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Wisconsin education program attacks ‘white privilege’ in classrooms

By   /   March 18, 2013  /   News  /   23 Comments

SHOCKING REVELATION: Wisconsin education officials suggest images like this one may inaccurately depict some features of the first Thanksgiving.

SHOCKING REVELATION: Wisconsin education officials suggest images like this one may inaccurately depict some features of the first Thanksgiving. Most diners, for example, may have been taller than 18 inches, and it’s possible that proximate woodland creatures participated by being actual food rather than doe-eyed onlookers.

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – “(R)acism is caused by white people, by our attitudes, behaviors, practices, and institutions … How do you justify it for yourself?”

That’s the heavy-handed question asked of Wisconsin’s public school teachers, one of many similar assertions found in a conference handout from a controversial state Department of Public Instruction initiative to combat “white privilege” in the classroom.

The four-year-old CREATE Wisconsin education initiative was ostensibly designed to help public school educators reach disadvantaged students. Now, thanks to an EAG News expose, CREATE , the acronym for Culturally Responsive Education for All: Training and Enhancement, may be more notorious for its racially charged teaching points, including:

  • From Examining the Dynamics of Oppression and Privilege, found in a 2009 CREATE conference handout: “In this country the institutional system supports the dominance of white people” and “More frequently than not, white people take advantage of privileges generated by a racist society.”
  • From Paul Kivel’s 2009 CREATE conference handout, The Costs of Racism to White People: “We are given a false sense of superiority, a belief that we should be in control and in authority, and that people of color should be maids, servants, and gardeners and do the less valued work of our society.” According to his website, Kivel is a “social justice educator, activist, and writer, has been an innovative leader in violence prevention for more than 35 years.”
  • In her 2009 CREATE conference presentation, Wisconsin DPI employee Dr. LaVerne Jackson-Harvey said, “There appears to be a national trend that can be attributed [to] the conservative agenda that currently exist[s] with former closet racist[s] leaving the closet and entering the light to write policies that support covert and overt racism that impact[s] students of color.”

EAG News, the content website of Education Action Group Foundation, a Michigan-based, conservative advocate for “sensible education reform,” takes aim at the CREATE Wisconsin initiative funded through federal taxpayer dollars.

(See the EAG video expose on CREATE Wisconsin here and here.)

The initiative, launched in 2009, “mobilizes educators to reflect on their educational practices,” to assist students from diverse backgrounds in achieving the same academic levels as their peers, according to the CREATE Wisconsin website.

CREATE Wisconsin hosts an annual conference and various workshops for Wisconsin educators.

Steve Gunn, author of the EAG expose, said it appears the goal of the initiative “is to build up guilt among white educators.”

Is DPI's CREATE Wisconsin initiative an equal-opportunity espouser of 'White privilege,' as a new EAG expose suggests?

Is DPI’s CREATE Wisconsin initiative an equal-opportunity espouser of ‘White privilege,’ as a new EAG expose suggests?Steve Gunn, the reporter who put together the EAG story, said he believes the goal of the initiative “is to build up guilt among white educators.”

“On the flip side of that are the resentments among minorities and minority students… They would have them feel like the entire system is against them. That isn’t going to make any kid feel like he stands much of a chance,” he said.

“There’s nothing wrong with white teachers taking a look at themselves and how they deliver lessons to make sure all kids understand what they’re talking about. But it seems this thing has taken on a far more radical tone,” Gunn added.

EAG also asserts the approach creates separate educational systems, ultimately patronizing minority students.

“It says Wisconsin minority kids aren’t capable of doing well in standard classrooms, and that’s just not true,” Gunn said. “To make it sound that if you don’t bend the curriculum to meet the standards of different cultures or they’re doomed to fail is being untrue to them.”

The view that public schools often fail to teach minority and disadvantaged students by failing to reach them culturally is a widely accepted tenet among the left-center education school of thought.

“Many American schools in general, attempt to deny the minority students of their culture,” notes a blog written by students enrolled in Philosophy of Education at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  The entry is headlined, “Keeping Minority Culture and Students in their Place.” “This happens because the social institutions reward those for living distinctly traditional American lives and punishes those who deviate from the norm. The American education system, as a social institution, attempts to mimic this reward-and-punish structure by creating a system where education is standardized.”

Supporters say they’re pushing for greater “cultural competency” in the classroom.

DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper defended the program, which is funded through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act program, commonly known as IDEA.

“The CREATE Wisconsin initiative aims at reducing disproportionality in special education programs, increasing achievement for all students, and closing gaps which are serious issues facing Wisconsin schools,” Gasper wrote in an email to Wisconsin Reporter. He went on to quote from the initiative’s web page.

“CREATE begins with one question: Why? Why don’t students from diverse backgrounds achieve at the same level as their peers?

“Why are students from diverse backgrounds enrolled in special education more often than their peers?

“To answer these questions, CREATE mobilizes educators to reflect on their educational practices.  The objective is to identify strategies that contribute to eliminating the achievement gap and utilize those approaches through professional development, training and technical assistance.”

The achievement gap among minority students and white students is very real and very pronounced, particularly in Wisconsin’s urban schools.

In Madison alone:

    •  45 percent of 10th grade black males are proficient in reading, while 87 percent of white males are.
    • The graduation rate for black males is only 52 percent, while the rate for white males is 88 percent.
    • Blacks comprise 24 percent of the student population but 29 percent of special education students. Native Americans comprise 1 percent of the student population but 20 percent of special education students, according to the EAG report

School officials from the Madison Metropolitan School District or Milwaukee Public Schools did not return Wisconsin Reporter’s calls seeking comment.

Gunn said EAG attempted to dig deeper into the CREATE Wisconsin initiative but stopped when DPI sent a statement noting the bill for the public records EAG requested would cost about $19,000.

EAG asserts CREATE goes well beyond the scope of bridging the achievement gap, deep into the realm of racial inequalities viewed through the prism of some of the more liberal thinkers in education.

“None of this is particularly surprising when you consider who’s influencing CREATE Wisconsin. One of the program’s main consultants is Glenn Singleton, founder of the Pacific Educational Group. That group’s mission is to “enlighten” the nation’s educators about how public schools promote “white culture” and “white privilege.” EAG wrote.

CREATE Wisconsin’s website engages in some weighty questions about U.S. history. Case in point, a Teacher Resource Article titled Did the Indians really invite the Pilgrims to the First Thanksgiving?”

The answer, the article states, is less important than how the “stereotypes” of the story of the first Thanksgiving have pervaded the classroom unexamined.

“We believe that the concept of giving thanks or gratitude should be impressed upon children and that the Thanksgiving season is a good time to do that in the schools. But we also believe that the stereotypes of “Indians” that we often see in classrooms around the time of Thanksgiving only reinforce the simplis­tic and misleading images of Native People that non-Native children may already have,” the article notes.

“As for the last question, about the ‘First Thanksgiving’:

“We feel that the term ‘First Thanksgiving’ is an extremely biased one. The ‘pot luck’ meal that is remembered today, whether it was truly a ‘thanksgiving’ or not, whether it really happened or not, may have been the first European ‘harvest home’ or fall festival on this continent. But for centuries — for thousands of years in fact — Indigenous communities here had been celebrating thanks many time a year for what Mother Earth gave them. They still do today.”

For the record, CREATE Wisconsin operates on about $890,000 in taxpayer funding per year, according to the EAG expose.

Contact Kittle at [email protected]


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • Esteban

    I was under the impression that we should judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

  • mary lou

    Maybe the percentages are off due to the nature of different cultures! Isn’t there a problem with black males regardless of racism that have them dropping out of school, joining gangs, selling drugs..etc. many come from homes where one or both parents are missing and no importance put on schooling….are whites responsible for that as well? I don’t see where its a teachers fault or a white students fault….maybe a little accountability should lie on the student or parents regardless of color!!! This article is nonsense!

  • me

    Are there any statistics on how well the students fare in a classroom where the teacher is of the same race? Surely these teachers would not be racist and all the problems would go away? I think the issue is poverty and a resistence to conform – don’t want to work for “the man”. Students are free to explore their culture as they see fit. They can listen to rap music, they can do whatever – on their own time. When they are in the classroom they need to pay attention and do the work. I feel that is the issue. They are not discriminated against because the color of their skin is different. They have low peformance because they refuse to, in their mind “play the game”. Any white student showing the same behavior and refusing to study would suffer the same fate.

  • Tdog

    If teachers are dumb enough to go along with this drivel, maybe they need to be replaced.

  • roy

    Any argument that starts with the premise that white teachers are the problem because they are white, therefore inherently racist, is a non starter with me. It is intellectually vacant and lazy. Just because you assert that all whites are racist by virtue of their skin color, does not make it true. It likely makes YOU a racist and certainly makes you a Liberal Democrat.

  • just because the English was first at the first Thanksgiving, or the Itlians were first to discover the new World , and etc. etc. etc. don’t mean that the blacks, and espanish, or AsianAmercians had a hand in it .

  • truebearing

    This is all part of the greater agenda of the transnational Left (Obama, Soros, et al) to destroy the United States by debasing the ethnic power base of the United States — white people, and conservatives in particular.
    Is math racially biased? Blacks stink at math, as a group. How can that be constued as somehow the fault of white privilege? Other races do quite well at math, in fact far better than white Americans. I guess that can be explained by “Asian privilege.”
    The pople pushing this in our schools should be tried for sedition. They are trying to create racial animosity and deserve to be severely punished for it.

  • KN

    I see racism in the Florida educational system and I’m White. Florida recently lower reading and math standards for Blacks and Hispanics while holding White and Asian-Americans to higher standards. Tell me that isn’t racist.

  • jimmydean

    This whole CREATE Wisconsin thing is a sham, this is just some liberals way of brainwashing people into believing white people are all racist. Were so racist that we don’t even realize that were racist. What a crock! The only racists I see are the presenters of this anti-white hate speech. These people are so blinded by their own racism towards whites that they can’t even look at their own communities. The problem stems from within. Minority communities all over the country are broken and dysfunctional, and that only breeds more dysfunction. The achievement gap is prevalent because these students don’t want to learn, can’t be bothered to show up to class, don’t do their homework, don’t study, don’t pay attention and disrupt others who attempt to pay attention in class. They have parents who don’t hold them accountable for their actions and don’t keep tabs on their progress or lack there of in school. That is the fault of a community that is broken, not the fault of white people. There is nothing wrong with an educator looking within to ensure they are teaching subject matter that would be relevant to a minority student, but this goes way beyond that. With all the talk of sequestration, why don’t we cut useless programs like this one? We spend almost a million dollars to make white people feel guilty about just being white? This country is so messed up! What really pisses me off is these people know nothing about me or my heritage. My ancestors were LEGAL immigrants from Germany and Denmark. They were farmers and constructioin workers. They were not slave owners and lived in northern states. I’m a business owner today, I employ whites and minorities alike, and pay them a good wage regardless of their color. White people like me help minorities, not hurt them. I didn’t come from money, and have worked my tail off to get to where I am today. Nothing was handed, it was earned with blood, sweat and tears. Privilege? Ha!

  • africanqueen

    As an African American woman, I don’t believe that all white people are racists but a great majority of white people are. Whether white people admit it or not, they have been the beneficiaries of white privilege in education, employment and housing. Many white educators coming into black communities do approach black students differently than white students. They perceive black students as underachievers rather than trying different teaching strategies. Perhaps its the lack of exposure to different cultures or teaching experience. I speak from my own experience in college and from my son’s experiences while he was in school. He was in advanced placement Math, English, and Science classes. He was the only Black student in these classes. While attending these classes, the Math teacher who was white completely ignored him when it came to answering questions. That stopped when I had a frank discussion with the teacher. I’ve experienced this same type of avoidance during my college years by white professors. The majority of the time, I was the only black in the class. The way I was treated by white people made me feel Iike I didn’t deserve to be there or wasn’t welcome. I don’t know if these instances were racists but it didn’t help my self confidence. However, I knew that I would protect my son from experiencing this type of behavior. He is now Director of a school in Indiana responsible for hiring and disciplining teachers. According to my son, many kids come to school ill prepared and don’t have the support system that myself and my son had. His most common disciplinary actions have been for insubordination toward him by white teachers or lack of their teaching ability. And by the way, stop stereotyping black people and minorities. I am an analytical chemist which means that I do a lot of math and method development and validation. My son received full academic scholarships totally more than $500,000 based on his ACT and SAT scores as well as his academic achievement and voluntary work while holding down a part-time job.. My parents instilled in me the value of education and hard work , values which I passed onto my son.

  • David Flory

    Expecting higher scores from whites and Asians is simply facing reality. Those scores *will* be higher on average. It’s better than punishing teachers because they can’t somehow make the black kids score as well as the Asians.

  • Alexandra

    What white privilege? If you’re black or Hispanic you get all the breaks.
    Okay, so the white race has a higher average IQ than the other two. So what? (Asians’ IQ is a tad higher than whites so before you scream “white supremacist”…)
    Isn’t dumbing down schools enough? Looks like they’re going to be dumbed down even further in Wisconsin. Glad I live in Ohio.

  • A Realist

    People with common sense did back then, that’s why there was segregation.

  • M_Young

    Exactly. Have ‘minorities’ attend schools with other children of their race, teachers of their own race, run by a principal of their own race. I seem to recall there was a system like this in place for a while in some states.

  • M_Young

    Perhaps it would be better, then, if we all just go our own ways. You are 12.5% of the population, maybe you could get 15% of the country. Hispanics another 17% (they outnumber you now), Asians another 5%.

    That would leave us whites with 50% or so. Under our percentage of the population. But I think we could have a go at it. It worked in Canada and Australia. It worked for most of the US, historically, which had few if any blacks or any other minorities (except the unfortunate native Americans).

    Living among your own would save you from being ‘the only black [Asian][Hispanic][white] in your class or office or wherever. And it would save us whites the aggravation of being called ‘racist’, ‘privileged’ and so forth.

  • M_Young

    If they don’t lower standards, the black and Hispanic kids don’t pass standardized tests in sufficient numbers.

  • Africanqueen

    You truly have missed the point. It’s unrealistic to think anyone in this society can truly isolate themselves from different cultures. Representation from minority groups has grown in every aspect of our lives; in colleges, the workplace, and everyday life. Whites are no longer the majority race. Even though we may not like each other, we have to tolerate each other for employment reasons or social encounters that we are thrust into. In any case, we truly need to have an open dialogue on race relations. I do everyday with my husband who is white.

  • The Guy

    This “white privledge” nonsense is just a desperate attempt to explain why 50 years of programs and billions of dollars have not closed the achievement gap even a little. The beauty of the white privledge arguement is you can never prove it dosen’t exists so it will perpetuate forever.

  • Defoe

    Look lady, there is no such thing as “White privilege. that term is used by fools to try to cover up the fact that Whites are, on average, smarter than blacks, and, as a consequence are more successful in life. Full stop. If you don’t like that fact, too bad for you. You have the privilege of moving to a country where you will be among your own kind and not have to put up with “White privilege”. The Whites, however, do not have that privilege since there exist no more all-White countries.

  • Defoe

    Yes, and it worked much better that way!!

  • RonRonDoRon

    “Many American schools in general, attempt to deny the minority students of their culture”

    As so often is the case in written materials, the “education professionals” can’t even write a grammatically correct sentence.

  • The real vocation of some people entrusted with delivering primary and secondary education is to validate this proposition: The three R’s — formerly reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic — now are racism, reproduction and recycling. NOT ON MY WATCH EVERS………..NOT WITH MY CHILDREN!

  • ofnldndldnl

    When I had a layover in Milwaukee,Wisconsin I was excited to see the grand “Cheese State” but all I found were old Caucasian people staring rudely at my family for being of Hispanic and French descent. I guess pastey rules over tan…