When the November Great Neck school board meeting was rocked by a gathering of parents and other attendees, seemingly outraged at a lesson taught in an 11th-grade Regents English class at Great Neck North High School, the incident gained national attention among conservative activists.
The topic of the lesson was systemic racism. One emphasis of the lesson was that racism in the United States is systemic and has not improved in 200 years. Another was that “whites are taking advantage of this system, intentionally or unintentionally, that makes us all (technically) racist.”
Another slide in the teacher’s presentation argued that white people have significant vulnerability when discussing race, and the lesson concluded with students being asked to make a pledge to face their own racism and that of confront, investigate, discuss and denounce others, and work relentlessly towards the goal of anti-racism.
The lesson did not go down well with many parents. Parent activist websites battling “Critical Race Theory” picked up on the dispute. The confrontation at the school board meeting was so fierce that a temporary break had to be taken.
And the tumult has really not stopped. In a meeting with the editorial board on Wednesday, Roger Tilles, a member of the Board of Regents, said he will be at Great Neck North High School on Jan. 18 to explain the differences between “CRT,” which he says are none of those things. district in Long Island actually teaches this. , and “Diversity, Equality and Inclusion”, the framework Regents want to use.
Tilles has spoken to other such groups and their leaders and said there is more confusion and fear than anger. “About two-thirds of the people who participate are curious, not dogmatic. They fear the wrong things are being taught and want to see it,” he told the board in a Zoom call.
The other third, Tilles said, is angry, sometimes at what is actually being taught, but often at what they believe is.
“The Regents emphasize that diversity should be valued in all aspects of education, including curriculum and hiring,” Tilles said, “because it’s critical to good education and fundamental to how we treat each other.”
As for parental involvement in the curriculum, a particularly hot topic as districts are increasingly under siege, Tilles said he believes in it, and liked the statement of recent Virginia governor candidate Terry McAuliffe: “I don’t think parents educate tell them what to learn,” set the wrong tone.
“Parents and residents definitely have a role in determining what is taught in schools,” Tilles said. “They do it by electing board members and kicking them out if they’re wrong, by not telling professional educators which books to use, and by issuing death threats if they disagree.”
But since participation in school board competitions was so low in May, Tilles acknowledged that small groups of voters could greatly disrupt districts. And that turmoil could diminish the high value of education on Long Island.