Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | ’Equity’ elbows out education in our schools

Written by on May 21, 2021

Denver Public Schools’ slogan is pretty great: “Discover a World of Opportunity.” Five simple words paint an optimistic and aspirational vision. They presume a valuable, meaningful focus on giving students myriad opportunities to learn, grow and succeed.

Unfortunately, it’s just words. DPS doesn’t really care about opportunity anymore. Sure, they say they do – but they don’t anymore. Their aim has shifted to equity – the idea of promoting equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity. Over in the ’burbs, Douglas County School District echoes this philosophy.

Both districts pull their concept of “equity” from Critical Race Theory (which the Editorial Board aptly labeled “racist” recently). Truthfully, CRT is a political ideology. It is not a traditional educational doctrine that is widely-adopted, politically-neutral and rigorously-vetted.

Independent journalist Angela Ramirez of TheNoManZone.com has been exposing the pernicious expansion of CRT in Colorado’s public schools. As Ramirez reports, DPS has held at least one workshop demonstrating they’ve adopted this dogma.

“Slides released from the workshop revealed that DPS claims it has been guilty of perpetrating ‘institutional racism,’ and that Black Lives Matter political doctrine will be deployed as a solution,” she writes.

The district’s slides state that The Equity Experience will be incorporated into “ongoing training for all DPS team members.” Conversations will be required “about racism and white supremacy culture.” The Equity Experience is a left-wing podcast with episodes such as “Decolonizing the Mind, Decolonizing Curriculum.” Moreover, there’s no consensus on the existence of a dominant “white supremacy culture” — certainly not enough to justify institutional trainings in taxpayer-funded schools.

They declare “we must commit to Black Lives Matter,” emphasize a “DPS Belief in and Commitment to Black Excellence,” explicitly endorse equity-driven approaches with race at the center and promise to “engage in equity based revisions to our core curricula.”

School districts should NOT integrate a social movement, with its own politically-charged policy agenda, into their pivotal professional development offerings.

DCSD has a similar approach. Colorado is home to The Gemini Group, LLC, where its co-managing partners, Dante J. James and Christina Samir James, help organizations and governments “address and eliminate institutional and systemic inequities, most specifically starting with race, through training and technical support.”

“Our focus is on creating Equity in all outcomes,” their website says, offering trainings, tools and organizational development. At a cost of $36,900 according to the contract with DCSD, the district hired Gemini to run workshops and trainings on equity. As I reviewed video of their professional development from April 19, I could hardly believe my ears.

There was no mincing of words: “Equality is good, but equality will not get us to equity,” they said. Thus, Gemini establishes a clear distinction between equality (equal opportunity) and their true goal of equity.

“[S]ometimes we get stuck on the idea of creating opportunity or creating access,” Gemini affirmed. So, opportunity is merely an “idea” that gets in the way?

On DCSD’s website, the district attempts to reassure parents. “The policy has raised concerns from some members of our community who have asked if this will change DCSD curriculum to incorporate Critical Race Theory. DCSD is not changing its curriculum.”

Setting aside the apparent introduction of CRT-based materials in DCSD classrooms already, the curriculum question is largely irrelevant. What matters is the ideology being injected into – and prioritized within – the district’s culture. As Gemini stressed in the professional development, “[Equity is] a value. [W]e are responsive to the value of the organization where we work and the expectation that this is how we will inform and educate our children.”

“You might have a different thinking process, but this is how school districts where your children attend, educate your children,” they continued. “This is the value that’s important” (emphasis added).

The workshop was sponsored by DCSD and hosted on Zoom by a senior administrator, lending institutional credibility and gravitas to the presenters. If Gemini says equity is THE value that’s important, then the message to educators is clear: Prioritize equity.

The basic problem is that it’s impossible to have both equal opportunity and equal outcomes. It’s one or the other. That’s because opportunity is about ensuring a level playing field for all; if the goal is equal results, you necessarily distort the playing field.

Recently California’s education department released a draft framework centered on inequity that rejects “natural gifts and talents” and calls for eliminating advanced math in middle school. “The belief that ‘I treat everyone the same’ is insufficient,” it declares.

If DPS, DCSD and other Colorado districts head down this California path, they will make gifted students remain in unexceptional classes, bored and uninspired, likely to develop disdain for math or rendered woefully unprepared for the rigorous dynamics of a high-end college education. Ironically, they will also diminish the ability for students of color to experience tangible growth and progress.

If education is about setting students up for future success, how is it virtuous or fair to force universal mediocrity upon them in pursuit of ideology?

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s May 21 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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