In this week's Rumor Mill from WCS, the district addresses some of the accusations and rumors related to the new elementary ELA (reading) curriculum, Wit & Wisdom, which the district introduced this past fall after following the state-mandated curriculum selection process.
We'll try to break this down into basics, so you can understand why many of us who have been closely tracking WCS-related issues for years believe this is the pre-2022 local elections version of the 2014 "Islamic doctrinarian" social studies activism that was stirred up in the community by a small but vocal fringe group of political extremists.
But first, some background as there's a lot to unpack here.
There are two buckets of complaints around this curriculum:
Some of the content in the books ("real" books that you can check out at the library are used in this curriculum, versus ELA textbooks) is being identified as inappropriate for young kids, with inclusion of topics such as divorce, suicide, infidelity, scalpings, murder, etc. Some community groups and Board members believe our curriculum should only include mentions/teachings about "traditional family" structures and uplifting topics.
That Wit & Wisdom is teaching kids Critical Race Theory (CRT). Spoiler alert: It is not being taught in WCS, but just to be safe, Governor Lee, following suit with many GOP governors across the country, has literally just signed a bill making it illegal to teach CRT in schools.
On the first topic, the district has admitted that some of the content may in fact be a little "heavy" and "intense" for the grade levels that are using it. We are not curriculum experts (nor are any of the people, including Board members, who are loudly voicing criticism at the highly educated professionals in the room) but our basic understanding is that Wit & Wisdom is designed to push young readers to tackle books that are a challenge and thus above their grade levels, which the latest research has proven to be successful in promoting critical thinking and growth - one of the areas tested on TCAP and other standardized tests. A few of the books may, as a result, have topics that not all parents are comfortable with their kids learning about at a young age for various reasons, including many mentions of traditional values.
As noted by both Dr. David Allen, the district's Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment (aka head of curriculum) and Jason Golden, WCS Superintendent, this is a tale as old as time when it comes to curriculum as it's impossible to please everyone, and School Boards have been tackling this difficult discussion with parents for generations. Our great-grandparents likely complained at some point about what our grandparents were reading in school.
Regardless, the district agrees that some of these books need a second look and are taking active steps to evaluate it with this lens of "heavy" and "intense" content, and will have a recommendation to the School Board at their June 17th work session on how best to handle these challenges.
Dan Cash, District 2 Board Member, has been leading the curriculum dissent alongside District 6 member Candy Emerson, with other Board members chiming in during discussions with their various perspectives. In fact, on April 27th, a community meeting was organized by Cash to address these concerns, and he handed out the following document criticizing the district's curriculum:
We highly, highly encourage you to take time to watch the May school board work session discussion in the livestream links below in order to get the lay of the land on the Board member views on this topic:
Jason Golden and Dave Allen's report begins at 1:36:15
The School Board discussion beings at begins at 2:24:18.
Here are some snippets from our live-tweeting of that meeting:
Much, much more to come in the additional installments of this series....the district is engaged in playing a game of misinformation whack-a-mole, which is unfortunate after the insane year these educators have had to deal with. Things definitely took a turn late last week at a meeting of the Williamson County Republican Party when a state legislator reportedly implied that someone accepted a financial incentive to get Wit & Wisdom in place.
Stay tuned! Stay informed! Stay engaged!