Williamson County in Tennessee in 2020 adopted a new curriculum, “Wit and Wisdom,” which incorporates the quasi-Marxist critical race theory (CRT), in grades K through five at the beginning of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus lockdowns.
Although legislation prohibiting teaching CRT in public schools in Tennessee went into effect in July, these ideas are now infused throughout the curriculum, according to Robin Steenman, Williamson County chapter chair of Moms for Liberty.
“Some of the material within ‘Wit and Wisdom’ curriculum [published by Great Minds] is explicitly CRT but most of it is implicit,” Steenman said in an interview on EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program. “It is the drumbeat in the background, the constant pushing and pushing to look at the angry white faces. The vocabulary, words that they choose, are ‘unjust,’ ‘unfair,’ ‘violence.’ You expose a kid to that day after day, for an hour a day, then they’re going to get the message whether the textbook says CRT or not.”
Critical race theory (CRT) is based on the Marxist concept of class struggle, which pits two social classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat—against each other to divide and conquer. CRT applies this same principle to race, dividing people into oppressors and the oppressed based on their skin color.
The bill enacted (pdf) by the State of Tennessee doesn’t mention CRT by name, but prohibits teaching students that any race or sex is superior to any other or that an individual is “inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive” due to their race or sex. It also forbids teachers from instructing students that the United States is inherently sexist or racist. The bill further bans any teaching that suggests the U.S. government should be violently overthrown.
How CRT Is Taught
“The running theme of the whole curriculum is emotion,” Steenman said. “If it’s anti-church, that will stir up emotion, anti-police, anti-firemen, anti-tradition—especially the racially charged parts—of course that will stir up emotion. You know, the imagery in K through five and a lot of these books is angry faces. You’re very hard pressed to find a smiling illustration in any of these books.”
Steenman singled out an example of the Civil Rights curriculum for grade two, which she said has “nine straight weeks of angry white people.”
The Moms for Liberty local chair and other concerned parents read through all the curriculum, including the books, for “Wit and Wisdom,” listing all inappropriate content they found in those books.
“You can see that through Wit and Wisdom there are many common threads that seem to surface in every other grade. And suicide ideation is one of them,” she said.
Steenman shared with The Epoch Times some quotes from three books in the curriculum that had suicide as a running theme.
A first-grade book from the curriculum titled “Brave Irene” that Steenman described as “a fairly dark tale” reads, “Why not freeze to death, she thought, and let all the troubles end. Why not? She was already buried.”
A passage from a third-grade book about a mouse in the water reads, “He began to wonder what it would like to drown. Would it take very long? Would it feel just awful? Would his soul go to heaven? Would there be other mice there?”
The fourth-grade book titled “Hatchett” discussed the suicidal thoughts of a 13-year-old, Steenman said.
It is not easy for parents to opt out of a particular book because there are several lessons tied to it that the child would lose, Steenman explained.
“‘Wit and Wisdom’ curriculum has a different structure than other curriculums … and that it’s a spiral lesson plan around a single book,” she said. “A parent says, ‘I want to opt-out.’ Well, you’ve just lost 20 lessons that all focus on that one book, in every possible way, from imagery to sentence structure, to words, to vocabulary.”
Emotion Over Objectivity
In the teachers’ manuals for the curriculum, “Wit and Wisdom” emphasizes subjective emotional learning starting in kindergarten over applying objective methods to analyze things, Steenman said.
“That is because emotions are never wrong. It’s all subjective,” she added. “It’s what your truth is, what your experience [is], but there’s no objective, black-and-white truth to measure that against. So it’s objectivity versus subjectivity.”
To illustrate her point, Steenman shared with The Epoch Times a page from “The Story of Ruby Bridges,” a book in the curriculum for the second grade, which reads: “On Ruby’s first day, a large crowd of angry white people gathered. The people carried signs, they said they didn’t want black children in a white school. Some wanted to hurt her.”
The teacher’s manual instructs the teacher to “point out the angry white faces, ask the children how it makes them feel, create a nonverbal sign for injustice,” Steenman said.
Ruby Bridges was the first African American student in the South who at the age of six attended an all-white elementary school following the federal court order in 1960 to end racial segregation in public schools in Louisiana.
“There’s a lot of things to learn about the story of Ruby Bridges,” Steenman noted, such as the bravery of the little girl, as well as people who are on the wrong side of history, people who are on the right side of history, the story of redemption in the form of the Civil Rights Act, and the healing of America, she noted.
“None of that’s taught. Instead, a second-grader is going to go home and say and remember that the angry white people wanted to kill her—that’s what’s going to stay in their brain. And they’re going to look at the color of their own skin, and associate themselves, and that’s where you get shame in a child.”
Children at a young age won’t likely have a full appreciation for the time that has passed, or an understanding of the historical context, Steenman said.
Steenman, a former Air Force officer, pointed out that the teaching of CRT at work, at corporations, and government institutions targets adults who have had plenty of time to learn to think rationally and critically and judge it themselves. “But when you start putting this stuff in front of kindergarteners, first graders, second graders who have not achieved critical thinking yet—they really are a defenseless target,” she said.
In addition, Steenman said that children in the fourth grade who are exposed to age-inappropriate material and subjects such as rape, murder, and arson suffer psychological damage and can easily be traumatized.
Testimonies Steenman received from first- and second-graders included a child being ashamed of their skin color and another child saying that their family members should be killed because they were white.
Jack Phillips and Li Hai contributed to this report.