Once again, our public schools and school board are being politicized. We've seen this here before in Williamson County, but it doesn't make it any less exhausting or frustrating for us parents.
Critical Race Theory is all over the national news, and Williamson County is in the thick of the noise since we're lucky enough to have had one of the nationally-organized groups set up shop here to activate local citizens.
It's interesting that such a nationally coordinated partisan movement is being given a platform here in town by some of our elected officials, given how important "local control" has always been on both the state and local levels.
Key quotes from the above (you really must read the full thing) linked article:
"It’s a movement that has amped up grassroots parental organizing around the country, bringing the lens and stakes of national politics — along with the playbook of seasoned GOP activists — to school boards..."
“I thought it was a concerned parent who had taken it a little too far. I didn't understand this until recently, but these were tactics from national organizations to discredit the entire district...”
"Now, conservative activists are setting their sights on ousting as many school board members as they can, and local Republican Parties have vowed to help, viewing the revolt against critical race theory as akin to the tea party wave from a decade ago..."
- NBC News, "Critical race theory battle invades school boards — with help from conservative groups," 6/15/21
The big question: Why are some Williamson County School Board members actively supporting this national group's local chapter members who are trying to influence our public school curriculum and policies? Is this what they believe local control includes? Outside, national political operatives who have provided advice, playbooks, templates, and possibly event funding to those working here in Williamson County?
A Wit & Wisdom event was hosted this morning by Moms for Liberty, the national group being led out of Florida, at the local Harley Davidson store in Cool Springs (after Board member Dan Cash's repeated pressure to district officials to allow the event to be held in a WCS public school building was denied). Multiple WCSB members were in attendance including Mr. Cash and District 6 representative Jay Galbreath. Unconfirmed is if District 8 member Candy Emerson was in attendance, but she had RSVP'd yes to the event according to organizers.
Here's an example of the "anti-CRT" work that Moms for Liberty is doing in regards to Williamson County Schools:
School Board members are reporting receiving hostile emails from members of this group, with many of the emailers not identifying themselves as Williamson County residents or parents or else stating their kids attend private schools to avoid what's being taught in WCS.
Readers may also be interested in knowing that members of the Moms for Liberty - Williamson County Facebook group has included some familiar faces such as resigned Board member Susan Curlee, homeschool activist Julie West, and 2016-candidate Julie Mauck.
"Julie Mauck has children in the Williamson County school system, including twins in seventh grade. Last month, she attended a forum in Cool Springs organized by opponents of the state’s social studies standards.
“It just whitewashes the history,” she says. “There’s barely a mention of jihad. There’s barely a mention — or I don’t think there is — a mention of caliphate and what their objective is.”
Mauck believes schools aren’t the place for 12- and 13-year-olds to learn about faith.
“I mean, being a Christian, I don’t necessarily want the public school system teaching my children their version of Christianity.”"
-WPLN News, "More Than Just Islam: How One Tennessee Class Is Learning ‘A Little Bit’ About Religion," 1/15/16
But wait! Neither Curlee, Mauck, nor West live in Williamson County anymore....hmm.
So back to local control. Some of our School Board members are BIG proponents of this, some having even campaigned on the premise and making quick work after the election to pass a resolution that "stands in support of locally derived educational standards and decision making."
All of this was in response to Common Core, a key platform for many of the 2014 candidates who remain on the Board today. If you google "2014 common core williamson county school board" and then just swap out the words "common core" with "CRT" in every article you read, you'll likely feel as if you've stumbled through an internet wormhole and wonder what year it actually is.
So why are our Williamson County School Board members attending multiple events held by this national, partisan organization whose local leader, Robin Steenman, was featured on the Glenn Beck show? (Please take a minute to listen to this. It's short and explains a lot - saying WCS and Jason Golden "crossed the line" for her and kickstarted her involvement when the district hired diversity consultants.)
Engagement with (just about) any group makes absolute sense for elected officials, as it's important to listen to multiple views on issues and understand the various perspectives they've been elected to represent. But why are they continuing to engage and encourage educational curriculum criticism from political activists, instead of following the proper Board protocols of handing any of their concerns with district staff directly? Are the organizing activities that Moms for Liberty are employing in their newly-formed chapters across the country the kind of locally-derived educational standards and decision making these members support? Is there new information they believe this national group has to share with them that WCS leaders haven't made available, and that's why their attendance at public events like this is necessary?
Local control of our schools as an important political ideal and practice, including how our teachers can teach and what our students will learn, is apparently now up for debate.
6/15/21 Officials confirmed in attendance: County Commissioners Barb Sturgeon, Gregg Lawrence, Chad Story, WCSB members Dan Cash, Jay Galbreath, Candy Emerson, Franklin Ward 1 Alderman Bev Burger, and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles at Moms for Liberty Wit & Wisdom elementary school curriculum presentation.