Woke Elementary

March 7, 2021 • 12:30 pm

I didn’t know what City Journal was, which published the article below (click on screenshot). It turns out that Wikipedia describes it as a public policy magazine and website, published by the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, that covers a wide range of topics, from policing strategy, education reform, and social policy to urban architecture, family culture, and contemporary theories emanating from law schools, charitable foundations, and public health organizations.”

It’s no surprise that they published this article, but I’m not going to ditch a story, regardless of the source, unless I find out it’s wrong or have suspicions that it’s wrong. Likewise, I won’t ditch a story by the New York Times or Washington Post on the grounds of political affiliation alone. Do be aware, though, that it’s the conservative media that concentrates on wokeness, and that’s one reason, I suspect, why the “Blue Wave” didn’t materialize last November. (But thank Ceiling Cat we got the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.) As always, I rage against the dying of what’s right for a reason: to avoid pollution of the Left.

But wait: it gets worse. The article was written, and the “source documents” presented elsewhere, by Christopher Rufo, who works for the creationist Discovery Institute. For some reason the DI hired Rufo to go after wokeness, and I have no idea why. Did they give up on Intelligent Design? I don’t think so.  Rufo’s own site says this:

Christopher F. Rufo is the director of Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS and is currently a contributing editor for City Journal, where he covers homelessness, addiction, mental illness, crime, and other afflictions.

The mystery deepens. PBS, that bastion of liberality?

Anyway, the story is unbelievable, and there is what’s called “supporting evidence”, which is quite thin because there’s no description of what’s being shown by Rufo. Click on the screenshot to read for yourself:

From the City Journal:

An elementary school in Cupertino, California—a Silicon Valley community with a median home price of $2.3 million—recently forced a class of third-graders to deconstruct their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.”

Based on whistleblower documents and parents familiar with the session, a third-grade teacher at R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School began the lesson on “social identities” during a math class. The teacher asked all students to create an “identity map,” listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained that the students live in a “dominant culture” of “white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],” who, according to the lesson, “created and maintained” this culture in order “to hold power and stay in power.”

JAC: Most of the school is Asian, which technically isn’t white. I suppose they mean “white adjacent”—the term now used to refer to high-achieving “groups of color”.

Next, reading from This Book Is Antiracist, the students learned that “those with privilege have power over others” and that “folx [JAC: note spelling: “folks” have no gender attached] who do not benefit from their social identities, who are in the subordinate culture, have little to no privilege and power.” As an example, the reading states that “a white, cisgender man, who is able-bodied, heterosexual, considered handsome and speaks English has more privilege than a Black transgender woman.” In some cases, because of the principle of intersectionality, “there are parts of us that hold some power and other parts that are oppressed,” even within a single individual.

Following this discussion, the teacher had the students deconstruct their own intersectional identities and “circle the identities that hold power and privilege” on their identity maps, ranking their traits according to the hierarchy. In a related assignment, the students were asked to write short essays describing which aspects of their identities “hold power and privilege” and which do not. The students were expected to produce “at least one full page of writing.” As an example, the presentation included a short paragraph about transgenderism and nonbinary sexuality.

If true, this is pretty dire. Now the parents objected, and the school ditched the program after a squabble. But it shows that parents have to be ever vigilant as this stuff metastasizes into lower and lower grades.

It turns out that although the school is 94% nonwhite, most of the families are Asian. And Asians are some of the biggest opponents of Wokeism, because, although they’re officially considered people of color, they are discriminated against by colleges like Harvard because Asians are a high-achieving ethnic group. If you want to efface any criteria of merit to raise the proportion of other ethnic groups, you’re going to be taking Asians out of the mix.

I say this by way of explanation, not approbation, because I believe in some types of affirmative action up to college admission as a form of reparations. You might ask yourself, “Well, weren’t Asians once discriminated against, too? And my answer will be, “Yes. How about the Cubs this year?” because I’m truly not qualified to pronounce on differences in achievement of ethnic groups. But I do oppose the desire of many Asian-Americans to eliminate all forms of affirmative action.

At any rate, the Asian-American parents at Cupertino are up in arms:

At Meyerholz Elementary, the Asian-American families are on high alert for critical race theory in the classroom. Since their initial victory, they have begun to consider campaigning against the school board. “We think some of our school board members are [critical race theory] activists and they must go,” said one parent. The capture of our public institutions by progressives obsessed by race and privilege deserves opposition at every level. The parents of Cupertino have joined the fight.

I’m not sure what the “whistleblower documents” are, but you can check for yourself. Below are two screenshots, and they look like a lesson plan, not stuff given to third graders, who are only nine years old. However, as the article notes, the school more or less admitted that the lesson did take place during a math class (?):

The lesson caused an immediate uproar among Meyerholz Elementary parents. “We were shocked,” said one parent, who agreed to speak with me on condition of anonymity. “They were basically teaching racism to my eight-year-old.” This parent, who is Asian-American, rallied a group of a half dozen families to protest the school’s intersectionality curriculum. The group met with the school principal and demanded an end to the racially divisive instruction. After a tense meeting, the administration agreed to suspend the program. (When reached for comment, Jenn Lashier, the principal of Meyerholz Elementary, said that the training was not part of the “formal curricula, but the process of daily learning facilitated by a certified teacher.”)

Here’s a plot of the race and ethnicity in the Cupertino Union Elementary School District (thick bars) vs. California as a whole (thin bars)


44 thoughts on “Woke Elementary

  1. What this school committed, if the story has any truth to it (and it looks like it has plenty) is child abuse. This isn’t just a matter of bad teaching; this is something that, if I were the parent of a child at that school, would have me talking to my lawyer about bringing criminal charges—psychological abuse, at the very least—against the teacher involved and the school administration. And probably the school board as well.

    1. Agreed.

      Perhaps some elementary teachers and parents of young children might chime in here. How realistic is it to expect third-graders to understand the terminology shown in the screen shot? At that age your choices, changes and decisions tend to be restricted to whether you may have chocolate or strawberry ice cream for dessert etc. As for ‘privilege’, ‘dominant culture’…

      1. I find it astonishing that anyone, especially elementary school teachers, would think the material shown in the screen caps, i.e. socioeconomic class, is suitable for a third grader. This is teachers thinking you can teach elementary school kids anything they study in the high schools, and that it’s a good idea to try to do that. It’s nuts.

    2. would have me talking to my lawyer about bringing criminal charges—psychological abuse, at the very least—against the teacher involved and the school administration.

      Isn’t “Cupertino” where Apple is a very major employer, so the environs are likely to be very full of patent lawyers, copyright lawyers and the like (with a smattering of software engineers, computer scientists, etc). So the likelihood of the school contract including some sort of compulsory arbitration clause or an NDA, or something similar. Because what you really don’t need with dirty laundry like this is a public airing, and a lot of these people know it very well.
      It may be a quirk of the US legal system, but the number of bodies here that can launch a criminal prosecution is very limited, and definitely does not include John Q Doe-Public. Sure they can be report someon, and allege criminal offences. But prosecuting a criminal case is for the Procurator Fiscal, CPS, HSE, tax man, or one of a small number of other bodies.
      Oh, hang on – OJ case – that was in this part of California, wasn’t it? The criminal prosecution for murder failed, but the family (families?) of the dead launched a private non-criminal prosecution which succeeded in bankrupting the Original Orange One.

      1. There is no contract that the _parents_ signed: this is a public school. As for the teachers, their contract seems somewhat irrelevant to whether the parents can bring suit.

  2. I wonder if this lesson was intended to be a riff on the colored shirt experiment that has been done in other classrooms of young students? That might make it seem less shocking.

  3. The more outrageous the Woke get, the more likely, and sooner, they’ll face a huge backlash. Messing with kids’ education, like they appear to be doing in Cupertino, is a sure way to get parents to fight them. Same with politicians who lose elections because of it. I’ve seen more and more analysis that blames the lack of a Blue Wave in the 2020 elections on really bad ideas (and slogans) like “Defund the Police” and some of the more outrageous speech and acts by BLM. My hope is that this lesson takes hold before 2022 or we risk a Red Wave.

      1. Yes, I agree, though I don’t think the writing of such luminaries, much as I like it, really has much direct effect. It takes the implementation of these bad ideas for people to find out how bad they are and cause them to loudly object. However, the writers can explain what went wrong and give regular people some ammunition with which to fight back. It all helps.

      2. The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) was against wokism for a long time. I’d say the people you mention are late-comers, considering that this is an issue for 15 years and more. Early big conflicts were around 2010, including in New Atheism by 2011.

        The WSWS also championed the criticism against the woke 1619 project.

    1. Where have you seen that analysis? I’ve seen it stated many times but never with actual data to back up the claim. The data I’ve seen showed that areas with large anti-police protests actually saw a concurrent uptick in democratic voter registrations.

      1. I thought that I had seen actual polling data but I can’t find it now. Certainly many politicians and pundits have come to that conclusion. One of the most important was Jim Clyburn of SC. His support for Biden may have been decisive in him winning the Dem primary so he’s someone worth listening to. These things are notoriously hard to prove but I suspect that it scared enough politicians that I doubt they will run in 2022 on anything remotely touching defunding of the police. Mostly, it was a stupid slogan, and not actual policy, so it shouldn’t be hard to distance themselves. On the other hand, if their platform says anything about the police at all, you can bet the GOP will claim they are trying to defund the police again.

    2. Yes Paul. And guess who the backlash brigade will be coming for.
      it won’t be middle class white guilt moral entrepreneurs like the makers of this school policy or meta-grifters like Robin Di Angelo. it’ll be for the people it was *meant* to help. See Fox Noos every night.

      Also, I should ask the authors how do I know if I’m “considered handsome”? I like to think so but….

      NYC https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/06/10/photos-of-readers-93/

    3. Whilst I agree there is at least some truth in that (I think the Senate id 50-50 because of the law and order issue and it’s not Republican only because Trump sabotaged the GOP candidate campaigns), the problem that I see is that the Wokistas won’t understand why these blue waves never seem to materialise. They will assume it is because the Democratic candidates aren’t woke enough, not that they are too woke. For example they lament Bernie Sanders’ failure to win the primaries but fail to understand that he couldn’t even get a majority of Democrats (i.e. those on the left side of the divide) to back his policies, so would have no chance in the country as a whole.

      They remind me of the British Conservative Party in the aftermath of the 1997 general election. They got absolutely trounced but a lot of them assumed they lost because they weren’t right wing enough. So they went further and further right and lost the next two elections as a result.

      1. Yes, they are principled, not practical. This is one of the biggest problems with the Woke. They can’t even conceive of compromise or rational problem solving. Their answers to everything have already been chosen, they are perfect, and everyone who disagrees with them are with the devil.

  4. I have read City Journal for several years and it’s arguably the main publication that first gave Coleman Hughes, where he is a fellow, a continuous platform. It has published many works by Glenn Loury, Heather McDonald, and John McWhorter.

    In terms of Christopher Rufo, he has been one of the key investigators into “woke” excess and penetration in elementary schools. His wife is Asian and they have 2 children. As noted in Dr. Coyne’s entry, his other significant interest is that of poverty and homelessness.

    Below is a link to Coleman Hughes’s City Journal profile and articles:


    1. Yes, Christopher Rufo seems to be a worthy campaigner in the anti-Woke cause, such that we can perhaps overlook for now any Christian/creationist sympathies.

  5. The Elect’s religion – as argued persuasively, IMO, by McWhorter – suggests that such schools will soon develop in the way private, charter, or other optional schools – including religious – have.

    Thing is, The Elect won’t see it as a religion, but The Truth.

  6. “but I’m not going to ditch a story, regardless of the source, unless I find out it’s wrong or have suspicions that it’s wrong.” – Indeed, as the argument between the protagonists in Richard Bach’s Illusions goes:

    “You are quoting Snoopy the Dog, I believe?”
    “I’ll quote the truth wherever I find it, thank you.”

  7. An additional note, sadly, it may be past time to admit that automatic trustworthiness can no longer be extended to venerable publications. Even among the most prestigious.

    It’s a result of economic pressures, the Foxification of news (go look at the stock price of NYTimes since Trump election), and the rise of what John McWhorter calls “The Elect”.

    Let me give you an example, which Andrew Sullivan discuss with Glenn Greenwald on Sullivan’s weekly podcast….so I am relieved to know I am not the only one who has noticed this: The crime wave against Asians has and is being reported on widely, yet it’s rare to see physical description of perpetrators. Or of individuals apprehended. It’s as if the attackers are ghosts.

    And yet another one, which Sullivan pointed out on his Twitter feed. Yesterday the New York Times published an article about why some Hispanic men voted for Trump, which attributed in part to social conservatism. (I am gay and Hispanic whose first language is Spanish, so not an alien to this territory.)

    SURPRISE: most of the world is deeply socially conservative-and homophobic and sexist and hierarchical (racist)–with the biggest exception being societies that are the product of “whiteness”, ie, first world. One of the reasons, not just economic, people want to immigrate here.

    The article includes this sentence attempting to memory-hole and erase last summer’s violence:

    “Some of the frustrations voiced by Hispanic Republican men are stoked by misinformation, including conspiracy theories claiming that the “deep state” took over during the Trump administration and a belief that Black Lives Matter protests caused widespread violence.”


    1. I saw a bit on CNN where they showed several incidents of Asians being attacked. So much gets caught on security cameras these days. I think the LA Times recently reported some statistics that show racially motivated attacks on Asians have gone up drastically in the last year. Finally, my wife (Korean) claims she gets lots more dirty looks than before. 😉

      1. The whole K-Pop soft power thing seems to be working on my daughters here in the UK at least… Koreans, their culture, and language are very popular here – my youngest is a big fan of BTS, something she got from her older sister. And clearly they aren’t alone: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56283084

        I even seem to remember that back during the US presidential election campaign, K-Pop fans were thought to be responsible for the underwhelming attendance at Trump’s first campaign rally after the start of the pandemic because they had registered to attend with no intention of actually showing up. I’ll try to find a link to the news reports…

        Just to be clear, I don’t share my daughters’ enthusiasm for K-Pop – although my 18-year-old does like some classic rock, so there’s hope for her yet!

      2. Paul, 안녕하세요! My wife is Korean-Chinese, fluent in both Korean and Mandarin, and because of her, I’ve learned lots about both the Korean and Chinese cultures. She was on the receiving end of a bigoted remark about Asians and the coronavirus last year. She too claims she gets dirty looks sometimes when she’s out shopping these days.

  8. That is some pretty specific details for a thinly supported claim!
    Meanwhile, I just saw an opinion piece on CNN online about how cancel culture is a myth. It does not exist and is all made up. After yelling at my poor laptop I decided to come here to maybe relax. 🤔

  9. I disagree with most of this discussion. My (of Northern European descent) children were in pre-school, first, and second grade, when the schools in our city were being desegregated. They would walk to the school nearest them and be bussed to another school. For us, this was a great opportunity to talk to them about what was happening. In the background there were riots in black areas of the city, and civil rights and anti-war marches (which I would bring them on). I feel that the situation Meyerholz Elementary is similar, an opportunity introduce them to what is going on in the world. My oldest daughter who underwent desegregation grew up to teach for 18 years in the oldest HBCU in the country. She is now our expert on this. She believes that grade school is not too soon to be discussing racial issues.

    1. Interesting perspective, Ronsch. I see your point and agree that elementary school is not too early, but it seems as if the Cupertino school is laying it all on too thick, and perhaps laying too much of a guilt trip on the still innocent young kids, making them overly conscious of races instead of just letting them make friends freely.

      1. Okay, it might be that it could be done better, but I think something needs to be done. I’m of the view that there is a lot of work to do, and we need to be doing it now. It is not a time to weaken our resolve against racism.

        1. Fair enough. My daughter was bemoaning the fact that her five-year-old is in too white a neighborhood. My neighborhood, where she grew up, is becoming much more diverse, and the kids are exposed naturally to all kinds of people. I live outside Toronto (used to live not far from Cupertino) and the racial issues here, though not perfect, are I think generally better than in the States.

          1. I live in rural BC, where the largest visible minority is Italian. But I agree the Toronto area is diverse. And comparing say Vancouver and Toronto the diversities are different.

            The Skin We Are In by Desmond Cole as a black Canadian, gives a different perspective of the Canadian – US divide, he sees little difference. Having said that, I lived six years in South Africa, in the eighties, and one of the things I took away from that experience is that people (me included) see things through their preconceived ideas.

            1. True that, but one hopes that one’s preconceived ideas can evolve. And young kids don’t have (as many) preconceived ideas.

        2. If the kids aren’t old enough to understand “structural”, they aren’t old enough for the white fragility discussion, if ever. I object to telling kids, who may have had no experience with racism at all, that they need to deal with racism right now or, if white, they are automatically racist. If I had a kid that heard that message at school, I would be really pissed.

          1. Kids who have had no experience with racism? What kind of experience are they having? My kids were involved in desegregation which required telling them about racism in the second grade, and they did well in life. I feel sorry for kids that aren’t being made aware of racism when they’re young. I’m afraid for how they’ll be growing up.

            1. I see what you mean. But I think context is important. In that Cupertino school most of the kids are Asian; it seems likely that they have first-hand experience of racism already, so lecturing them about their privilege seems strange. My kids also went to schools that had Chinese and South Asian majorities, and all those kids (including the minority white kids) knew about racism. No need to tell any of them about privilege or power. Maybe in other contexts, the majority white kids would benefit from lessons like this.

              At my son’s high school, the black kids made fun of the first-generation immigrants (a lot of Arabic-speaking refugees). “Fresh off the boat” etc. It was racist, but not in the way that Robin DiAngelo imagines. Talking about racism at that high school could not be done using a book that depends on power and intersectionalism. It needed to be done with an emphasis on multiculturalism and empathy. But again I can see that’s not the case everywhere.

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