This testimony was presented to Big Lake School Board on May 2002, the night that the school board voted to allow the diversity text book "Opression and Social Justice" to continue to be used in the Big Lake School District.
These parents were actively involved in their children's education, and took the iniative to stand before an unwelcoming school board. They exemplify to all the work that must be done, and they deserve our deepest respect.----------------------
First of all, I would like to thank the Big Lake Board of Education for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I am here tonight to ask you to consider my appeal in regards to the diverse Perspectives class being taught at Big Lake High School. My request, originally sent to Superintendent Lageson in January of this year is as follows;
1) To suspend the class temporarily until the class could be independently reviewed to determine whether it meets the standards as outlined in the Profiles of Learning
2) To eliminate the book "Oppression and Social Justice"
3) To provide corrective education to all students still enrolled in Big Lake high school that have taken this class.
In April, after almost three months of waiting I received a response stating that a committee met and voted unanimously that "the text is appropriate for student use in an elective class and that it should stay in the district as a resource to meet the course outcomes and graduation standards identified in the Diverse Perspectives class". End of quote.
In November of 2001, while attending an excess levy referendum meeting at the high school I became aware of some posters that were on the wall of the Diverse Perspectives class at the high school. After another parent asked the Superintendent and a Board member about this, I was one of about several concerned people who were escorted into the classroom to view the posters. What was so troubling was that the posters ALL depicted Christopher Columbus as a "rapist and a murderer". Finding that rather odd and peculiar, another parent and myself decided to find out more about how this particular class assignment was meant to teach Big Lake High School students about Diversity.
One could ask why someone without high school kids would be concerned
about this issue. Well, there are many reasons.
The disagreement that many people, including myself, have is not about Diversity, rather it is about how Diversity is being taught in this district. This point can be summarized very easily by taking a look at the class syllabus, which states in the first sentence of the first paragraph, and I quote, "Diversity is the study of Oppression and Social Justice". End of quote. According to page 367 of the textbook, Opression is defined as the systematic dehumanization of an identifiable target population. I would like to be on record as saying that this is a fundamentally flawed understanding of the topic of Diversity, and is an understanding that CANNOT be supported by anything found in the Diverse Perspectives standard mandated by the state of Minnesota. I have personally read everything the state has produced about this standard and have yet to even find the word "Oppression" in anything I have read. I have many reasons for wanting this class reviewed (independently) and the book removed.
Regarding the book, first and foremost this book is a college textbook. The subject matter is not appropriate for use at the high school level in teaching 16 & 17 year-old students. I have not heard anyone, other than school administrators, who some could argue, have a conflict of interest in this discussion, have anything good to say about the book. Some justify the book by saying only 3 of the chapters are being used, almost admitting that the rest of the book isn't appropriate to read. If this book were a movie it would be rated R-restricted. But don't take my word for it. All you have to do is read it for yourself. As I mentioned before, a committee has reviewed this book and found it to be appropriate, let me read some of the material and you can decide for yourself. Let me say first that the information I am about to read is a violation of the proposed visitor policy as it includes obscene, foul, insulting, and demeaning language. However since the information is from a textbook provided by the school I will assume it is OK to read.
Read Page 363.
Other problems I have found with this class are as follows;
1) the class has been placed in the English department and was most recently taught by an English teacher even though it more appropriately belongs in the Social Studies area. I believe that the previous instructor was unqualified to teach American history subjects related to those mentioned in the book such as the "Myth about Columbus".
2) The book includes five chapters about Gay and Lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender issues. One chapter called Gay and Lesbian liberation clearly promotes homosexual behavior. In a meeting last spring, School Board chair Dave Reines stood before a group of more than 100 parents, looked them in the eye and told them flatly "I will not let Diversity be used to promote alternative lifestyles." Well I have the duty to inform you, Mr. Chairman, that alternative lifestyles ARE being promoted in this book and in this class in spite of your promise. I ask you right now. What are you going to do about it?
3) After reading the information about the class and reading the textbook it is clear that not only are many parts of this book extremely offensive, but it was clearly meant to promote a one-sided viewpoint on Diversity. In fact, the teacher Johanna Eger, as much as admitted it when she said on KSTP TV that kids get the other viewpoints "in other classes in grades K-12" and to teach these viewpoints in Diverse Perspectives "would be redundant." This statement by Ms. Eger contradicts the state mandated diversity standard which states that "The study of Diversity, in any area, should include the dominant view(s), alternative views(s), and also omitted views." In other words diversity should be well rounded. This class is clearly not well-rounded. After reading the book, it is clear that the authors make no attempt to include the dominant view, alternative content and omitted views as was mandated by the standard.
4) In fact, a former male student in that class was told that he had to re-do his paper because his perspective of the subject in question was different from that of the teacher and the author of the chapter in which that particular subject was written.
5) Even though the book stereotypes men, especially white men as sexual deviants, rapists, murderers, torturers, invaders, oppressors. According to the State mandated standard, People, and I quote "cannot be neatly boxed into specific perspective types regardless of their cultural experiences, ethnic backgrounds, age, gender, or any other characteristic." End of quote. Also this from the Diverse Perspectives standard mandated by the state. "While different perspectives of historical events are often studied, this standard seeks the understanding that perspectives are dynamic. Therefore, the use of current issues to examine the role and influence of multiple perspectives is STRONGLY recommended." It goes on to say that using current issues to examine the role and influence of multiple perspectives is a NECESSITY in meeting this standard.
In summary, I would like to say that I am almost equally troubled by the lack of leadership exchibited by David Reines and the school as I am about the content in the Diversity classroom and the book. It appears the only reason this issue is now finally being addressed by the school board is because Dave Reiness realized this issue would not go away until it was properly addressed by the board.
A Concerned Parent