

If you focus on the negative, you will reap what you sow – negativity and angry students.