Elementary school children returning to a wealthy Pennsylvania classroom in the fall will learn that sympathizing with police officers is racist.
Gladwyne Elementary School—located in Lower Merion School District, one of the richest in the nation—will require fourth and fifth graders to read Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, which claims that white people who relate to police officers or decline to watch the news are complicit in racism. The curriculum also assigns A Kid's Book About Racism to kindergarten and first graders.
The books are raising eyebrows among some parents, who take issue with their political focus. Elana Yaron Fishbein, a mother of two boys and a doctor of social work, penned a letter to the district's superintendent, board members, and the school's principal demanding the school remove its new "cultural proficiency" curriculum.
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"The book teaches kids not only to defy parents but to hate themselves," Fishbein told the Washington Free Beacon. "To hate their parents also because they are white. By default, [the kids] are white, and they're privileged, and they're bad. [The school] is teaching this to little kids."
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, public schools are increasingly politicizing their curricula. In Virginia's Loudoun County School District—the richest county in the nation—schools teamed up with the left-wing education group Teaching Tolerance to develop a new curriculum about slavery for kindergartners. The proposed lesson plans recommend restructuring history and social studies classes to emphasize slavery as fundamental to American society.
Cultural proficiency lessons at Gladwyne were announced in an email to parents on June 9. The email claims that despite offering four other lessons on equity and race, the school's "Cultural Proficiency Committee" believes those lessons are insufficient and created a fifth lesson focused explicitly on anti-racism.
"Generally, each class also engages in a cultural proficiency lesson; however, we realize that this is not enough," Gladwyne principal Veronica Ellers wrote in an email obtained by the Free Beacon. "We plan to continue designing lessons that promote anti-racist actions in the upcoming 20-21 school year and beyond."
A Kid's Book About Racism has an exhaustive list of actions it deems harmful and racist. The book claims asking questions can be racist and issues a call to action for five- to seven-year-olds to call out and identify racism.
"[Racism] happens all the time," the book reads. "Sometimes it shows up in small ways. Like a look, a comment, a question, a thought, a joke, a word, or a belief…. If you see someone being treated badly, made fun of, excluded from playing, or looked down on because of their skin color call it racism."
Amy Buckman, a district spokeswoman, defended the move. "The Lower Merion School District fully supports the ongoing implementation of an anti-racist curriculum in its schools and encourages the use of developmentally appropriate books that raise awareness of the very real issues of racism and privilege," she said.
If kindergartners can be called racist for asking questions, so can parents who question the "anti-racism" being taught to their children. Fishbein told the Free Beacon that parents privately message her echoing their disapproval of the cultural proficiency curriculum, but are scared to speak out for fear of being branded racist.
"If you say anything that's racist according to the school or parent's definition of racism, you're out," Fishbein said. "You're called a racist. No wonder the parents don't talk."
Lower Merion refused to respond to her emails. That silence was more than enough for Fishbein. Her children will attend a private school in the fall.