“(R)acism is caused by white people, by our attitudes, behaviors, practices, and institutions … How do you justify it for yourself?”
That’s the heavy-handed question asked of Wisconsin’s public school teachers, one of many similar assertions found in a conference handout from a controversial state Department of Public Instruction initiative to combat “white privilege” in the classroom.
The four-year-old CREATE Wisconsin education initiative was ostensibly designed to help public school educators reach disadvantaged students. Now, thanks to an EAG News expose, CREATE , the acronym for Culturally Responsive Education for All: Training and Enhancement, may be more notorious for its racially charged teaching points, including:
- From Examining the Dynamics of Oppression and Privilege, found in a 2009 CREATE conference handout: “In this country the institutional system supports the dominance of white people” and “More frequently than not, white people take advantage of privileges generated by a racist society.”
- From Paul Kivel’s 2009 CREATE conference handout, The Costs of Racism to White People: “We are given a false sense of superiority, a belief that we should be in control and in authority, and that people of color should be maids, servants, and gardeners and do the less valued work of our society.” According to his website, Kivel is a “social justice educator, activist, and writer, has been an innovative leader in violence prevention for more than 35 years.”
- In her 2009 CREATE conference presentation, Wisconsin DPI employee Dr. LaVerne Jackson-Harvey said, “There appears to be a national trend that can be attributed [to] the conservative agenda that currently exist[s] with former closet racist[s] leaving the closet and entering the light to write policies that support covert and overt racism that impact[s] students of color.”
CREATE Wisconsin hosts an annual conference and various workshops for Wisconsin educators.
Steve Gunn, author of the EAG expose, said it appears the goal of the initiative “is to build up guilt among white educators.”
“On the flip side of that are the resentments among minorities and minority students… They would have them feel like the entire system is against them. That isn’t going to make any kid feel like he stands much of a chance,” he said.
DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper defended the program, which is funded through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act program, commonly known as IDEA.
“The CREATE Wisconsin initiative aims at reducing disproportionality in special education programs, increasing achievement for all students, and closing gaps which are serious issues facing Wisconsin schools,” Gasper wrote in an email to Wisconsin Reporter. He went on to quote from the initiative’s web page.
“CREATE begins with one question: Why? Why don’t students from diverse backgrounds achieve at the same level as their peers?
“Why are students from diverse backgrounds enrolled in special education more often than their peers?
“To answer these questions, CREATE mobilizes educators to reflect on their educational practices. The objective is to identify strategies that contribute to eliminating the achievement gap and utilize those approaches through professional development, training and technical assistance.”
The achievement gap among minority students and white students is very real and very pronounced, particularly in Wisconsin’s urban schools.
In Madison alone:
- 45 percent of 10th grade black males are proficient in reading, while 87 percent of white males are.
- The graduation rate for black males is only 52 percent, while the rate for white males is 88 percent.
- Blacks comprise 24 percent of the student population but 29 percent of special education students. Native Americans comprise 1 percent of the student population but 20 percent of special education students, according to the EAG report
For the record, CREATE Wisconsin operates on about $890,000 in taxpayer funding per year, according to the EAG expose.