There are a number of issues that are affecting today's classrooms. Nationwide, parents are pushing back against critical race theory, social emotional learning, and sexually explicit materials in schools. A significant amount of pressure is being put on teachers to fix all society's problems while trying, at the same time, to educate their students. They often are blamed for failed programs of which they had little to no say during the adoption process. Most concerning is that academics have taken a backseat to psychology-based and social/political education programs.
I believe it is incumbent on school board members to evaluate the policies, programs, and curricula being considered BEFORE they vote to approve or adopt. Board members should be diligent in determining whether the programs or curricula they approve have a track record of improving student achievement. They should investigate the companies with whom they choose to do business to determine if those companies' goals and values align with those of Wilson County citizens and parents. If elected, I cannot promise the moon, but I can promise that I will be diligent in pushing back radical programs and encouraging a strong focus on academics.
Over the past year, the current Wilson County board has made a number of concerning decisions, particularly regarding contracts with companies that have philosophic ties to CRT and SEL. The district adopted the EL Education curriculum as part of its literacy plan. The developers of this curriculum explained in an article that its program is heavily focused on antiracism, a term CRT proponents have redefined, NOT in terms of Martin Luther King's view, but rather on the Marxist view of oppressor/oppressed. The article states that its curriculum will "help students develop a critical eye for racism in language, character portrayals, and author points of view in different kinds of texts." One example given is that third graders will "explore the racial and gender stereotypes in Peter Pan."
Earlier this year, the board approved two professional development contracts with companies (TNTP and Better Lessons) that openly advocate CRT philosophies. Both of these organizations have ties to the Southern Poverty Law Center's initiative, Teaching Tolerance, recently renamed Learning for Justice, which produces lessons and professional development programs steeped in the philsophies of CRT. Just recently, the board approved a contract for a software program (Achieve 3000) in which the company openly states that one of its learning goals is "helping students to become woke." There is a time, place, and manner to address difficult subjects such as racism and sexism, but the philosophies that define CRT are divisive and counterproductive in the classroom.
Social emotional learning (SEL) is just another iteration of previous programs such as Moral Values Education and Outcome-based Education; both of which were failures. CASEL, the organization that created the SEL framework, redefined SEL in 2019 as Transformative SEL, which basically marries CRT and SEL, and argues that "racialized oppression was foundational to the establishment of the United States," essentially taking the same position as the authors of the 1619 Project curriculum. CASEL and its advocates sell SEL as "helping children" in the same manner as with the programs identified above. SEL has been criticized for its lacks of an independent body of research to support the assertions that SEL positively affects student behavior and/or achievement. Citing research from those who develop and sell SEL programs is much the same as a bank doing its own audit. These conflicts of interest are sufficient to question the research. Programs that have little to no track record on improving student achievement steal time, energy, and resources away from academics and expose children to potential psychological damage.
Below are links to the information cited above.