Social justice warriors are coming to public schools next

Today the Weekly Standard published a piece by Katherine Kersten, a Senior Policy Fellow with a free-market think tank called the Center of the American Experiment. Kersten writes about a school district in a well-off suburb of Minneapolis which has embraced “racial equity” as a primary goal.

The shift began in 2013, when Edina school leaders adopted the “All for All” strategic plan—a sweeping initiative that reordered the district’s mission from academic excellence for all students to “racial equity.”

“Equity” in this context does not mean “equality” or “fairness.” It means racial identity politics—an ideology that blames minority students’ academic challenges on institutional racial bias, repudiates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s color-blind ideal, and focuses on uprooting “white privilege.”

The Edina school district’s All for All plan mandated that henceforth “all teaching and learning experiences” would be viewed through the “lens of racial equity,” and that only “racially conscious” teachers and administrators should be hired. District leaders assured parents this would reduce Edina’s racial achievement gap, which they attributed to “barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings.”

The focus on racial consciousness begins in kindergarten but culminates in high school with a required 10th grade English class. A now-deleted comment on the “Rate My Teachers” site quipped, “This class should be renamed . . . ‘Why white males are bad, and how oppressive they are.'”

It’s not just students getting the full SJW treatment. Even the bus drivers have mandatory training which informs them that “dismantling white privilege” is “the core of our work as white folks.” But the result of all this SJW tinkering has not been the elimination of the racial achievement gap but a slide in test scores.

Four years into the Edina schools’ equity crusade, black students’ test scores continue to disappoint. There’s been a single positive point of data: Black students’ reading scores—all ages, all grades—have slightly increased, from 45.5 percent proficiency in 2014 to 46.4 percent proficiency in 2017.

But other than that, the news is all bad. Black students “on track for success” in reading decreased from 48.1 percent in 2014 to 44.9 percent in 2017. Math scores decreased from 49.6 percent proficiency in 2014 to 47.4 percent in 2017. Black students “on track for success” in math decreased from 51.4 percent in 2014 to 44.7 percent in 2017.

The drop was most notable at the high school level. Math scores for black students in 11th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 31 percent proficiency in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2017. In reading, scores for black students in 10th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 51.7 percent proficiency in 2014 to 40 percent in 2017.

US News & World Report ranked Edina Senior High as the 4th best high school in the state in 2017 (based on 2014-2015 academic year data), but that’s down from 1st place in US News’ 2014 ranking (based on earlier data). It’s still an outstanding high school but the trend appears to be heading in the wrong direction.

Public schools are a much better place for social justice warriors to spread their particular brand of group-think than colleges. After all, students in public schools are younger, more likely to succumb to peer pressure, and have just as much free time on their hands. The next Evergreen State College-style racial justice mob may not form on a college campus. It could be coming to a high school near you.