Tag Archives: Critical Race Theory

“06880” Podcast: Thomas Scarice On Critical Race Theory

Last April, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice was the first guest on my “06880” podcast. He spoke eloquently about his background, the Westport school system, and education in general.

This week he visited the Westport Library again. This time, we chatted about one specific topic: Critical Race Theory.

CRT has generated a lot of controversy, nationally and locally. The town’s chief education official discusses where it came from, what it is, and how it impacts the Westport schools.

Click below to watch.

Scarice Addresses “CRT” Controversy

Thursday’s “06880” post about a website criticizing the Westport Public Schools’ focus on “assertions of racism in our community” — and the hiring of NYU Metro Center to perform an equity audit on our school system — drew over 60 comments.

It also elicited a comment from Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice. He says:

Culture wars are not new to public schools. The recent “critical race theory” national discussions have found its stage in local public school settings. Across the country there is evidence of outlandish claims, emotional appeals, inaccurate inferences, and personal attacks, while other honest inquiries stem from curious and inquisitive parents and community members.

In either case, it is important to respectfully address concerns constructively, in a way that surfaces specific claims about the actual practices in our schools in Westport. Finding common ground is essential to the ongoing performance of public schools.

The current hyperbole of “CRT” strays widely from the original academic legal theory studied at the advanced graduate level. To my knowledge, no Westport Public School educator has this advanced training in “CRT.”

In fact, you will have difficulty finding any K-12 educator trained in this theory.  There is no CRT “curriculum” in Westport. We study all types of thinkers and theories in schools. Teaching kids “how” to think, not “what” to think, is an obligation of educators. Teaching kids to use critical thinking skills to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, etc. is a primary goal of education.

In 2017 the Westport Public Schools adopted a 3-year strategic plan. A strategic commitment to diversity and inclusion is explicitly stated by capturing the efforts the district had made under the heading, “We Value Diversity and Inclusion.”

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice.

In partnering with the community, that work has continued with a variety of efforts, including the initiation of an equity study. This study, which like most studies will be iterative, encompasses only part of the work that we do with our students every day.

The goals of the study are to assess the extent to which our students feel a sense of belonging and affiliation in our schools, the extent to which there is equitable access to all programs and services that we offer, and to work to enhance programs to prepare all students for the incredibly diverse world they will inhabit as adults.

The study, facilitated by consultants at NYU, has shed light on some of the disparities in outcomes for different groups of students. However, this work is intended to benefit each and every student in the Westport Public Schools.

The professional educators and locally elected Board of Education will determine the action steps as a result from the study, not outside consultants. I am confident that the community will see this work as very inclusive, and unlike the hyperbole around CRT, not divisive.  Ultimately, the findings and action plans will be considered for the Board of Education’s adoption of a long-term strategic plan.

“Westport Parents” Slam Critical Race Theory

The “critical race theory” war on education has come to Westport.

A group calling itself “Westport Parents” has created a website: “WP06880.” There were links to it on several local Facebook sites yesterday morning; they soon disappeared.

There are no names associated with the project, and no means of contacting the organizers beyond subscribing to updates.

The website describes the group as 37 parents who got together in June. They wanted to share concerns about “the increasing focus on assertions of racism in our community, especially after our new Superintendent of Schools made these assertions in his Strategic Plan.”

That’s a reference to a statement by Thomas Scarice about systemic racism in Westport. He hired the NYU Metro Center to perform an equity audit.

One screenshot of the “WP06880” website …

The website says:

We were alarmed by the ideology and methodology of the Metro Center, which we could access on its website, and which was clearly based in Critical Race Theory.

Those of us who were familiar with CRT know it to be a Marxist based ideology that seeks to divide people by separating them into groups based on power dynamics, with white people seen as white supremacist being dominant and all others being the marginalized groups of oppressed victims. This oppressor vs oppressed division into identity groups would necessarily create division and be harmful to our school aged children.

Another page on the website says that Critical Race Theory has “connections to Marxism, past and present. The group hopes to “arm Westport parents with strong counter-arguments when CRT apologists try to bully CRT critics with insinuations of racism.”

… and another.

The mission, according to the website, is to “stop the proponents of false and destructive narratives from implementing their political agenda to transform our schools.” The group wants to focus on academic achievement, and “reject political activism and moralizing intrusions in the classroom.”

There are quotes — also anonymous — from parents:

My wife and I believe that some things are best taught at home and in our church. We want the schools to focus on the academic skills necessary for our children to succeed in a global economy. Equal OPPORTUNITY for all, not equal OUTCOMES! (“Long Lots Elementary School father”)

Let’s keep this toxic doctrine where it belongs: far away from our children and schools. (“Saugatuck Elementary School parent”)

I send my kids to school to learn how to read and write, add and subtract. They are not there to be guinea pigs in some “anti-capitalist” sociology experiment. (“Staples mom”)

Among the suggested action steps:

  • Put up a yard sign
  • Demand an end to the relationship with NYU Metro
  • Get the RTM to adopt a proposal that Westport is diverse and welcoming
  • Demand parent access to current school curriculum.