January 27, 2022

By Joe Setyon

The secret is out. Schools are secretly propagandizing children with anti-American Critical Race Theory lessons. Now parents are demanding to know what is being taught in the classroom. The response from one of the leading proponents of rewriting American history? If parents are concerned, “Just ask a teacher,” she says.

Call it gaslighting, condescending, or totally disconnected from reality. Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine reporter and author of the revisionist 1619 Project, tweeted her advice to parents who are expressing concerns over curriculum—while also smearing them as part of a supposed propaganda campaign.

Trouble is, it’s not so simple. And Ms. Hannah-Jones, this isn’t a propaganda campaign. These are parents who have justifiable concerns about their children’s education.

Just ask mother Nicole Solas. She knows firsthand that public schools aren’t always champing at the bit to provide parents with easy access to learning materials. After having been stonewalled for asking the wrong questions, she was billed $74,000 to see her daughter’s kindergarten curriculum, then sued by the nation’s largest public sector teachers union for filing public records requests.

And Solas, it seems, would like a word with Hannah-Jones, the 1619 Project creator who’s best known for falsely claiming slavery was the foundation on which this nation was built.

“They sued me for asking” to see a curriculum, Solas pointed out in response to Hannah-Jones.

Instead of taking parents’ concerns seriously, Hannah-Jones prefers to belittle parents.

In attacking parents, Hannah-Jones is ignoring the barriers the public education establishment puts up to keep parents like Solas in the dark. And perhaps unintentionally, she highlights the need for the Goldwater Institute’s curriculum transparency reforms.

Take Solas’ story, for instance. Concerned about the South Kingston School District teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender theory, Solas emailed the school principal and asked to see the curriculum before she enrolled her kindergarten-age daughter there. When she couldn’t get any answers, Goldwater stepped in and made an additional public records request on her behalf. Then, the school district said it would cost $74,000 to provide the simple information she sought. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest public sector teachers union, even sued to block Solas’ access to the materials.

Solas is far from the only parent who’s been ordered to jump through outrageous hoops just to find out what their child is learning.

In May, a Michigan public school district told parents it would cost a whopping $409,899.10 to access documents that included words like “Critical Race Theory,” “anti-racist,” “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.”

And last September, a group of parents and other concerned residents in Minnesota filed a public records request with the Rochester Public Schools district seeking documents related to “equity and social justice topics often referred to as Critical Race Theory (‘CRT’).” Nearly two months later, the school district replied, saying it could provide the requested public records—if the parents were willing to pay up to the tune of more than $900,000.

These are just a few instances of a troubling nationwide trend that disproves Hannah-Jones’ point—when involved parents ask to see a curriculum, they’re often stonewalled and effectively shut down. But Goldwater is fighting back on behalf of concerned parents nationwide by advocating for the Sunlight in Learning Act, which requires public schools to publish a list of instructional materials and activities used during the academic year on a publicly accessible portion of their website. That way, parents can easily access information about what their kids are learning without having to go through cumbersome bureaucratic processes.

There’s nothing wrong with involved parents maintaining good relationships with their children’s teachers, of course. But when public school officials go to extreme lengths to hide what’s being taught, that may not be enough. By requiring public schools to post a listing of their learning materials online, Goldwater’s Sunlight in Learning Act ensures parents aren’t held hostage by the public education establishment’s whims.

Joe Setyon is a Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.

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