Led by Williamson County mother and Air Force combat vet, Robin Steenman, the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty (MFL) managed to pack full another room on June 15 with concerned parents, teachers, grandparents, and politicians from all over the state to hear a comprehensive presentation about the Wit and Wisdom curriculum that is currently being considered for continued use in the conservative Tennessee county.
MFL invited the entire school board, setting a long table for them with their names displayed on placards at their “places.” Jay Galbreath, Dan Cash, and Candy Emerson were present.
MFL contends that the curriculum is actually critical race theory in disguise. Critical race theory is a subset of Critical Theory. CRT analyzes American life through the prism of race; one is either oppressed or the oppressor. It often focuses on identity politics, and claims of victimization run rampant. It seeks to normalize “systemic racism” as a given in the American landscape.
Steenman and Lori Fredhim, the lead researcher on the project, spoke for nearly two hours, presenting in detail the materials they and their army of approximately 1,600 mothers have reviewed. Steenman described several areas of concern, including the teaching of; suicidal ideation, cannibalism, white supremacy and condemnation of White people, death described graphically, denigration of the nuclear family, age-inappropriate content like alcoholism or sexualized behavior in books, dark imagery, and extreme emotions discussed in books for very young children. Explaining that not everything needs to be seen through a depressing lens, at one point, Steenman said to the audience:
“I would submit: why have this book if it has all the warnings?… There’s a lot of beautiful literature out there. Pick something from that pile.”
She also explained that children “are being given books way out of their Lexile range—” meaning the books and the concepts in them are too abstract for young children to grasp.
Fredhim spoke eloquently on the topic. She created a website that is well organized and full of information on all aspects of what is happening in Williamson County concerning CRT. A vote on the adoption of the curriculum is scheduled for June 21. Steenman says she hopes they will vote not to adopt the materials.
Prior to this presentation, the mothers with MFL had begun dividing and conquering the many books and teachers’ lessons associated with the curriculum. Parents from the county spent hours buying, reading, and annotating the entire body of books with tabs on the pages with the offending concepts.
They found that many of the books were too “dark and depressing” for young readers and the lesson plans were, in many cases, developed to elicit certain reactions from students—ones that aligned with a particular worldview, according to the Moms.
After finishing the readings and reviews, a series of spreadsheets were compiled to reflect the materials and results. All are divided into grade levels with comments on the far right. Often parents noted that children were being taught concepts beyond their ability to grasp the content.
Many parents described accounts of children being prodded by teachers to respond in directed ways. The lesson plans, in many cases, seem to solicit specific responses from children rather than seeking to ask open-ended questions to see what is truly on the student’s mind.
Materials Reviews with Comments and Grade Levels
Teachers Teach Feelings/Often Very Negative Slant
Parents also described concerns about important parts of U.S. History going completely unmentioned. Historical context for concepts like slavery has been omitted, and children have been taught in some instances that racial oppression is still rampant today. Many are taught that police are always brutal to people of color.
One mother told UncoverDC that her second-grade child told her he was ashamed to be white because of what his teacher was teaching him about race relations in the U.S. In some cases, it is the emphasis on racism that causes the confusion, not necessarily a teacher who tells the child that he should be ashamed to be white.
Younger minds have a limited ability to properly integrate concepts like racism, often internalizing it and feeling ashamed rather than understanding the concept as a part of a greater contextual whole.
The presentation was impressively detailed and focused. The mothers discussed the language used by so many school districts to disguise the implementation of Critical Race Theory curricula in schools—a common strategy allegedly used to fool parents into thinking the curriculum is harmless. Words like equity, social-emotional learning, and diversity are examples of the softening of language to disguise the curriculum.
UncoverDC went to Loudoun County, VA, in early June to interview parents protesting the school board meeting there, and those parents expressed the very same concerns. CRT concepts are found in every subject area of curricula. Diversity training workshops are being held in schools, governmental institutions, and businesses.
FightforSchools.com and stoplcpscrt.com are two organizations formed by the Loudoun County Parents to combat CRT in schools. Christopher Rufo has written an outstanding body of work on the subject, and his legislation tracker website shows which states are implementing laws. The Manhattan Institute also has initiatives on the subject.
As with many states now, Tennessee just “banned” the use of CRT in its public schools, and yet, teachers have reported to UncoverDC that in-service training on coursework like CRT is continuing to be held. There are no “teeth” in many of the laws to hold school districts accountable. Teachers allegedly continue to teach the content because they know no one is watching or monitoring their lesson plans.
UncoverDC spoke with Tonya Homme, a mother and Spanish teacher who moved to Tennessee from Los Angeles in late 2018 in search of a better quality of life. She told UncoverDC about her experiences in Williamson County:
“My family and I moved from Los Angeles to Tennessee in late 2018 in search of a better quality of life. We chose Williamson County, believing that WCS would provide a great public education for our child. In 2019, I was hired by WCS to teach Spanish. I soon began to notice that progressive influences I had seen while teaching in public schools in Chicago and then in Los Angeles were also present here. This caught us by surprise, having done extensive research before moving our family across the country to what was reported to be the most conservative county in a deeply red state.
I continued teaching for WCS until mid-September 2020, when I was called into the principal’s office and was told that other teachers had reported me for not wearing my mask while I was teaching. I confirmed that this was true and then stated my reason. WCS policy states that people may remove their masks “when 6-foot social distancing is maintained,” which I did. I only removed my mask while I was teaching so that my students could better understand and learn the new language I was teaching them.
Despite what it says in their own policy, I was immediately suspended without pay and was told I could not communicate with any WCS students or staff. I was also told I would not be permitted on campus, despite the fact that my own child attended a Williamson County school. After a zoom hearing in early February 2021, I received the decision that although the mask is ‘something middle schoolers could have made in an arts-and-craft project,’ WCS policy was ‘less about keeping teachers healthy than it is about reassuring the parents of Williamson County’s children that it is safe for them to send their children to school.’ The hearing officer sided with WCS, and I was terminated in early March 2021.
When I heard that a new Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty was forming, I saw it as an opportunity for parents to regain the voice that has been all but silenced with regard to our children’s education. For too long, our emails and phone calls went unanswered. School Board meetings were closed to the public. Changes were rapidly implemented and mandated, and parents had no say, as our children’s liberties were being stripped away. Parents are tired of being silenced. Moms for Liberty is one of many new grassroots organizations that are forming, so another side of the conversation must be heard.”
UncoverDC featured the Williamson County organization in an article written in April.
UncoverDC and Emmy Award-winning newsman John Spiropoulos are currently collaborating on a video series of 5 to 7-minute short documentary spots on the subject of CRT called “The Poison in Our Schools.” The first two debut videos for the series can be found below.
Report Number 2 can be found below: