In the run-up to 2021’s Black History Month, the first since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody touched off a worldwide reckoning on issues of race, there was no shortage of articles regarding how educators had “tip-toed” around our history or offered “sanitized versions of slavery and the civil rights movement.” It was time for us to get serious.
Fifth-graders at the William D. Kelley School in Philadelphia are getting very serious indeed, according to a curriculum obtained by a writer for the City Journal.
Christopher Rufo, a contributing editor to the publication, said in an article published Thursday that a teacher at the school designed a Black History Month lesson plan centered around celebrating the life of militant activist Angela Davis, “praising the ‘black communist’ for her fight against ‘injustice and inequality.'”
“As part of the lesson, the teacher asked students to ‘describe Davis’ early life,’ reflect on her vision of social change, and ‘define communist’ — presumably in favorable terms,” Rufo wrote.
At the end of the lesson, students took part in a black power rally to “free Angela Davis” from prison. Davis was arrested and charged in connection with a 1970 attack on a courtroom in Marin County, California, that left four people dead. According to The New York Times, the attackers used guns that were purchased by Davis.
She was eventually acquitted, telling the court she needed the guns for “some kind of protection if I was to live out my years” and explaining she would occasionally buy firearms for people she knew “much as I would pay the rent if one of my friends couldn’t or purchase medical supplies if they were needed.”
“At the conclusion of the unit, the teacher led the ten- and eleven-year-old students into the school auditorium to ‘simulate’ a Black Power rally to ‘free Angela Davis’ from prison, where she had once been held while awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder,” Rufo reported.
“The students marched on the stage, holding signs that read ‘Black Power,’ ‘Jail Trump,’ ‘Free Angela,’ and ‘Black Power Matters.’ They chanted about Africa and ancestral power, then shouted ‘Free Angela! Free Angela!’ as they stood at the front of the stage.”
At the end of the unit, the teacher led the ten- and eleven-year-olds into the school auditorium to “simulate” a Black Power rally to “free Angela Davis” from prison, where she had once been held on charges of murder. The students chanted “Black Power!” and “Free Angela!” pic.twitter.com/oUYdHHvX8v
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) February 11, 2021
It’s worth noting that by the time Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015, Davis had been free for 43 years. The militant activist and apologist for the Soviet bloc (she won the USSR’s Lenin Peace Prize in 1979 and extensively toured communist countries) also ran for vice president twice on the Communist Party USA ticket, garnering little support as Gus Hall’s running mate in 1980 and 1984. Thus, the “Jail Trump” signs are a bit anachronistic, although you may not be surprised this is the least of the school’s educational woes.
Rufo noted that only 3 percent of the school’s sixth-grade students meet proficiency standards for math; that number is slightly better for reading at 9 percent. However, a mere 13 percent of students at the school will have achieved basic literacy skills by the time they graduate.
“Despite this abysmal academic performance, teachers and administrators at William Kelley have gradually abandoned traditional pedagogy in favor of political radicalism,” Rufo wrote.
“Even the school’s newest public artworks illustrate this politicization. Administrators recently commissioned a mural of Davis and Huey P. Newton, who represent the Communist and Black Panther revolutionary movements of the 1960s; both figures stood trial for various crimes, including the murder of a police officer.”
Despite this abysmal academic performance, administrators have gradually abandoned traditional pedagogy in favor of political radicalism. They recently commissioned murals of Angela Davis and Huey P. Newton, who represent the Communist and Black Panther revolutionary movements. pic.twitter.com/AHbtMfPOUa
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) February 11, 2021
Philadelphia’s schools, he also noted, have adopted “antiracism” as part of their mission. In a statement last summer, the school district committed itself to “uprooting policies, deconstructing processes, and eradicating practices that create systems of privilege and power for one racial group over another.”
Antiracism, for the unacquainted, usually has little to do with eradicating racism. It’s instead dedicated to obsessing over finding structures that need to be deconstructed and privileges that need to be attacked. However, it’s worth noting that the William D. Kelley School is 94 percent black; its students are also 100 percent “economically disadvantaged.”
The School District of Philadelphia could theoretically implement antiracist policies at the same time it radically improves the educational standards at schools like William D. Kelley. Bureaucracies can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time.
The problem is that Philly’s schools have proven to be so bad at chewing gum that maybe they ought to sit down and do it before they try walking.
If they want to eradicate racial privilege, the most basic way to do it would be to equip the student body of an overwhelmingly black school with the educational tools to succeed.
But no. Instead, we have a 2021-style victory for African-American history: Kids in the William D. Kelley School likely won’t graduate with basic literacy skills, but they’ll have a deep appreciation for Angela Davis’ militant struggle for “black communism.”
In its antiracism statement last summer, the School District of Philadelphia declared that part of its mission was “an inherent commitment to ensure we provide the necessary conditions needed for all of our students to excel.”
“But, how can we truly accomplish this if some of our students are forced to witness and endure acts of hatred because of the color of their skin, are dehumanized for where they come from and how they look, and live within conditions that place their bodies under constant attack, rendering them voiceless by the very system that is supposed to protect and empower them?” the statement read.
This isn’t giving those students a voice or empowering them to fight the system, but at least it’s not “tip-toeing” around race or “sanitizing” anything except Davis’ support for murderous communist regimes.
Do these educators think this lesson contributes positively to the “necessary conditions needed for [Philadelphia] students to excel?”
If you even have to ask, you haven’t read the room.
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