Posted on August 16, 2021

160 Minnesota School Principals Sign Woke ‘De-centering Whiteness’ Pledge

Christina Coulter, Daily Mail, August 15, 2021

Over 160 Minnesotan principals and assistant principals have signed a pledge to ‘de-center whiteness’ in education.

The group of 162 branded themselves the ‘Good Trouble Principals’ – citing a quote from the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

In the pledge they said they are ‘a loose collection of local principals bound together by a commitment to changing our nation’s future by engaging in better, more equitable education practices’.

The coalition vowed to ‘[dismantle] the practices that reinforce white academic superiority’ – including standardized testing and what they called an ‘Americanized version of the caste system in our schools’.

‘The fight for educational equality rages on and so does our counter,’ reads the pledge.

‘We will not be moved. We write to say it is our role as school principals to be the faces and names of this fight; to be in the forefront and not the shadows.’

‘We will not pledge loyalty to an institution over loyalty to the purity of children.’

The group’s name was inspired by the following John Lewis quote: ‘Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.’

Mauri Melander Friestleben, one of the principals who signed the document, told Fox News that the group’s goals include ‘increasing varieties of student and school evaluations that go beyond… the standardized testing process’.

Children from white and Asian-American families perform disproportionally better in standardized tests, critics of the practice say.

‘Students need as much instructional and supported work time as we can possibly provide, but they also need social and emotional support from teachers and staff,’ wrote teacher Jennifer Hernandez in an op-ed for the Minnesota Reformer.

‘That is definitely not what they receive in a silent room, staring at their screens for hours upon hours and clicking ovals: A, B, C or D.’

The Good Trouble Principals also wrote that Parent Teacher Associations and teacher’s unions are guilty of promoting the aforementioned ‘American caste system’ in schools.

‘Traditional organized Whiteness ensures domination through forms like PTAs and Unions,’ they wrote. ‘We purposefully call out and lift up historically non-represented voices of color in our spaces to hold weight and power.’

Friestleben told Fox News that these bodies have worked to preserve segregated schools and to oust ‘contracted teachers of color without due process.’

‘De-centering that means understanding that history in order to identify any present indicators that may be operating in that same light,’ she told the outlet.

Inviting an Indigenous parent to educate students about the geographical names of Native American etymology within the state could be one way to ‘de-center,’ she said.

The letter, however, was not entirely well-received.

Parents Defending Education, a group that opposes ‘liberal indoctrination’ in school systems, wrote in a rebuttal to the statement that principals refocus and prioritize educational goals.

‘John Lewis believed in diversity of thought and knew that every child needed to be literate and numerate if they were to have… agency and opportunity,’ said Erika Sanzi, the grassroots organization’s director of outreach.

‘The idea that 162 principals think they are honoring [John Lewis’] legacy by citing nonexistent research to defend prioritizing the “de-centering of whiteness” over the basic responsibility of teaching children to read, write and do basic arithmetic is troubling, but certainly not good trouble.’

Along with Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his iconic ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, Lewis spoke at the 1963 March on Washington.

The civil rights champion was one of the original Freedom Riders and had been severely beaten a number of times in his attempts for non-violent advocacy.

The Good Trouble Principals noted that their statement was issued 57 years after the 1963 March and the Klu Klux Klan bombing of a Black church in Birmingham, Alabama church that claimed the lives of four children.

In their statement, the group compared their initiative to the 1989 bombing of the Berlin Wall, a major step in ending the Cold War and a victory for the forces of capitalism and democracy over communism.

‘National educational leaders have never been educators and state educational leaders uphold whiteness as the standard… some of us operate under local elected and appointed leaders that exhibit deep commitment and courage, but others of us do not,’ reads the letter.

‘Yet still, we have fire in our bones and conviction in our hearts to see these walls come down like 1989 Berlin.’

‘[Their comparison to the demolition of the Berlin Wall] shows that [the Good Trouble Principals] subscribe to an ideology that is ahistorical and far afield from their obligations as educators of other peoples’ children,’ responded Sanzi.

‘While they cheer the collapse of an authoritarian regime in 1989, their version of “good trouble” seems pretty authoritarian.’

Friestleben defended the historic comparison to Fox News.

‘Minnesota has been leading the country in educational outcome disparities amongst students of color and white students for almost two decades now,’ she said.

‘That’s the symbolism, for me, in walls coming down: seeing those outcomes tumble,’

‘We don’t do this work to be performative. We do it because it’s on the right side of history… and there is power in numbers,’ wrote Minneapolis South High School Principal and statement cosigner Brett Stringer on Twitter.

‘We are teachers, we are accountants, we are police officers… We are urban principals, we are suburban principals, we are rural principals, we are principals that are willing to put it all on the line and have.’

According to their website, the Good Trouble Principals began as a Facebook group – eventually, the cosigners drafted the statement to ‘walk [their] talk.’

The Facebook group has more than twice as many members as the letter has signatures. Its description gives a shout-out to Abolitionist Teaching Network founder Bettina Love – whose work the White House recently said it cited in “error” and removed from its coronavirus reopening guidance for schools.

The Abolitionist Teaching Network, who is mentioned in the group’s Facebook description, has called ‘Whiteness’ a form of oppression and claimed that the U.S. has committed the “spirit murder” of “Black, Brown and Indigenous children.”