by Carol J. Bova
The Gloucester County Public School Board spelled out its opposition to indoctrination or teaching that encourages hate and division in Gloucester public schools in its Tuesday meeting. The Board voted 6 to 0 for a resolution opposing Critical Race Theory in their school district’s curriculum.
The resolution printed in the Mathews Gloucester Gazette Journal said:
Gloucester County Public Schools (in alignment with the mission, vision and core values of the school district) will not teach or embed material designed to indoctrinate students to specific beliefs, teach or encourage in any matter hate or division based on race, creed, color or religion, and confirm that topics such as, but not limited to, Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project, are not, and will not be, part of the GCPS curriculum.
The views expressed in Gloucester reflected sentiments that are widespread in the rural counties of Virginia’s Tidewater.
When asked to comment, Nancy B. Welch, school superintendent of neighboring Mathews County, said in an email, “In thinking about this portion of the [Gazette Journal] article, I completely agree and support the statement that school divisions (in general) should NOT ‘… indoctrinate students to specific beliefs, teach or encourage in any matter hate or division based on race, creed, color or religion.’”
Welch also said, “As educators, we are tasked with providing instructional programs in various content areas including advanced studies & career and technical education. There is absolutely no room in our quest to support our students in learning the critical skills or critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship for hate or a purposeful created division(s) among individuals.
“The first section of the Mathews County Public Schools Mission,” Welch said, is ‘There is a ‘Mathews Way’. It is about a commitment to the students, employees and, ultimately, the community.’ This commitment certainly does NOT include the indoctrination of our students to specific beliefs or matters of hate.”
A July post on BR, Equity Innuendo, discussed an op-ed in the local paper where a Mathews County supervisor, Melissa Mason, said, “Our division, our leaders, the school board must address the persistent problems of the inequities of access, discrimination and bias, as well as the underrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse populations among educators.”
In an email after the piece was published, Supervisor Mason said, “I did not say there were instances of racism.” But readers could easily interpret “persistent problems” to mean there were such instances which has not been the case in Mathews. So why did she say it that way?
She explained her actual complaint in the later message. “I did address the number of African Americans that left within the same month. We already had a low number of People of color as teachers and administrators. Please note that what I brought up about diversity, equity and inclusion is an old conversation… My op/ed was to bring this conversation back around especially in light of the events with the [loss] of dynamic teachers.”
What Mason failed to acknowledge was leaving for other opportunities was the teachers’ choice and had nothing to do with racism or discrimination in Mathews. One well-liked and respected teacher was hired by a private school as a teacher and the Director of Social & Emotional Learning. Another went to a larger district with more opportunities.
There is room in Superintendent Welch’s statement for the Mathews School Board to express a differing point of view. But Mathews can join Gloucester in affirming core values that celebrate the uniqueness and shared humanity of all its students while still respecting and honoring cultural differences that can enrich our society.
Calls to create distance and separation by racial groupings and to use labels of oppressor and oppressed in the name of equity should be ignored by all school districts. Even though such demands are supported by education departments of elite universities and Black Separatists like the Nation of Island and the New Black Panther Party, this is not what America is about. Our schools must reflect our country as offering “liberty and justice for all” without a witch hunt for racism.
Carol J. Bova is a writer living in Mathews County.