By Guy Page
A Vermont school superintendent accused two prominent Critical Race Theory opponents of “McCarthyism” at an August 13 televised public meeting in Island Pond.
After denying his school district teaches CRT, North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent level charges of “McCarthyism” against anti-CRT activist Ben Morley and Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex/Orleans).
McCarthyism is an epithet aimed at people who claim to see Marxist or communist ideologies at work. In the early 1950’s, Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin asserted (but never proved) communist influence in the U.S. government.
Morley opened the public meeting of about 100 people at the American Legion Hall by describing how ‘equity’ training in Vermont schools is based on the Marxist academic theory of Critical Race Theory.
A 32-year-old Vocational Rehabilitation counselor for the State of Vermont, Morley holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Norwich University. Last year he founded FAIR Education for OCSU, which now has a Facebook page and about 120 involved parents.
Heaving studied both Critical Race Theory in an academic setting and undergone the state’s required ‘equity’ training, he draws a direct connection between the two. He added, “the history behind Critical Race Theory ties back to Marxists in Italy and before that in Germany.”
“CRT is an ideology that seeks to replace equality with equity,” Morley said. “Equality is much too important in a democracy to replace it with equity. We can’t let that happen.”
‘They preach diversity and inclusivity, but they don’t practice it,” Morley continued. “They don’t want you to have a place at the table to express your needs as a parent. It seems like every time we’ve tried, we’ve been met with disdain. We’ve been called white supremacist thinkers. We’ve been called intolerant. I was told that I need to work on my white privilege by a principal when I asked what they were teaching in history.”
In the face of school officials’ unwillingness to be transparent about CRT-based ‘equity’ training, parents should vote down school budgets and file Freedom of Information requests for curriculum, Morley advised.
Samantha Stevens, North Country Supervisory Union equity and community outreach coordinator, argued that schools must teach equity because because some parents don’t teach it to their kids.
“I’m here because racism does still exist in our society,” Stevens said. “We’ve had multiple incidents of racism, at least six in Island Pond alone in the last six months, where racist graffiti has been written on public locations. I can tell you those theories and ideas are not coming from school. They’re coming from home. So if you think we’re going to eliminate racism in our society, we cannot rely on students getting that information from their homes and communities alone. Our schools have to be a part of that solution.”
“We don’t teach critical race theory,” Castle said at about the one hour, seven minute mark. To Morley he said, “You’ve spent most of your time denigrating schools in a general sense.”
However, a parent stood and read a National Education Association resolution approved in July stating “it is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory.”
Here in Vermont, the Essex/Westford school district equity coordinator said during a May 4 public hearing that Critical Race Theory is “an important aspect” in equity training.
Furthermore, Morley and others have stressed the similarities of the two ideologies, including the strong identification with ethnic groups of oppressed/oppressor and the insistence of equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity.
Where Morley sees a lack of transparency and cooperation by school officials, Castle sees citizens who level charges without proof.
“Do you believe it’s important for us to teach McCarthyism?” Castle asked Morley.
“I think it’s important to teach a structured curriculum that doesn’t infringe on anybody’s beliefs,” Morley said.
“This is akin to McCarthyism,” Castle said after further exchange. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
That statement prompted a strong reaction from Ingalls.
“Okay, by having a discussion about what the NEA has brought in, about what the folks back have said, about what everybody said, that’s McCarthyism?,” Ingalls asked. “By being here as a community and giving our opinions, that’s McCarthyism? That sir, is part of the problem. If you can’t value everybody’s opinion here, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?”
No, you are the problem,” Castle said. “…..We have sat here and listened to people denigrate schools without any clear evidence.”
You can’t take offense to people speaking their minds about what they believe,” said Morley. “Like, stop being offended. It’s part of our American process. It’s what builds a democracy.”
It remains to be seen if Castle, Morley, Ingalls and others can sit down and review the entire North Country School Supervisory Union equity training, its impact on curriculum, and the degree of CRT influence.