Silicon Valley School District Prepares 'Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive' Curriculum Makeover

Teachers encouraged to use 'therapeutic language' and hold daily check-ins about how kids are sleeping and feeling

(Martine Severin/Grabien)
May 29, 2024

A Silicon Valley school district is gearing up for a makeover, in which kids will be urged to check their coursework for "white supremacy," "colonial mentality," and "cis-heterosexism," and all teachers pushed to filter their curriculum "through an anti-racist and anti-oppressive lens."

The San Mateo Union High School District, comprising seven campuses in a community between San Francisco and Palo Alto, plans to roll out this method of teaching in 2025. Under the model, kids may help choose and change their curriculum—which is supposed to follow tenets of critical race theory and focus on the most "oppressed" perspectives—and direct how teachers manage the classroom and assign projects. Teachers meanwhile are encouraged to use "therapeutic language" and hold daily check-ins about how the kids are sleeping and feeling.

In line with the model’s focus on "anti-racism," district officials are promising to test the limits of affirmative action laws when it comes to staffing their schools, in order to hire as many "black, Indigenous, People of Color at all levels within our school district" as is "legally permitted."

The outlines of the plan, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, have alarmed critics, who see it as another step in radicalizing K-12 public schools—even as anti-Israel university campus protests highlight the widespread far-left politicization within academia.

Rhyen Staley, a researcher for the nonprofit Parents Defending Education, called the program "just the latest example of left-wing educational fads being implemented in K-12 classrooms," and said it will "leave students worse off, not better."

"Unfortunately, San Mateo Unified has committed to replacing scholarship with activism in order to transform schools away from centers of learning to institutions of indoctrination," said Brandy Shufutinsky, director of education and community engagement at the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values. She noted that nothing in the framework addresses "anything that will improve student learning."

A spokeswoman for the district did not respond to a request for comment.

The San Mateo district, which was one of the first in California to require its students to take ethnic studies at the height of Black Lives Matter fervor, is basing its model on the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, an obscure figure who has become increasingly influential in left-wing education circles.

The framework encourages teachers to play music chosen by students "when appropriate," and to set aside sections of classrooms "where BIPOC and other historically oppressed groups of students see themselves represented" through "posters, symbols, imagery or other celebrations of BIPOC and other historically oppressed groups."

Teachers are also urged to aid students "in navigating White dominant education spaces" and make sure "that we don’t center on Eurocentric curriculum at the expense of valuing their own cultural wealth/history/legacies/contributions."

Officials have made it clear that the framework’s goal is a uniform way of thinking across their classes and programs—which, they claim, will make students perform more similarly across the board when it comes to academics.

"As a result of this coherence and shared vision, the framework will support our district’s goal to eliminate disproportionality in student achievement outcomes for our Black, Brown, and other historically marginalized students," the framework says.