• 34°

IWCS stumbles in equity push

Isle of Wight County Schools’ tap dance with the modern “equity” movement in public education has been less than graceful.

News of the Smithfield High School library’s challenge to students to “read woke” undercuts the school board’s and administration’s assertion in recent months that the equity push is only for teachers.

IWCS is under a microscope with critics of the multicultural and sensitivity movement who believe schools are drifting far from their primary mission of education and venturing into political and moral indoctrination. When your attempt to fend off those critics is to insist that students are insulated from what you’re doing, you can’t then defend the library’s “woke” challenge as harmless, as Superintendent Jim Thornton did in an email last week.

Our preference, as we’ve stated previously in this space, is for public schools, including Isle of Wight’s, to teach American history honestly, thoroughly and without regard for those who would prefer to whitewash unpleasant chapters like slavery, segregation and discrimination. All are part of a great, if imperfect, nation’s 245-year journey, which we believe has seen many more successes than failures.

Given that complete history, students will take the information and form their own beliefs on the hot-button issues of the day. One might be so disturbed about his “white privilege” that he is moved to march for social justice and rid society of lingering discrimination. Another might feel no guilt whatsoever for the sins of his ancestors and simply resolve to live his life without hatred and treat people equally.

The equity movement, while often admirable in its intent, goes too far with telling people how to feel. That might have its place in politics, churches and even some college classrooms, but K-12 has its hands full, in our view, teaching kids to read, write and solve math problems and preparing them for success in college and the workforce.

Isle of Wight County Schools’ appointed and elected leadership might see it differently and prefer to more aggressively embrace the modern movement to shape young people’s value systems. If that’s the case, they need to say so, be accountable to their stakeholders and stop the awkward attempts to appease their critics.