“It is baked into the way that these schools operate to devalue academic achievement because they don’t want a paper trail of how they’re failing your kids,” says Luke Rosiak, an investigative reporter at the Daily Wire and author of “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.”
Even before the pandemic hit, 66 percent of American 4th graders were scoring less than Proficient on the Nation’s Report Card assessment.
As minority students fall behind, schools in America are abolishing standardized tests, A-B-C-D-F grading scales, and entrance exams.
“In pursuit of equity, they have stopped measuring things. They started cooking the books. They started orienting everything around the lowest common denominator. And the result is really devastating for society,” Rosiak says.
Jan Jekielek: Luke Rosiak, great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Luke Rosiak: Thanks for having me, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Race To The Bottom: Uncovering The Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education. I just finished reading your book this morning. There’s an unbelievable amount of research going on here. You say in the epilogue that talking to a number of people back in 2019, a number of local Floridians, basically made you rethink your whole concept of politics. So tell me about that.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, that was a big moment of transformation for me. I was working here in DC as a reporter covering Capitol Hill, all that Washington stuff that a lot of people, including myself, thought was the most important. I hadn’t really thought much about local politics at all, but people started contacting me about problems in schools and it was so personal in how it affected them.
I realized that most of what Congress does, to be honest, you’re not likely to feel it personally as far as your day-to-day life. There’s a lot of things that local government does that have an impact. I also realized that because most people weren’t paying attention to local politics, things could go wrong. I quit my job and I decided to spend a year focused on nothing but the school problem, which really occurs across all of these 13,000 local school districts.
Mr. Jekielek: Some of these districts actually impact a huge number of people. The case you make in the book is that who gets to be on the board is largely under the radar in a lot of cases. Some people don’t even realize that there are radical agendas at play.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. I live in Fairfax County, Virginia, and that’s a very large county. It has 1.2 million people. In 2019, one of the things that really woke me up to this issue was learning that out of the 10 Democrats on the Fairfax County School Board, none of them had kids in the school system. In the whole school board, none of them had any kids in the school system. So why would you run for school board if you didn’t have any kids? It turned out that they all had their own weird political agenda, and they were using the schools as a vehicle, either to gain access to children, or to money, or to whatever.
Mr. Jekielek: You spent a year putting this book together. You had the idea that you were going to put this into a book. You saw something unusual happening in your own school district. You had heard from people, because you were writing stories in other places.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, that’s right. People were contacting me about schools. Basically, I saw that something was coming, that schools mattered, and that no one was paying attention to them. Because of that, special interests had really started colonizing these schools. It was really pervasive. It was almost everywhere. It started in places like Seattle and Minneapolis, but soon spread to places where you wouldn’t expect it.
Shortly after, of course, coronavirus hit and a lot of people started paying attention to schools. But I started working on this book before then, and what I found is that a lot of what happened during coronavirus and with CRT (Critical Race Theory) was what they had already wanted to do. They used coronavirus to really ramp it up.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. That’s actually quite interesting. You contend in the book that it might not be that the teachers unions are really fearing for the teacher’s safety. It may be that there is some other agenda at play with their desire to keep the kids out of school and keep the teachers out of school. Please explain that to me.
Mr. Rosiak: Of course. Even when there’s coronavirus lockdowns in place, you could still go out to eat, at least. I lived in Virginia where the lockdowns were pretty bad, but you could go out to eat, you could travel. There were airlines having a stewardess walking down these narrow aisles. You’ve got the mailman going from house to house. Everyone’s working. You can go to Target and you’ve got cashiers there.
The one job category that was refusing to do their job was teachers. We all know that kids aren’t vectors of these diseases. Of course, they were shutting down schools to get money and they got $80 billion in one bill alone, one bailout bill. They got more money than the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, and the schools weren’t even open.
Where was the money going? They were basically taking your kids hostage. We all know that by now. But the thing to realize is that they have always operated these schools as employment centers for adults, as much as they have as places to educate children. That’s a huge problem. We’ve almost forgotten that schools exist to educate children. But you also have to ask, “If this is the kind of people that would do that, what else have they been doing all these decades when we haven’t been paying attention?”
Mr. Jekielek: What do you mean by taking kids hostage? What do you mean exactly?
Mr. Rosiak: They said, “We’re not going to open schools unless you meet our conditions.” Primarily, the conditions were a lot of money that they said they needed for safety, but it really wasn’t true. In Fairfax County, they had a warehouse full of so many masks that they ran out of room in the warehouse. The next day, as I watched the school board meeting, the superintendent’s staff was reporting, “We can’t even fit anymore masks in. We’re just loaded up.”
The next day, the teacher’s union says, “If you want us to go to school, you’re going to have to give us money to buy masks.” There’s dishonesty to it. They basically said we’re not going to go to work until you do ideological stuff. In Los Angeles, the teacher’s union said, “We want welfare for illegal immigrants or else we’re not going to educate your children.” So there’s politics to it. Then there’s also the selfish materialistic element of the teachers unions, just using this to get a raise.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about One Fairfax. You actually dedicate a chapter in the book to One Fairfax, what it is and the genesis of that whole idea.
Mr. Rosiak: Sure. One of the most important concepts to understand is equity. A lot of the book is about critical race theory, but I don’t really call it critical race theory. I call it equity, because that’s what the school system calls it. Of course, they’re going to deny doing CRT, but almost every school district in the country is on record as supporting equity. It means equal outcomes by race, and basically that’s communism.
It means forcing equal outcomes, either by bringing the top performers down or by just rigging the statistics. One of the things that these equity initiatives do, effectively, is seize power. Because in any bureaucracy, you have all these different offices and divisions. It’s like little fiefdoms. They implant the equity stuff above it all, so that every decision from every department has to be cleared through the diversity or equity department, because of its impact on race.
In Fairfax County, there are groups called PolicyLink, and the Government Alliance for Racial Equity. They are two nonprofits that most people haven’t even heard of, but they’re very important nodes in this effort to take over local governments and spread this radical agenda. They’ve been doing it for about a decade. So they did a study. Essentially, one of them did a study on Fairfax County to determine, “How can we take it over?” They did that through a lot of plotting over many years, and then they passed a policy that said, “Every decision must be made through the lens of equity.”
Then they hired this firm to tell them what that meant. It included both the school system and the county government. It’s a very powerful policy. What was remarkable is, if you go into the documents about these two activist groups, they’re very explicit about their methodology for taking over. It’s almost like dominoes. We’ll take over this county, then this town, and then this city. One of them, PolicyLink, covers more than 10 per cent of all Americans.
They’ve colonized a good portion of America with these radical policies. Essentially, people are all paying attention to Washington and asking, “What’s your opinion on the president?” Honestly, we all have our opinion about the president, but it doesn’t count for much, whereas, we could have an impact on local government. There was almost no one going to these sleepy town halls or county council meetings. Those who were showing up were lobbyists for these radical groups. They very meticulously took over every county in the country, just knocking them over like dominoes.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. You mentioned that the term equity is actually used because they did some focus groups. They said, “Oh, equity is something that we can actually get people to respond to in the right way.
Mr. Rosiak: Exactly. They were talking about disproportionality. With policies like affirmative action or disproportionality people can see that not every statistic has to be equal. That’s kind of a crazy concept. But really, they put a lot of energy and effort into studying it all. How can we manipulate people by using language? They realized that with equity, a lot of Americans were not paying attention. They literally thought equity was the same as equality, just because they sound similar. I hate to say it was as simple as that, but there’s a couple letter changes, and they make a huge difference.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. Because equity means equality of outcome.
Mr. Rosiak: Correct.
Mr. Jekielek: In practice, you’re saying that means equalizing around the bottom. Maybe give me a few examples where that actually happened.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. During the Obama administration there was concern about discipline disparities in schools, and they called it the “school to prison pipeline,” which essentially means that black boys are suspended more than others in schools. So Obama sent a letter from the Department of Justice to every school system saying you’re going to be investigated unless your discipline rates were the same for all races. The rate of Asians suspended for bringing knives to school had to be the same as the rate of blacks for bringing knives to school.
But what if one of them brings more knives to school than the other? What do you do? You wind up having to cook the books and let people off the hook for committing serious infractions. There were people being beaten up every single day in schools and the school was doing nothing about it, because they didn’t want to send in a spreadsheet that had the wrong number of blacks suspended.
For example, in Los Angeles, over a couple years during the Obama administration, the number of suspensions went from 75,000 a year to only 5,000 a year. It’s essentially the total curtailing of any disciplinary action in schools. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because the kids became better behaved. That’s kind of what equity is. Instead of changing behaviors, you just change appearances superficially, so that the optics look better.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. Because then you can say, “Wow, we’ve actually reduced the number of disciplinary actions dramatically.” I don’t know what percentage it would be.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, exactly. Then another one is these magnet schools, and this is really important—places like Stuyvesant in New York City, or Lowell in San Francisco, or Thomas Jefferson in Fairfax County. These are magnet schools dedicated to cultivating our best and brightest by working really hard. They go on to do things like create the next coronavirus vaccine. Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine, went through these specialized schools in New York City.
It’s been incredible to see the school systems start devaluing academic accomplishment. Literally, the teachers have turned against working hard and doing homework and getting the right answers, all in pursuit of equal outcomes. What you could do is try to help the minority, so that they do better, but the teachers have basically said, “No, we’re not going to do that. We’re just going to stop measuring.” They try to do away with tests where these disparities are revealed, and say, “It’s bad to test kids because…whatever.” They have all their excuses.
But it’s really to prevent creating this paper trail. Again, if you want to help minorities and poor kids, you do it the same way you help anyone else. You give them that rigorous education in math and science and writing. Then they go on to get these well paid jobs. So, in pursuit of equity, they have stopped measuring things. They started cooking the books. They started orienting everything around the lowest common denominator.
The result will be really devastating for society, not long in the future, but over the next five to 10 years. We’re not even trying to get the kids to be smart, because it’s better for the teachers to look like they’re succeeding. By not giving these kids failing grades, they’re not creating these disparities.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about Stuyvesant and how everything unrolled in New York. I’m somewhat familiar with this situation, but I think you describe it really well. You mentioned how this approach actually spread out from New York. Can you give me an overview of what happened?
Mr. Rosiak: Sure. You get into Stuyvesant through a test called the SAT and it’s an objective test where you’re asked to answer math problems and there’s also a writing component. For years, they had a lot of blacks and Hispanics in these schools. But over time that started going down and there started being more Asians in the schools. I think 80 per cent of the kids in Stuyvesant are now immigrants or the children of immigrants. 42 of these kids are actually homeless, and these are the most hardworking, genius kids.
It’s really a fascinating place. It’s the embodiment of the American dream, where you can come to New York City with nothing and wind up at the top of society through hard work. One of the reasons they used this standardized test to get in was to make sure that wealthy well-connected people couldn’t use their connections.
The kids had to be skilled. That was the only way in. It was really a way to keep the elites from capturing this school, and merit was the great equalizer. It brought this very rigorous school to the middle class and the working class. But because of the fixation on race, they basically decided to do away with a test. There were a lot of activists who were pressuring them, “Don’t use the exam to get into the math school, because asking kids to answer math questions is not a good way to determine whether they know math.”
This is the kind of thing where every teacher, every teacher’s college, and all the teacher’s unions accept this premise, which is an absurd premise. It’s a conspiracy theory that should be laughed out of polite society. Of course, a test is a reasonable way to ascertain whether these kids know math. Of course, a test does not discriminate against black people. They’re literally stating, because there’s an English component to the test on the English language, it is biased against African-Americans, and in favor of Asians who speak English as a second language. It’s totally absurd.
The truth is children are individuals and some of them are seeking out this school and willing to do five hours of homework a day. We need to cultivate the best and brightest. What happened here in Fairfax County is they got rid of the tests and they wound up having to do remedial math.
If we’re a society that isn’t prioritizing math in our schools, what’s going to happen to technology, and the quality of life that is brought to us by inventions, healthcare, and national defense? This is really a bizarre notion and they got rid of a lot of these screen schools. They haven’t quite gotten rid of the tests for SHSAT in New York City, but they’ve gotten rid of some of the middle schools. There is still a pressure to demolish these magnet schools.
Mr. Jekielek: There was a huge pushback, of course. You mentioned in the book that Asian-Americans, in terms of earnings, are pretty low on the scale, so they’re kind of confusing to this whole racial equity narrative.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. That’s one of the things that’s really apparent when you look at that chapter about Stuyvesant is how dishonest all of these education people are. They used to say, “The reason why blacks and Hispanics aren’t getting in, is they can’t take the test on the weekend.” The truth is that many of them are not seeking to go to the school at all. It’s not racism. They’re literally not even applying.
So they say, “Well, if you’re black, you can’t take the test. You’re occupied on the weekend.” It’s such a weird thing to say. It’s like these white people in New York City who say, “Oh, all blacks are not available on Saturday and Sunday. They’re at the black convention that day.” So they moved the test to a weekday, and the percentage of blacks taking the test only went down.
Mr. Jekielek: What I can’t help thinking is, could it possibly be because you failed in your job in educating a certain portion of the population? Could it be?
Mr. Rosiak: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: It seems like it isn’t often on the table.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. Ultimately, that’s the issue with Stuyvesant. There are a million students in New York City, and there’s only about 20,000 in the specialized schools. So to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. “We’ve got to stay focused on the million. That’s the bigger picture.” So why do they care so much what happens to these 20,000 kids in the specialized schools? The answer is because it’s the optics. When you look at Stuyvesant, what you see is a big picture of how kids are doing in New York City as a whole.
When you see that the blacks and Hispanics are largely absent, then what you see is that the people like the superintendent of New York City have totally failed all these black and Hispanic kids. One of the ways to do this, of course, is to start helping the kids. But another way to do it is to conceal the problem by just getting rid of the test. Then you put a couple of token students into Stuyvesant, but what you don’t realize is that the vast majority of black and Hispanic kids in New York City are not passing any of their tests.
What you have to understand is we’re spending $29,000 per student per year in New York City. How do you spend that much money and get such bad results? So that’s exactly right. What equity is about is giving up on helping minorities by just equalizing everyone, not by helping them, but by just manipulating outcomes.
Mr. Jekielek: This just strikes me as so absolutely bizarre. It almost implies that there’s something wrong with the kids. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with the kids. The obvious thing to look at would be the educators. The case you make through the book is that this is just kind of an elaborate method. It’s like this whole CRT ideology is being used kind of cynically as a way to avoid responsibility for not being very good at educating some portion of the students.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. The most important part of this book is looking at education over the last decade or two. What you realize is that CRT is just the cover-up. The crime is that they’re failing all of our kids, and in particular, the poor and minority kids. The cover-up is the various excuses they have to conceal it. CRT is obviously the big one, because they say, “Tests are racist. Many of the black kids in our district are scoring very poorly, but it’s not our fault. Actually, the tests are racist and objectivity isn’t real and wanting the right answer is an attribute of whiteness.”
Mr. Rosiak: I have the documents where the consultants are going from district to district saying these exact phrases. It’s an insane conspiracy theory. It’s not something that my friends who are liberal would believe, that showing up on time is an attribute of white culture. Can you imagine someone saying that? I’d never heard a black person say that. It’s so bizarre. But when you look at it in the context of how that serves the teachers, it basically says, “Oh, it’s not your fault for letting down these kids. You didn’t really fail them.” It’s just this massive conspiracy where they’re actually doing fine, even though it doesn’t manifest in students getting the right answer.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to go back to New York now. You make the case that this idea, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” was basically used as a way to push these radical agendas further. We’ve talked about that, but what about how that actually extended past New York? You’re suggesting that New York was the epicenter.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. The superintendent at the time, Richard Carranza, said that phrase repeatedly, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” They have these associations through which the superintendents from the big cities coordinate. He got together with the rest of them, and pretty soon you see the same ideas happening elsewhere. Those ideas were, “We already wanted to get rid of tests.” The teachers had always opposed what they call standardized testing, and they called it high stakes testing.
It’s just a test that helps figure out if the schools are doing a good job. But they’ve always wanted to get rid of that. Under coronavirus they did, because they said, “There’s no school, so you can’t do a test.” But they also wanted to do a number of other things. They wanted to move away from grades like A-B-C-D–E-F, to another system that they call standard space assessments, which is basically grading on a scale of one to four.
If you think about it, the top on a scale of one to four is really 75 per cent and up. What they’ve done is to turn a C-plus into an A. They have all these different schemes that they’ve been wanting to do for 10 years. During coronavirus, you see them ramming them through all at once. “We can’t do the tests and therefore we can’t have gifted-and-talented in magnet schools, because there’s no tests. We’re not going to do letter grades, because a lot of kids are just being totally failed by remote learning. They’re all failing or they’re not even showing up. So let them convert their D’s to a pass-fail, or their C’s to an A, using standard space assessments.”
So this was serving the interests of the teachers unions and the administrators, in the sense that they just concealed that they were failing these kids, and they started ramming them through during coronavirus. They were very explicit that they intended to use coronavirus to do things that would be permanent. It was essentially evil what they did to the kids. Even to this day, 50 per cent of the kids in Los Angeles are truant. They’re just missing. They don’t come to school anymore. We lost them.
Mr. Jekielek: I just saw that headline on our front page this morning. It’s stunning. That’s a huge school system.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. Think about the kids in the Bronx. Maybe they have a single mom with many siblings, and mom has to go to work. But the teachers said, “No, we won’t show up for work, so just deal with it.” The teachers unions had these rallies in New York City, working with the Democratic Socialists of America.
They have Randi Weingarten, the head of the union, with her arm draped around Al Sharpton. They have time to do racial activism. They have time to do these job shakedowns where they’re demanding higher pay. They’re willing to engage in these crowded protests. What they’re not willing to do is go to school with a couple of children, but they are willing to harm kids to get their way.
Mr. Jekielek: So how did this get out? Why do you think that New York was the place this whole approach radiated out from?
Mr. Rosiak: The way that they coordinate is they have all these associations. The National School Board Association, that’s the group that called the parents “domestic terrorists.” You’ve got all these school boards and maybe you’ve got your little town and you think the people on the school board are good and maybe they are. But there is this association that purports to speak on behalf of all school board members, and they go around basically using that voice.
There are radical ideologues that have taken over all of the associations. The groups that are doing that are the philanthropic foundations, like the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Some of these groups serve to propagate policies throughout the country, because it’s like the association for superintendents, or an association for all the different officials. When there is a jurisdiction that does these radical policies, the associations can then replicate it all over the country.
Mr. Jekielek: When they see that it is, “effective,” from their perspective?
Mr. Rosiak: No, it doesn’t have to be effective. It never is effective. It never works. They state that it’s “best practice,” because another district has done it. But it doesn’t actually have to be effective. That’s what is amazing, none of the things that these educators push are effective. They do everything wrong. They taught reading wrong. They still teach reading wrong. They have this system they call the cueing system. What it basically means is instead of teaching the kids phonics, you just have them guess.
If there’s a picture on the opposing page, maybe just guess the name of the picture. Maybe look at the first letter, and then just guess what the rest of it might be. These people are insane. Everything they’ve done is wrong. We should never listen to them. Yet, these are the people who are saying, “The parents’ job is basically subordinate. We know what is best. We’re going to take your kids.”
That is really important to understand. Take ideology out of it and look at the academics. That is what I try to do throughout this book. Whether it’s reading or anything else, there’s not really any reason to trust these people.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s like ideology has taken over in the place of basic education. It’s like ideology is perceived as education.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, that’s right. You basically have to look at it as two different groups with this weird alliance of convenience. You have the true believers, the radical ideologues or communists, but then you have the teachers unions and the administrators who use that ideology, because it happens to serve their goal. Their goal is to stop measuring things, in case people might see that we’re failing kids in general, and especially poor and minority kids.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. When you say communist, do you mean anything that would fit under the woke umbrella?
Mr. Rosiak: No. I mean communism in the sense that their equity is the forced redistribution of merit and achievement. Forced, equal outcomes is communism. I also mean the groups that are pushing this, again, are basically the foundations. People ask, “Where is critical race theory coming from?” It’s coming from those foundations like the Ford Foundation. Those groups routinely fund nonprofits that want to overthrow capitalism, and they are explicitly anti-capitalist.
Mr. Jekielek: You put all this material together and it’s robust. What are your conclusions? You mentioned that it changed your mind to thinking, “Wow, local politics is really where it’s at.” But what else did you realize along the way that you didn’t know?
Mr. Rosiak: It’s funny, because since I started writing the book, I broke a number of stories in Loudoun County, Virginia, including the cover-up of a rape there. That really resonated with people, because it showed that teachers and administrators are willing to harm kids to get their way. They’re willing to allow sexual, emotional, and physical abuse on your children to advance their financial and ideological agenda.
Mr. Jekielek: Or at least allow for it to happen.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. So there was tremendous attention paid to those stories, but some people started thinking the issue is Loudoun County, or the Virginia schools are bad. After having written the book I said, “No, you’re totally missing the point.” The phenomena that you see in Virginia are the same as the schools that you see everywhere else. There’s this thing where everyone thinks Congress is bad, but everyone likes their Congressman.
We’re seeing the same thing now with the schools. They think, “Oh, the schools in general are bad, but my schools are good. I don’t have to worry about it. My kid’s teachers are good.” The issue that I’m grappling with now is people think it’s not in their school, but it is. The book explains how it spreads through these consultants, these foundations, and these associations. It explains how it is baked into the way that these schools operate to devalue academic achievement, because they don’t want a paper trail of how they’re failing your kids.
Basically, they’re not going to admit that all this stuff is going on, but I try to explain in the book how this is in your school district and how you can identify it. These ideas are so prevalent, so pervasive and so pernicious, that if we don’t regain control of our schools now, I don’t know what’s going to happen to our country in 10 years.
The schools are not the domain of teachers. They’re not the domain of administrators. Teachers go into colleges with the lowest SAT scores of any major, and then they graduate college with the highest GPA. So you see things like in San Francisco during coronavirus, they were renaming schools—taking Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools for anti-racism, but the schools were closed. It’s total optics. They’re always manipulating the superficial, so that parents don’t see what’s going on inside, which is academic rot. Your kids, regardless of their race or their income, are just not learning as much as they should be.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s something you mentioned in the book that I kept coming back to as I was reading. You mentioned that in critical race theory, I don’t know if it’s a tenet or an approach or a tool, but you said there’s counter-storytelling. What you just described makes me think this is a kind of counter-storytelling. Maybe briefly tell me what it is, and how you saw it manifest? Then I’ll tell you more about why I keep thinking about it.
Mr. Rosiak: CRT opposes whiteness, but then it redefines whiteness to mean anything that is dominant. So there’s this sleight-of-hand where it’s creepy enough to oppose whiteness, because it’s kind of like racist. But to oppose anything that is dominant is really just nihilism and anarchy. They will dismantle things just because they’re dominant. They’ll say that the scientific method is dominant and therefore it should be dismantled.
So CRT is a takeover ideology that rejects objectivity. One of the ways they do that is by saying lived experience counts more than facts. So you can go into a courtroom and a DA could find you guilty, but you could say that you’re innocent in some subjective way. A society can’t function on some philosophical framework that rejects objectivity. But that’s what CRT does. It validates the lived experience, which is just whatever you say it is, or however you feel.
That’s what counter-storytelling is. They call it counter-storytelling, because the issue is if objectivity isn’t real and all that matters is how we feel, then what if you and I feel differently? How do we reconcile that? So it’s counter-storytelling, because subjectivity preempts objectivity, but only if it furthers critical race theory. In other words, both of our feelings matter, but our feelings only matter if they serve the ends of CRT. If your lived experience is something that doesn’t help advance the CRT takeover, then your lived experience doesn’t matter. So it really is a takeover ideology that results in the total breakdown of anything that works, without really offering any solutions.
Mr. Jekielek: When I think about counter-storytelling, it strikes me as anything that advances the political agenda. Essentially, a made-up story is actually perfectly fine and legitimate to use, as long as it’s for the revolution or for the political agenda, so to speak. I saw that theme coming through again, and again, and again.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, that’s right. You’re exactly right. I said lived experience, but they admit it doesn’t even have to be your lived experience. If your lived experience doesn’t help advance their goals, you can just literally make something up. There is a tremendous dishonesty running through all of this CRT stuff and then the broader education stuff over decades.
Look at how they say things like, “Schools are underfunded.” That’s something they’ve been saying for 20 years. It’s never been true. They’re just straight up lying. When I started working on this project, at first I thought, “Is there some caveat here?” Are they being like lawyers? Have they got some way where it’s technically true, but it’s misleading.
No, they just lie and they just repeat it enough until it feels like it is true. You can’t believe how dishonest all of the discourse is around education. It’s really just because people haven’t been paying attention or they just accept the word of whoever is saying it, because they would know best. Even when you talk about school boards, people will vote for teachers because they say, “Well, they’re a teacher. They probably know about schools.” That’s so lazy. It’s such a conflict of interest to have a teacher on a school board. It’s incredible. Why would you do that?
Even the Parent Teacher Association, why isn’t it just a parent’s association? If you are a parent who’s trying to do the right thing and be involved in your child’s education, instead of monitoring whether the school is doing a good job, they relegate the parent’s role to going to the kitchen and baking cookies for the teachers, and then selling them and giving the teachers money.
They turn parents’ role in schools into giving extra money to the teachers and just being subordinate to them. That’s not the role that parents should have. But they know that once parents start paying attention, everything changes as far as schools in this country.
Mr. Jekielek: This reminds me of your chapter about Brian Davidson, a parent who really did take some very keen interest, and what the pushback against him was. I want to finish up with that anecdote, because it’s powerful what one parent can do. CRT, originally, was an idea. CRT is kind of a lens of looking at the world, correct?
Let’s pretend that the answer to every question is racism. If we assume that’s the CRT lens, perhaps in an intellectual way, you can use this as a way to study the world and see what you learn from that. But to adopt it as an ideology for reality or something that’s an explanation for reality sounds bizarre. You mentioned the Howard Zinn perspective, which is actually quite similar. Howard Zinn himself built his whole history as a kind of a lens to look through. I don’t think even he was suggesting that it was actually reality, but it’s been taken that way by a lot of school systems.
It seemed like there’s a theme here of taking a very specific lens on the world that might be an academic lens for some sort of social theory studies and saying, “No, this is actually reality.” What do you think?
Mr. Rosiak: Yes, that’s exactly right. CRT is a hammer looking for nails. Everything is racist. The problem is we live in a very broad world with a lot of things for the kids to learn about. It’s not all about racism. They do have this problem if they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. CRT is a takeover mechanism. It’s not just one thing out of many that your kids learn about. It will take over every other subject. I love it when they try to say it’s about teaching slavery in history class.
That’s so absurd. I spent two years studying this stuff. There’s no reasonable way you can think that’s what this is about. This is about stuff in homeroom and science class and math class. In the Illinois Math And Science Academy, which is the top math school in Illinois, they’re saying math should be replaced by Mathmatx, which incorporates Indigenous Ways of Knowing. In the Indigenous Ways of Knowing, there is no such thing as the right answer to a math problem. And this is all pushed by a black consultant who wouldn’t know anything about Native American stuff.
It’s completely insane. It’s a total takeover ideology. What really bothers me is if we take Democrat and Republican out of it, we all just want our kids to be happy. Having your kids focus relentlessly on this idea of negativity and oppression in America is bad. The kids don’t have the context for that, and it’s not offered as a counter-perspective. It’s offered every single minute of the day.
We’re just making kids unhappy, and making kids sad is bad. We want to preserve a joyous and innocent childhood for our kids. That’s what they deserve.
Mr. Jekielek: As we finish up, I both loved and was horrified by the story of Brian Davidson in Loudoun County. Tell me a bit about him and what people can learn, and about how parents can learn how they might approach this.
Mr. Rosiak: Sure. He’s a mathematician, and this was back in 2014. The Obama administration wanted to start measuring schools, not by what percentage of kids pass their tests, but how kids were progressing over time. So it was really smart and it was a good policy. What you would do is whatever score a kid got on his state exam last year, take the same kid’s exam test the next year, and figure out did he improve by a lot? Did he actually go down? Is he holding steady? In that way, you can figure out whether the schools are doing their job and whether the teachers are doing their job.
The important thing is by doing that, you get rid of this noise about, “Oh, schools in the inner cities are not good.” Kids start at different places. Some of them enter kindergarten better prepared, but it doesn’t mean the kids can’t learn. And so there was this different way of viewing things that was way more accurate. The problem was because it was accurate, it showed that a lot of teachers were not actually doing their job.
It also showed that some teachers were good. The teachers unions were very opposed to using this system of measurements, called the student growth percentiles. They’re actually breaking the law by not doing it. So this dad starts pointing it out, “Excuse me, here’s the law. You’re clearly breaking the law.” They start targeting him. They call the police on him. They try to get his kids taken away by Child Protective Services.
The only reason they can come up with is, one day, his kids wore rain boots to school when they had kickball practice. It’s insane. They literally tried to destroy this guy’s life. He was a popular father. He was elected president of the PTA. So the school system disbanded the PTA when he won. They called his father who was in his 90’s to tattle on him. They called his employer. They did things to destroy this father who was simply calling attention to how we could analyze test scores in a way that could be helpful to improving the experience kids had in schools. It was so vitriolic. It was so intense and it was so personal.
I like the story, because it comes from 2014, 2015. This wasn’t ideological. This guy actually wanted a President Obama policy enforced. But the reaction was the same as the reaction we’re seeing now to people that criticize CRT. Anyone who basically intrudes on the fiefdom of the teachers and administrators, they get that same reaction.
Mr. Jekielek: The thing that I found inspiring about the story, it was obviously very difficult, but the guy stuck with it against all odds.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. That’s what you have to do. You have to be persistent here. One of the things people can do is run for school board. You might think, “Well, I’m just a regular parent. I don’t have any background in education.” That’s the point. It is much better to have outsiders. Don’t be confused by all their jargon. If you’re not going to run for school board, at least show up for these meetings. You have to show up with courage and confidence.
You get courage by understanding that there are very bad people who are coming for your kids. If you don’t fight, you can’t rely on someone else to do it, because some of these school districts are pretty small. If not you, then who’s going to step up? You gain confidence by learning everything you can, so that you can engage with them in a precise way.
That’s one of the things I try to help people with this book—understanding all their jargon. If they throw out this alphabet soup of nonsense at you, you can say, “I understand what you said, but it’s stupid and here’s why.” Because it is stupid. That’s one of the things I found, they construct this needlessly complex language specifically to keep parents out. They have their whole education lingo. It’s the dumbest ideas imaginable dressed up in unnecessarily long words. But it’s not that hard for parents to learn it and then show up, because we’ve got to take control. These are our schools.
You can also do everything I just talked about if you’re not a parent. This journey started for me when I realized that out of all of the school board members in my town, none of them had kids in the school system. They were all there to push through weird politics. Well, by the same token, we as taxpayers, can go to these school board meetings and start being active.
If you’re a grandparent, if your kids are grown, you have a right to those schools. The schools take the largest portion of your tax dollars, so they are your schools. They’re part of your community. You have every right to hold them accountable. A funny thing about grandparents is sometimes parents worry that somehow their kid is going to be retaliated against. They can’t retaliate against grandparents.
Mr. Jekielek: Here’s a final thing. Something I learned from reading your book is just because it’s loud doesn’t mean it’s the majority perspective. A lot of parents might think, “Wow, all these people seem to be into this ideology. Who’s with me here?” Actually, there might be a lot. I know for a fact there are a lot more people that have issues with this approach to education. It’s just not that obvious if you just look at the corporate media coverage.
Mr. Rosiak: Yes. There’s definitely a silent majority problem. For decades, even predating CRT, the people that have shown up to these meetings are the insiders. But parents matter. Parents are the most surprising, special interest group in America right now. There’s a special interest group for everything else. There’s a lot of us. Anyone who’s ever procreated, you’re one of us, the newest special interest group in America. Everything changes. It is not even a Democrat versus Republican idea. The stuff they’re doing in the schools is so radical that even most Democrats wouldn’t agree with it.
You also have Asians that are really mobilized by the assault on rigor. The people in Virginia who are traditional Democrats, who then voted for Glenn Youngkin, are a good example of this. The traditional alliances all start shaking up once people start paying attention to schools. Paying an average of $17,000 per student per year, which is what we pay, and getting an average of 36 per cent literacy among 12th graders, and a 24 per cent proficiency in math is a completely untenable reality. Once we realize that, something’s got to change.
Mr. Jekielek: Luke Rosiak, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show again.
Mr. Rosiak: Great to be with you.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you all for joining us for this episode of American Thought Leaders with myself and Luke Rosiak, author of Race to the Bottom. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.
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