How Leftism Can Ruin a Once-Proud School District

Edina is one of the Twin Cities’ wealthiest suburbs. For decades, its public schools have been viewed as among the nation’s finest. But no longer: a leftist political agenda now dominates the Edina school system, and quality of instruction has slipped badly. Edina is not alone. What has happened there is going on in public schools across the country. Edina’s experience should be a warning to all of us.

Kathy Kersten is a Senior Fellow at Center of the American Experiment, the organization I run. Her column in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune is titled “Racial identity policies are ruining Edina’s fabled schools.” The column is drawn from Kathy’s much longer article in the current issue of Thinking Minnesota, the Center’s quarterly magazine, but it also includes some new material.

Kathy’s Star Tribune article describes the obsessions with race and liberal politics that pervade the Edina public school system. A few excerpts:

The “All for All” plan mandates sweeping change to how education is delivered in Edina. For example, it dictates that, from now on, the district will hire “racially conscious teachers and administrators.” It also declares that students must “acquire an awareness of their own cultural identity and value racial, cultural and ethnic diversities.”

In education-speak, this means that Edina children will now be instructed that their personal, cultural “identity” is irrevocably tied to their skin color. This directly rejects the colorblind vision that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. pioneered, and that the vast majority of Americans share.

Indeed, Edina teachers are taught that not to care about skin color, and to treat everyone the same, is racist–“color-blind racism,” in the leftist jargon.

Katie Mahoney, Highlands’ “racially conscious” principal, was hired in 2016. This fall, she announced that the school’s “challenges” for 2017-18 are to teach children “how to embrace ancestry, genetic code and melanin,” and to how “to be changemakers.”

“Embrace ancestry, genetic code and melanin.” You might think that formula comes from Berlin in the 1930s, but no: it is Edina in the 21st century.

Edina High School’s leftist culture entails bullying of nonconforming students and parents. The bullying has been so severe that it drew a rebuke from one of the Commissioners of the United States Civil Rights Commission:

On Aug. 24, 2017, Peter Kirsanow — a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — wrote to the chair of the Edina school board about this and other recent incidents at Edina High School. He admonished the board about teachers’ “discrimination” against and “bullying” of students “with different political beliefs,” and reminded them that federal civil rights law prohibits such discrimination in public schools.

Edina’s school superintendent replied to Kirsanow’s letter, effectively admitting that the schools’ bullying of nonconforming students requires correction. He wrote that “the district has invited a team of attorneys to conduct training on employee and student free speech rights and limitations, which was attended by administrators and all high school staff.”

What effect has the politicization of Edina’s schools had on the quality of education? Certainly nothing positive:

[T]oday, test scores are sinking in Edina’s fabled schools. One in five Edina High School students can’t read at grade level and one in three can’t do grade-level math. These test results dropped EHS’s ranking among Minnesota high schools from 5th to 29th in reading proficiency, and from 10th to 40th in math proficiency between 2014 and 2017.

This is the full version of Kathy’s article, as it appears in the current issue of Thinking Minnesota.

TM Fall2017 Edina 1 by John Hinderaker on Scribd

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