RALEIGH — Rain and cold temperatures did not hamper the March 16 announcement of a new task force assembled by North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson.
The Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students (F.A.C.T.S) task force was formed to combat lessons and materials that are inappropriate or politically biased.
“There are parents and teachers who are literally afraid to speak up against school boards, against principals, against administrators, and folks — that has got to stop,” Robinson said. “School is supposed to be a safe place for people to go for the purpose of instruction.”
The 12-person advisory board for F.A.C.T.S is made up of teachers, administrators, university professors and community members. Notable names include Sen. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), Rep. David Willis (R-Union), State Board of Education member Dr. Olivia Oxendine, Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, Onslow County board of education member Melissa Oakley, Union County board of education chair Melissa Merrell, North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools executive director Lindalyn Kakadelis and Classroom Teachers Association of NC director Judy Henion.
“We want this task force to be a resource for parents and students who feel they are unable to tackle the issues that they are facing in their schools,” said Robinson.
According to the new F.A.C.T.S tab on the lieutenant governor’s website, Robinson is seeking to “provide support for parents, teachers, and most importantly, students who are willing to stand up for North Carolina’s future by exposing indoctrination in the classroom and ensuring that our students are taught how to think – not what to think.”
“This is not an indictment on education,” said Robinson at the March 16 press conference, adding that they’ve received numerous complaints from parents. “What this was born out of and inspired by was the fact that every corner that we traveled in in this state we found ourselves besieged by folks complaining about things their students and children were having to learn in public schools that were contrary to their own beliefs.”
Robinson maintained that bias in the classroom wasn’t just on one political side of the aisle, saying that “It’s not about left or right. It’s about doing what’s right.”
“If I go into the classroom and I can’t put my opinions aside long enough to go inside the classroom and give impressionable young minds just the facts without my opinions, I have failed as an educator,” said Robinson.
When asked for an example of bias or indoctrination, Robinson said a student wanted to do a report on him for Black History Month, but the teacher rejected the idea and instead said to do a report on rapper Tupac Shakur who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 1996.
“I guess she doesn’t like my politics. Instead, she [the teacher] gave her somebody who was completely contrary to what her parents were in favor of,” Robinson said.
“People say, ‘where’s the proof?’ We’re going to bring you the proof,” Robinson said as he then elaborated on the portal which will receive complaints or reports to the task force.
According to the form, submissions should follow the following criteria:
- Examples of discrimination or harassment related to a student’s faith, ethnicity, worldview, or political beliefs.
- Examples of unequal, inconsistent, or disparate treatment of students in the enforcement of school rules and/or in disciplinary matters.
- Examples of students being subjected to indoctrination according to a political agenda or ideology, whether through assigned work, teacher comments, or a hostile classroom environment.
- Examples of students being required to disclose details regarding their individual race/ethnicity, sexual preference, religious ideology, or economic status.
- Examples of students being exposed to inappropriate content or subject matter in the classroom, including matters relating to substance abuse, profanity, or of a sexual nature.
When asked what would be done with the data once compiled from the reports, Robinson said the task force would take all complaints very seriously and work with local boards or whoever they need to in order to “root it out” and “bring it to an end.”
The announcement of the F.A.C.T.S. task force follows a vote by the N.C. State Board of Education approving revised Social Studies standards, which critics say contains elements of the highly controversial Critical Race Theory (CRT).
“I think they are politically charged. I think they are divisive, and I think they, quite frankly, smack of a lot of leftist dogma,” Robinson said when the revisions were discussed by the board in January.
Robinson pointed to “code words” in the standards, like “systemic racism,” that impose a negative view of the country. He countered, stating that the “system of government we have in this nation is not systemically racist. In fact, it is not racist at all.”
During the voting to approve Draft Five, the board chose to ignore public push-back on the standards in the form of emails, calls and a petition started by Robinson that garnered more than 30,500 signatures.
The debate over the changes to the standards was turned up a notch after TV news outlet WRAL published a controversial cartoon drawn by their opinion cartoonist Dennis Draughon that depicted Robinson and other board members as Ku Klux Klan members because of their dissent over the standards.
“On the second day of Black History Month, the first black lieutenant governor has been portrayed as such,” Robinson said, pointing to the cartoon during a press conference. “This is not someone’s Facebook page. This is one of the largest television stations in the state.”
What is Critical Race Theory?
CRT is an offshoot of Critical Theory, a Marxist movement that divided society into two groups, oppressed and oppressors. The roots of CRT date back to writings produced at the Frankfort School in Germany circa 1937. The main point or premise of Critical Theory was the destruction of Western culture and norms.
CRT, which evolved in the United States during the mid-1970s, posits that racism is inherent in every aspect of American culture and history while viewing every facet of society and institutions through a racial lens. At its core, CRT is the belief that all of society is based on “white privilege” and “white supremacy,” which continually harms people of color.
Among the five main components of CRT, there is the idea racism is the norm and not the exception, race is a social construction, and that whites were the ones who benefited from the civil rights movement.
The fifth component interest convergence or intersectionality, a concept employed by Black Lives Matter and used in “identity politics,” the systematic separating of individuals using a host of ideological subsets, often with the attribution of an aggrieved or victim status.
Unsurprisingly, CRT is where the idea of “systemic racism” comes from, a term which now proliferates political messaging within numerous institutions including the Biden administration and the Democratic Party. Fighting “systemic racism” has also been woven into corporation mission statements, tech company policies, employee “diversity training” and even one’s local school board meeting.