This letter to the editor is by Randall Northrop, of St. Johnsbury. It first appeared in the Caledonian Record.
I would like to start by saying my family is a rainbow. I am a white male, my wife of 35 years is Japanese. My oldest daughter is married to a black man and they have two daughters who are a mixture of white, Asian and black, my youngest daughter is in a long-term relationship with a Mexican American man. I understand several perspectives on race in this country.
I spent eight years teaching elementary age children, and three years teaching university level. I served for years on a local Vermont public school board and several more on the board of a Vermont private high school. I have spent many years auditing public schools across several states, and my wife and I raised three children in public schools. I understand the public educational system.
I spent 23 years in the Marine Corps. I traveled the world — from Asia through North and South America, Europe, Australia and Africa. I have seen racism throughout the world. While no one should live in a world where racism dictates our lives, and I think we should all make an effort to mitigate the effects of racism. But, in comparison to much of the world, the United States is not a racist country. In many of the places I have been, racism is not only allowed, it is encouraged — even legal. To label this country with the broad brush of racism fails to recognize the amazing progress we as a nation have made in overcoming racism and the acts of discrimination that come from it.
If an American in this country is not an economic success, it is easy to say that it is the fault of racism. That the educational or justice system is racist and that the legacy of slavery and discrimination are the root cause of economic failure but there are too many examples of economically successful minorities in this country to lay the blame on racism and discrimination. At some point, we each need to take personal responsibility for our success and failure.
The point of this letter to the editor is that the things I see from Vermont public schools cause me anxiety. I see example after example of racist teaching that has no place in our public schools. Students are singled out for their race and taught that because of the color of their skin they are racist. Teachers in mandatory training where they are told that all white people, and particularly white males, are racist and that black people cannot be racist because they are the oppressed. This is discrimination which according to the Civil Rights Act is unlawful in education.
These are my specific concerns:
Middle and High School students are surveyed questioning the students’ risk behaviors, sexual activity, sexual orientation, transgender status, and their thoughts about suicide and hurting themselves. I don’t believe schools should be in the business of asking these kinds of questions. These are parental responsibilities not the public school’s responsibility. Secondly, these questionnaires are given to children as young as ten years old – not an appropriate age to be asked these questions in a public school setting and I think most parents agree. Further, the questionnaire for high school can lead vulnerable teenagers into dangerous considerations – drug use, suicide, bullying, vaping, chewing tobacco, marijuana use. Again, these are parental/family issues not public issues.
Parents I have spoken to who have children in middle school — starting in sixth grade — are very upset that their children are exposed to this material and often the school make only a token effort to allow parents to opt out of their child’s participation.
Divisive Racial Indoctrination
Recently Essex Westford School adopted C29: Equity Policy which states that “this nation would not have evolved without the genocide of the indigenous people nor would the economic infrastructure exist as it does without the enslavement of the native African people and their descendants. Further, the policy directs that curriculum include anti-racist education and LGBtQI+ affirming education. The policy goes on to state that the school intends to focus it education and hiring practices on promoting marginalized and underserved people. Again, this is discrimination, unlawful under our constitution. The U. S. Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that education and workplaces across America are required to be color blind. This policy is not color blind.
Further, just for context, when slavery ended 156 years ago, the native African population of this country was estimated by the U. S. Census to be about 8% – not really enough to account for all of our economic infrastructure. So we are not teaching history here but simply indoctrinating school-age children in a political philosophy that undermines their sense of worth and equality.
Negating Parental Rights
The Vermont Agency of Education has adopted a policy entitled “Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.” This policy states that “To the extent that the school is not legally required to use a student’s legal name or sex assigned at birth on school records and other documents, the school should use the name and gender preferred by the student. This may require the school to maintain two sets of records (one with the student’s legal name and sex assigned at birth kept separate from routine school records) to avoid inadvertent disclosure.”
Really? Two sets of records? To keep from parents? Children, anyone under the age of majority, do not have the emotional, intellectual maturity to make decisions regarding their sexuality and should not be encouraged to explore it early by the public schools.
On top of all that, schools are mandating that teachers, school staff and fellow students recognize gender identity as gender. Requiring the use of mislabeled genders as though children have the right to change their biological presence. They do not and should not — at least not without parental permission and involvement.
Lastly, and this is education-wide throughout the State, schools are mandating DEI training for all teachers and staff, dictating that white teachers declare their white privilege and recognize their racism — all while stating the black Americans cannot be racist because they are marginalized. That is discrimination and illegal.
Many of us feel powerless to change the system or simply do not know how we can have an impact.
I plan to vote to make my voice heard, for School Board and for State Legislators.
St. Johnsbury, Vt.