By Larry and Mary Gavin
National notoriety about whether District 65 respects parents, limiting acceleration and eliminating geometry in its math program, challenges in reopening schools, and the persistent problem of a structural deficit – a recent forum for District 65 School Board candidates touched on these and more.
An audience of 175 attended the March 17 virtual forum hosted by Central Street Neighbors Association and attended by all eight candidates: Angela Blaising, Joey Hailpern, Soo La Kim, Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, Ndona Muboyayi, Donna Wang Su, Katie Voorhees, and Marquise Weatherspoon. Mr. Hailpern is seeking re-election. Ms. Lindsay-Ryan and Ms. Kim, appointed to the Board in 2019 and 2020, respectively, are seeking to retain their seats on the board.
Central Street Neighbors Association President Jeff Smith pressed all eight candidates to give their views on a story in the Atlantic titled “What Happens When a Slogan Becomes the Curriculum” by Conor Friedersdorf. He wrote, “A curriculum inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement is spreading, raising questions about the line between education and indoctrination.”
A link to the article can be found here:
This is the third year the District has used parts of that curriculum during a week in Black History Month. In the prior two years, notice was put on the District’s website and sent to parents, but that was not done this year.
By way of introduction to his question he said, “District 65 is made national discussion this week in the Atlantic magazine for its Black Lives Matter curriculum. And I wouldn’t call it a puff piece. Dr. Beardsley is quoted as saying, ‘We’re not in the business of telling kids what to think, and to feel.’ But the author says that the district has crossed the line from education into indoctrination.”
QUESTIONS REGARDING RECENT ARTICLE IN THE ATLANTIC
Question: Has District 65 become too ideological? And is it detracting from learning? And specifically, I’ve received a number of questions from residents asking, is district 65 teaching students that, quote, whiteness, unquote, is a bad thing? And should it be?
Ms. Lindsay-Ryan said, “It’s, I guess, fitting that I started this conversation, since this is what I do every day with every client is to engage in these conversations. And I think it’s, it’s critically important for our kids to be raised as global citizens to have an understanding of honest history, to understand all of the contexts of the struggles that are happening in our current times.
“And I think our Black Lives Matter curriculum as well as our LGBT+ curriculum and our Latinx are not those are full enough like we need to a comprehensive curriculum, which is why we’re doing a revamp of the Social Studies program. But as a history major, like I had to be fully out of my history-major college experience to learn one thing that was not a whitewashed history. I don’t want that for my kids; I want them to understand the world that they live in. I want them to understand the experiences of other people.
“And I think that there’s, there’s a way for us to do that, that is honest and allows each of us to understand where I situate us, and how that that impacts our interactions with each other, that doesn’t have to be punitive. It doesn’t have to be a declaration that there’s something wrong with whiteness, but to understand the systemic pieces that dictate and influence all of our relationships, and if Evanston wants to be the place that folks say we are, this is a critical part of that education.”
To Mr. Hailpern, Mr. Smith said, “Have we crossed the line and become too ideological? Or is there an impact on other learning?
Mr. Hailpern said he would start with a quote he contributed to the article, “because that also partially is my answer. As a white man, I’d be lying if I said there were not parts of the curriculum that made me feel uneasy.
“It is hard to have your child come home and point out to you the privilege you’ve long held, but never noticed.
“I feel so good knowing that my children are learning the value community respect and fairness in a way I was never discreetly taught in school. equity is a journey for some a fight for others. And in a distant hope for too many, if this makes the long term goals in our community more attainable, a bit of unease on my white part is acceptable and necessary to me.
“I gave that piece to the author that he put in the article, because he was asking great questions. And I think a lot of it comes back to trusting our teachers with our kids. We all send our children to school with teachers who have opinions.
“And what I want is for schools to be less apolitical and more political, that doesn’t mean give kids opinions, that doesn’t mean impose upon them. That means get them…