During the 2020 fall semester, Kali Fontanilla—a high school English language teacher working in the Salinas, California, school district—noticed that many of her students were failing one of their other classes: ethnic studies. This happened at the height the pandemic and many of her students found themselves in a bind. Fontanilla found it odd that there were so many Fs.
Salinas is home to a large Mexican community. Fontanilla had a total of ten students who were Hispanics and learning English as their second language. Education officials who propose adding ethnic studies to various curriculums—and making it mandatory, as the Salinas school district did—typically intend for privileged white students to learn about other cultures. The requirement that ethnic minorities study the subject is ironic. It was even more ironic when such students had been struggling with the course.
Fontanilla of Jamaican descent says, “My students fail ethnic studies.” “I’d say that half of them fail this ethnic studies course.”
Fontanilla became curious about the courses being taught. Fontanilla discovered that all of their teachers were using the same platform online to upload lesson plans, course materials and more. Fontanilla was stunned by the results.
Fontanilla said, “This was like extreme right brainwashing of those kids.” The lessons were filled with critical race theory from beginning to end. It’s all there.
The debate over what public school students should be studying in critical race theory (or CRT) has turned into a thorny topic. It was originally a small, left-wing thought movement that existed mostly in graduate schools. But critics accuse it of having influenced diversity workshops for large corporations, teacher training seminars, and K-12 curriculum design. The 2020 Virginia governor’s race was dominated by parental concerns over CRT. Glenn Youngkin was elected Republican challenger to the office.
Many CRT believers deny teaching it to elementary education students. Mainstream media are quick to endorse such claims. Fontanilla’s breakthrough was therefore so important.
Fontanilla explains that Fontanilla had all the students learn about the four “I’s” of oppression. Fontanilla explains that the four I’s of oppression were: institutionalized, internalized and ideological. They also included interpersonal oppression. They then gave a presentation about critical race theory, and had students actually analyze the school by using critical race theories.
Fontanilla has provided slide from lesson plans which confirms that the ethnic Studies course uses critical race theory.
At least, the original meaning of this theory is, when it was taught at college, that racism pervades U.S. societies and institutions such that it is difficult to distinguish race and other issues. All laws, policies and structures were created under the auspices racism. In common parlance, opponents often use the term “CRT” to refer a broader set of concepts, like intersectionality—the idea that there are different kinds of oppression that all stack on top of each other—and privilege.
“The kids don’t even want this stuff,” says Fontanilla, noting that the ethnic studies course replaced a much more popular health class—in the midst of a pandemic, no less. They are a lot like “Why should we take this class?”
This question would be directed to the California Governor. Gavin Newsom and the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature, which decided to mandate ethnic studies for all public schools. Newsom vetoed a previous mandate, which came under fire because the proposed curriculum included “jargon such as ‘cisheteropatriarchy’ and ‘hxrstory,’ and refers to capitalism as a form of power and oppression alongside white supremacy and racism,” according to Cal Matters.
Newsom signed the mandate on October 8, 2021. The legislative re-worked ethnic studies proposals. Starting with class 2030, California’s public high school seniors will be required to take the same type of courses that Fontanilla students took.
A statement The Epoch TimesDan Burns (superintendent of Salinas Union School District) denied that the course used CRT. He did however acknowledge that CRT was “addressed in our course as a framework within the K-12 Education Outcomes List.”
In fact, the ethnic course syllabus for this district, which can be found online, refers to CRT. Students will be studying “intergenerational trauma” using an inter-disciplinary and critical approach, according to the syllabus. A suggested curriculum contains articles from scholars on critical race theory. Tara J. Yosso is a UCLA professor who studies critical race theories and leads a critical race discussion about community cultural wealth.
Students might consider an “intersectional rainbow” as one option.
To create interconnected rainbows, students will have to rank the identities they hold with the corresponding colored strings. According to the syllabus, gender, race, class ethnicity, sexual orientations, beliefs, nationality and age are all factors that students will consider. “Students will compare and contrast their intersectional rainbows with their peers, while framing their discourse within the intersectionality paradigm as laid out by Kimberlé Crenshaw.”
Crenshaw is a Columbia University professor of law and widely recognized for being one of CRT’s founders. (Vanity Fair Once called her “the mastermind of critical race theories.”
Another option is to host a mock trial in which historical figures are accused of complicity in Native California’s genocide and create a counter-narrative that promotes social justice.
Salina’s course had a privilege quiz. Students were asked to rate themselves on the basis of their marginalized status. The lesson plan included an image of two white girls—former Republican President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, to be precise—at the top of the privilege hierarchy.
Fontanilla recalls that some people think they have hit a triple because they were born on third base. They were basically born at third base, and then they went on to college.
These activities might be considered a type of left-wing activism that infiltrates the classroom by many people. Fontanilla is just one example. As a Christian, a conservative, and a black woman, she doesn’t believe that students—especially Her students, learning English as a second language—need to be taught to check their privilege.
Fontanilla states, “It’s hyperracially focused.” “And racism follows hyper-race focus.”
Fontanilla decided the district parents had the right to see the curriculum. She took the steps necessary to secure the lesson plans in order to protect her job if they were leaked. Fontanilla consulted an attorney to get help. However, when she finally got the documents, it was discovered that the district had removed the slide with the words. Critique of race theory.
In protest at the curriculum for ethnic studies, she decided to send a letter to her school board. The letter was read out loud at the June 22 meeting.
Fontanilla warned that the curriculum is an attempt to indoctrinate leftists. Other parents cheered the statement. The school board responded by banning anti-CRT remarks at the next meeting.
Fontanilla says, “You can tell it’s evil when they become so vicious defending it.”
Fontanilla, despite being praised for her bravery, has been subject to a lot of harassment online, including threats and violence. One person told Fontanilla to have fun “being a token black friend of racist conservatives all her life.”
She says that the harassmenters are all white liberals.
Fontanilla was already certain that she would not be able to remain in her school district teaching. Fontanilla and her husband moved to Florida to search for a new job. Her dual experiences in remote teaching during the Pandemic and in a race-focused classroom has made her feel cold about the profession of teacher. She recalls that during the summer of 2020, in the midst of the George Floyd protests, the Salinas administration informed its black teachers—Fontanilla included—that they would be honored with a gift.
As it turned out the gift was a mask that contained the message, Black Teachers Matter.
She said, “I wouldn’t wear that in front of my kids.” “Especially if the kid doesn’t like Black Lives Matter but I’m wearing my Black Teachers Matter Mask, then that child automatically knows they won’t be able to speak up in my class.”
Also included was an “I Love Being Black”, sticker and a letter containing an African greeting. This “acknowledges and acknowledges the god within me” gift.
“It seemed so bizarre,” she said.