$130K for book on ‘white privilege’

Omaha Public Schools spent $130,000 to buy a “cultural proficiency” book for 8,000 teachers, administrators, support staffers — even janitors, reports the World-Herald.  A Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change  tells educators to “take action for social justice” by opposing “white privilege.” The district used federal stimulus funds to buy the books.

Employees will be asked to read several chapters each quarter and then meet in study groups to discuss the book using a study guide produced by the district. For teachers, the study sessions will count as professional development.

School board President Sandra Jensen said the district doesn’t endorse everything in the book, nor does she expect employees to adopt the authors’ positions. The book is intended to open a dialogue, she said.

“The purpose of providing this resource is to help staff see that people come from a multitude of different backgrounds which cause them to respond differently to the same set of facts, depending on their personal perspectives,” she said in a statement. “Recognition that one might have a certain perspective is critical to treating all people equally.”

However, the book tells teachers not to treat all children the same or try to be “color-blind.” Instead, they should recognize and “esteem” the group identity of students of color.

The book has been used in San Diego and Atlanta schools, the authors say.

My father went to Omaha public schools and was graduated from Central High in 1940.  Things have changed:  Omaha schools are now  35.7 percent white, 29.9 percent Hispanic, 29.7 percent African-American, 3.1 percent Asian-American and 1.6 percent American-Indian. I’d bet teachers have heard already about diversity being a good thing.

In fact, I know they have.  Twenty years ago, I visited a friend who works for a small-town Nebraska school district. The state had sent out a diversity consultant, who was shocked to realize that 100 percent of students and staff were white. (“There were a couple of Native American kids, but they moved,” my friend said.) To “train” teachers to be sensitive to diversity, the consultant divided them into groups by religion. This did not help working relationships, my friend said.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    I’ve heard for years that “diversity” was a racket. My guess is the book’s price included a substantial profit.
    Just trying to think how drunk you’d have to be and stay to write a book like that. Might not be worth it.

  2. My unique cultural background forces me to this comment on this:


  3. There has got to be a better way to help minority students than spending $130k on this project. Funding an afterschool program or a pre-k one or ESL classes for the parents or SOMETHING with some actual educational value.

  4. I agree with you Crimson Wife.

  5. Stacy in NJ says:

    Another wonderful “stimulus” expenditure. With priorities like these is there little wonder we’re going bankrupt?

  6. I sometimes look at some of the verbs in these diversity or cultural sensitivity workshops and scratch my head. I mean, as a teacher, what, exactly, am I supposed to *do*?

    Tell me what “esteeming” someone’s identity looks like in action?

    In terms of actual teaching practice, what does “honoring” or “connecting” to someone’s ethnic heritage involve?

    “Addressing” race or “acknowledging white privilege” — what does a teacher say, and how will this improve learning outcomes?

    The effort to help minorities is certainly sincere, but I don’t see how it helps kids’ vocabulary or reading skills to reinforce victim status. And finally, I’d rather build whole-class community by acknowledging academic effort and using content games than take time outside instruction to dole out vapid praise.

  7. Guess the ethnicity of my of students on these lists at my school.

    Those who are habitually tardy.

    Those who are referred as to the office for disruption.

    Those with failing grades.

    Those on the honor role.

    The correlation to ethnicity is dramatically high.

    The outcomes we get are color blind.

    That being said, assigning a book on diversity training will probably do more harm than good. It’s going to rub people the wrong way.

    There are problems in River City, but “diversity training” like this is counter productive.

    It’s good that some people recognize there’s a problem, but that doesn’t mean they’ve generated a solution.

    This particular book is going to cause more division than unity.

    The best thing a teacher can do to counter institutional racism — is not to be well versed in Kawanzaa. The best thing a teacher can do is give the students a good education.

    That’s the heart of a good, liberal philosophy, that education matters.

    And indoctrination is not education.

  8. I thought of another one- how about a bookmobile with a large Spanish-language selection to go to low-income and/or immigrant neighborhoods a couple of evenings per week & Saturdays? The district could I’m sure get donations if $130k wouldn’t be enough to cover the full cost of that.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    “The effort to help minorities is certainly sincere, ”

    Nana. You want to put the farm on that?

  10. supersub says:

    Note to my students:
    Unless your culture values hard work and respect for your elders, your culture sucks.

  11. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    I have a fantasy of walking into a class on the first day and making like Sgt. Hartmann…

    “If you students leave my school, if you survive this English class, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of literacy praying for ink. But until that day you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human, fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit! You will not like me. But the more you hate me the more you will learn. I am hard but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to hold a diploma from my beloved school. Do you maggots understand that? ”

    Let’s train our teachers to do that.

    Color-blindness. It is the answer.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    I object to the use of “colorblind”. It smacks of ableist language, shaming those who can (or cannot–still working on it–) discern colors. It puts in a position of disadvantage all those who are–or are not–differently abled. If this were Canada, you’d be up before the Human Rights Commission, the least you deserve.

  13. The good news is, it’s only $130K that’s been wasted and it’s only one book.

    And their intentions were probably good.

    $130K of waste is not that bad for a government institution.

  14. I just spent the last 3 days in district meetings. As part of the new program we’re bringing into our school, the people in charge decided to buy door prizes. Did I mention that our school system barely avoided teacher layoffs?
    The door prizes:
    A IPod – NOT a shuffle
    Several $25 gift cards for restaurants and such
    6 Kindles
    4 IPads
    Can we say “waste of money”?

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Linda. When I was in the Army, we would occasionally have briefings which were classified. Like to hear, “fighting was light to medium in ten Corps” or when we went through our personnel files in case somebody had had a more interesting career than the rest of us.
    Sounds to me as if your meeting ought to be classified at Secret above Top Secret pinky-swear.
    If the taxpayers found out about this, lives might be lost. Can’t overstate the danger here.
    Plus, somebody would know how absolutely, terrifically, incredibly, stupid the admin is. At least in terms of PR.

  16. the book tells teachers not to treat all children the same or try to be “color-blind.” Instead, they should recognize and “esteem” the group identity of students of color.

    Which discriminates against white students; they are not to be esteemed, and are not allowed to have a group identity (that’s “racist”).

    “Addressing” race or “acknowledging white privilege” — what does a teacher say, and how will this improve learning outcomes?

    It means grading the non-white students more leniently and allowing them carte blanche for behavior which would have a white student sent to the office or suspended.

    The effort to help minorities is certainly sincere

    If only.