Quaker Valley
Parents & Community

Charles Wolfe July 7, 2021

Quaker Valley School District (QV) utilizes the Newsela online content platform. It provides content for English Language Arts (ELA), Social Studies and Science teachers to facilitate their lessons in the classroom. It is eligible for purchase under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). That in itself has many issues which are documented in a separate article.

Newsela Direction

As stated on their website (as of July 7, 2021), they are "[i]n support of anti-racist instruction" and are "committed to advancing anti-racist practices in K-12 education". Anti-racists teaching is outlined with the support of the following groups:

Center For Anti-Racism Education (CARE)

Newsela states "[w]e support anti-racist principles from" CARE. CARE’s vision is stated as overturning "the long legacy of racism that has limited opportunity for too many" leading to a "more equal and just future." How do they want to accomplish this? By keeping to their principles. These principles include ideologies such as (emphasis mine):

having curriculum that "champions the diverse and complex human experience,"

uncovering "the roots of present-day injustice,"

"recognize how dominate narratives perpetuate marginalization"

"Antiracist educators understanding intersectionality and recognize that all individuals are affected by living in a racialized society"

"Confronting racism means explicitly addressing bias, racism, power, [white] privilege, an oppression."

"Antiracist schools dismantle inequitable systems and create new ones."

Black Students Matter Hub (BSM)

Does that name sound familiar or is it just me? Newsela purports that their experts continue "to craft resources for anti-racist teaching and instruction." They do this using a set of pages hosted on the Newsela site entitled Black Students Matter (BSM). Its goal is "moving forward anti-racist teaching" by engaging "with readings, reflection exercises, and videos to begin to shape and extend anti-racist teaching practices in your classroom." They have three courses, by group identity, in for teachers to dig into their "identity and working to understand how it plays out in the class room." Separate training for each group identity? White privilege? Since it’s behind a (pay?) wall that only teachers can access, I was unable to see the group identities it defines.

BSM also provides a video on exploring "strategies and instructional practices to evaluate representations included in and omitted from texts." In this video they present material by Black lives matter - notice the title. Rachel Rickles, a former teacher, talks about the importance of defining "systemic racism" and "redlining". Patrick Harris advocates creating a "lens for [his] students to look through for all texts" and that when he "taught all black boys" he felt it necessary to talk about how "race impacts their lives today, in history and how it will in the future". The goal: having all school experiences, lessons, field-trips, etc. viewed though this lens. He did this by building the curriculum on a "foundation [of] Critical Race Theory." He had to do this because "race is weaved into all of our experiences as black men."

The BSM website also contains a set of resources, aimed at teachers, for "checking [their] privilege." The following image was taking from the BSM web site (on July 6, 2021):

(click for full size)

It goes on to say "[h]elp us work to dismantle white supremacy by exploring the resources in" (emphasis mine) The Future Is Black workbook which I was unable to access using my free parent account.

Analysis: Definition Of Systemic Racism In Sociology (published April 31, 2020)

I have no confirmation that this was given to a QV student; however, the site contains this "analysis" which is nothing but full-blown CRT. It is presented by a sociologist lending credibility to it in the mind of the student. This may be given to students only as another "viewpoint" but will they really take it that way; or will they accept it as fact? There is simply too much to comment on; so, you can read it and answer that question for yourself.

Assignment on "Indigenous People Day" vs. "Columbus Day"

This was given to a middle-school ELA class as part of an assignment. Students had to choose a side, "Indigenous People Day" or "Columbus Day", and write their opinion using the information from the article. I don’t think any parent has a problem with presenting all sides of a topic to make students think objectively. However, as a parent reported, only one side of the issue was given; guess which one?

All of the six articles provide by Newsela (unknown how many were actually provided to the student), contain an overall negative tone towards Christopher Columbus. None of them highlight his accomplishments; they even downplayed his discovery of the America’s. The article PRO/CON: Should We Celebrate Christopher Columbus? is only "pro" in a backhanded compliment sort of way. Overall, only one-side of the argument is detailed and the bias against Christopher Columbus is glaring. How can a student come to any conclusion other than "Indigenous People Day" over "Christopher Columbus Day" when only one-side is presented?