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June 8, 2015

Mayhem Rules in St. Paul Schools

Educators’ busted solutions for “white privilege” cause anarchy.

Teachers, parents and students in the school district of St. Paul, Minnesota, are learning firsthand what happens when educators embrace ideologically driven, crackpot solutions for the achievement and disciplinary issues involving black students who are “victims” of “white privilege”: anarchy.

That anarchy comes courtesy of the district’s voluntary affiliation with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), an entity founded in 1992 by self-described “diversity expert” Glenn Singleton. As PEG’s website declares, it is their belief that “[s]ystemic racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished capacity of all children.” As a result, they partner with educational systems “to transform them into racially conscious and socially just environments that nurture the spirit and infinite potential of all learners, especially students of color, American Indian students and their families.”

Superintendent Valeria Silva bought into this nonsense, engendering a seismic shift in the way discipline was meted out, based on statistics that showed black students being suspended at “alarming rates.” Thus suspension became a last resort, replaced with 20-minute “time outs” and counseling by a behavioral coach before offending students were sent back to the classroom. In the meantime, PEG offered “racial equity” training for teachers and staff, who were tasked with “exploring” their biases and prefacing their opinions with, “As a white man, I believe…” or “As a black woman, I think…” in an effort to discover their subconscious racism.

How’s it working out? Following district spending of more than $3 million on PEG programs over the last five years, local publication CityPages paints a depressing picture:

> At John A. Johnson Elementary on the East Side, several teachers, who asked to remain anonymous, describe anything but a learning environment. Students run up and down the hallways, slamming lockers and tearing posters off the walls. They hit and swear at each other, upend garbage cans under teachers’ noses.

> “We have students who will spend an hour in the hallway just running and hiding from people, like it’s a game for them,” says one despondent teacher. “A lot of them know no one is going to stop them, so they just continue.

Students may continue, but some teachers won’t. At Ramsey Middle School, nine have quit since the beginning of this past school year. At Battle Creek Elementary, a week after the principal got a letter from staff illuminating the concerns about "building-wide safety, both physical and emotional, as well as the deteriorating learning environment,” he announced he would be transferred next year. “It’s still just as crazy, with kids slamming doors and yelling and not listening to any teachers, running up and down the halls,” revealed one Battle Creek Elementary teacher. “We had two behavior aides who come to the room if there’s an issue or if a kid’s left the class. They try to calm the kids down, and then they just put them right back in class after 5-10 minutes. It’s not working. You know how kids are. If one gets away with it, then they’re all gonna do it.”

Como Park High social science teacher Roy Magnuson explains why complaints to the board are routinely dismissed. “There is an intense digging in of heels to say there is no mistake,” he explains. “For the people who are saying there has been a mistake, the … deflection is that people like me have issues with racial equity and that is the reason we are challenging [the board]. That makes for a very convenient way of barring the reality of the situation.”

Many families in the district have registered their feelings about the program in the plainest way possible: In the time PEG has been involved with the schools, the number of students living in the district but attending non-district schools has increased by approximately 3,000. Two-thirds of them are low-income or non-white, utterly undermining the notion of “white flight” according to Joe Nathan, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Center for School Change. “A significant number of families are saying their children do not feel safe in the schools,” he explained. “They don’t feel safe even going to the bathroom.”

School board member Keith Hardy typified the racialist drivel that animates PEG’s effort, insisting he wants the “racist structure of public education that the United States is created on to be eradicated,” he declared. “This is work that you can’t go back on, and it’s work I do not apologize for.” Battle Creek Middle School “cultural specialist” Kristy Pierce is equally clueless, insisting that teachers should be evaluating their own failure when kids act out. “It should be more than just kids apologizing,” she says. “When you use the word ‘black’ versus ‘African American’ and the student flips out, understand where that might be coming from.”

Fortunately, there has been a revolution of sorts. At an endorsement convention sponsored by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), three Board of Education incumbents, including chairwoman Mary Doran — who said they wouldn’t run without DFL approval — were dumped in favor of four candidates supported by Caucus for Change. That organization is comprised of teachers, parents and other members of the community who wish to restore safety and sanity to St. Paul schools.

Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether PEG will be given a well-deserved boot in the process. Glenn Singleton promotes ideas such as “white talk” is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual” and “task-oriented,” while “color commentary” is “nonverbal, personal, emotional” and “process-oriented.” He has further asserted that placing any blame on minority students themselves for their underperformance constitutes racism, because minority culture is “intellectual” and “task-oriented.” As for Asian minorities, Singleton considers them “majority” students because they succeed, and because whites expect them to do so.

In short, PEG is invested in the idea that cultural apartheid is what’s holding back minority students, and that they should be held to a different set of standards than white students — as well as those pesky Asian overachievers who completely undermine Singleton’s premise. A premise that amounts to nothing more than embracing the soft bigotry of low expectations by catering to the lowest common denominator of student behavior. This progressive nonsense is precisely the opposite of what public schooling should be all about.

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