Thursday, December 02, 2021

Loudoun County Moms Set Out to Protect Their Children, Now They’re Trying to Save America

In December 2020, Shawntel Cooper, a mother of two in northern Virginia, noticed something new in her fourth-grade daughter’s morning class routine. Cooper had just switched roles in her company and was able to work from home, and her daughter, like most of America’s schoolchildren, was remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That morning, Cooper saw that the teacher had introduced a new learning segment: playing clips of topical news items of the day. What was shown was a mainstream media news broadcast covering riots connected with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Why are they showing that?” Cooper recalled thinking. “They were going against the way that I want my child to be. She was brought up without thinking, ‘I’m white and I’m black.’”

Cooper is African American, while her husband is white.

“She hasn’t been raised based on colors. She has been raised based on loving human beings just for being human beings, of their characters, not putting them in categories on color, or what color their parents are,” Cooper added. So she asked the teacher to exclude her daughter from the morning news segment, a request that was granted.

A few months later, her daughter, while working on a school project for Black History Month, asked Cooper why people would say that there would be “no justice, no peace” until every white person was slaughtered. The girl recalled the news clips she had watched and was confused, especially because her father is white. She also started asking questions about whether she should be making friends based on skin color.

This crossed the line for Cooper.

“Our world went upside down when we had to explain to our daughter what was going on,” she told The Epoch Times.

“There’s nothing wrong with seeing through someone else’s lens. But to deceive someone into thinking that you are bad because of the color of your skin; because of your color, we are going to cut you some slack,” she said. “I will not teach my children that.”

“I believe you overcome challenges through your own journey. It’s not because someone felt sorry for me. I had to learn on my own; it was just part of life. It didn’t matter what color I was.”

So the mother started to look into the Black Lives Matter movement and critical race theory (CRT). She was shocked by what she found: that CRT, traditionally something taught in colleges, is an analytical framework underpinned by quasi-Marxist doctrines. It breaks down society into two camps: oppressors and the oppressed. Simply for being born white, one is an oppressor. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter, a left-wing activist group that promotes racial justice in law enforcement and other domains, was the embodiment of CRT principles being put into practice.

She thought it was “crazy” to “try to bring these [CRT] college courses into our children’s school.” Though, in schools, the theory appears under different banners, in ideas such as “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusivity.”

Fast forward to May, when Cooper had some quiet time while recovering from major surgery. It was then that she decided she needed to do something about what was being taught in her child’s school.

“I see people fighting racism with more racism,” she said. “Critical race theory now is trying to take the children away from the parents to make them social justice warriors. CRT is Marxist ideology. And the last thing I want is my family to be breaking apart.”

She used the time to write a speech protesting CRT at the next school board meeting.

“CRT is racist. It is abusive. It discriminates against one’s color,” she told the Loudoun County School Board on May 11. “Today, we don’t need your agreement. We want action and a backbone for what we asked for today: to ban CRT.

“You cannot tell me what is or is not racist. Look at me. I had to come down here today to tell you to your face that we are coming together. We are strong. This will not be the last greet and meet, respectfully,” Cooper said as she left the podium.

The video of her speech went viral.

Cooper is from Loudoun County, a wealthy area in northern Virginia known for its good schools.

By the time she spoke up, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) had been on the equity journey for at least two years. In the spring of 2019, the county hired an equity-focused educational consultancy to conduct a “systemic equity assessment” of the school’s policies.

The result was the LCPS comprehensive equity plan, which states, “A diverse, inclusive, equitable, and socially-just teaching and learning community is a priority in LCPS.” Its equity impact statement highlights LCPS’ commitment to “a racially-conscious, identity-affirming, and culturally responsive learning space.”

A primary recommendation in the equity plan was to publish on schools’ web pages a superintendent’s message “defining and condemning White supremacy, hate speech, hate crimes, and other racially motivated acts of violence,” and for this message to be communicated to parents twice a year. This same message was included in the Loudoun County School Board’s equity resolution adopted on Sept. 24, 2019.

Cooper said that the principal and teachers at her daughter’s school were transparent and helpful when she raised her concerns about CRT. However, “no one could promise me that critical race theory would not be taught,” she said. That’s because, Cooper said, CRT isn’t packaged as such when it’s transmitted in school classrooms. Rather, it’s disseminated under different guises that have evolved over time, from “culturally responsive learning” to “equity” to now “social-emotional learning.”

As a result, Cooper pulled her daughter out of school after she finished fourth grade in June, and began homeschooling her in July.


Kids are given no choice but to quarantine and fall behind at school

Parents from Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania are in an uproar because their children are facing mandatory quarantines without virtual learning options. Many parents are weary after nearly two years of COVID-19 precautions in schools.

Brighton Area Schools, a district in suburban Detroit, is requiring students under the age of 12 to quarantine for 14 days if they have been exposed to a COVID-positive student. Jennifer Smith, a mother with three children in the district, said that there are no virtual learning options for children placed in mandatory quarantine.

On Nov. 1, Brighton Area Schools announced that they had waived mandatory quarantines for most middle and high school students, but not for students in grades six and below. The district’s plan on whether to waive quarantines for younger students will be contingent on “the availability of vaccines for the 5-11-year-old population.”

Brighton Area Schools leave it to parents to decide whether their child wears a face mask or not, according to district policy, however, mandatory quarantines for healthy children who have been exposed are still in place.

Smith said that her nine-year-old child began a 28-day “healthy child quarantine” on Oct. 19. She received an email on Nov. 9 from Hornung Elementary School informing parents that all classes would go virtual on Nov. 10 due to “an unexplained rise in COVID-19 cases among students” following Halloween. The decision was based on advice from the Livingston County Health Department.

According to a Livingston County Health Department official, school districts ultimately make their own rules regarding quarantine, testing, and masking policies.

The Michigan mother said that her son was under mandatory quarantine from Oct. 19 to Nov. 10 with no virtual school option, and was only offered virtual classes when the entire elementary school shut down. Smith said that she is “extremely upset” as she had “no choice” but to take off work and “go without pay.”

Parents nationwide are concerned about learning losses, and also about the effects learning loss will have on students of lower socioeconomic status.

Data from 2020 indicates that schools are not driving infections and school closures or learning losses are affecting minority students. A study of 4.4 million students found that test scores of black, Hispanic, and poor children took the biggest hit when students were not in school. A study from Oct. 2020 found that schools are not driving the infection rate.

Other places have also put mandatory quarantines in place for exposed students, according to another mother in the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) in Arizona.

According to CUSD’s COVID policy, student quarantining is “required by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health” when a student comes in “close contact” with a student who is COVID-positive. The district’s website states that quarantined students receive “Google classroom assignments and/or activities,” though Eidson noted that children do not receive any teacher instruction during quarantine.


Students say Canada offers more flexible degrees than U.K., cheaper tuition than Ivy League schools

As a product of Britain's elite private school system, Sophie Boehler was groomed to pursue the prestige of an Oxford or Cambridge education.

When she was unsuccessful at getting in, instead of choosing another U.K. school, the 20-year-old from London looked farther abroad to Montreal's McGill University.

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In hindsight, she said, it was the best place she could have wound up.

"I wanted to use university as a springboard to trying out different things, and that was just something I didn't see as an option in the U.K.," Boehler said, noting it might not have been possible to get the course combinations she was looking for.

"The more I looked at it, the more I wanted an adventure and a completely new system, and Canada seemed so cool."

Boehler is part of a growing trend of U.K. students choosing to study at Canadian universities, driven by lower fees, a variety of courses and degree combinations, and more flexibility. At the same time, admissions to the U.K.'s elite universities have become more competitive as they open their doors to more students from public schools.

The U.K has always been a popular destination for Canadian students, but now, the tide is starting to flow both ways. Figures from both Universities Canada and the Canadian government show that after just creeping upward for a few years, in 2019, the number of new students from the U.K. at Canadian universities rose by nearly 10 per cent, to almost 2,500.

The number may appear modest alongside the tens of thousands of students accepted from India and China, but the rise in enrolment from the U.K. nonetheless represents a breakthrough for the Canadian system.

Just over a decade ago, Canada was barely on the radar for British students contemplating a path to academic success. But those who help facilitate study abroad on both sides of the Atlantic say the interest in Canadian universities of late has been extraordinary.

"There has been serious growth," said Anthony Nemecek, an education advisor based in London who is hired by students and U.K. secondary schools to provide them with information on university opportunities abroad.

He said there's been a significant change in the way British students and teachers think about a foreign degree. The British consider their own schools — which are often ranked among the most prestigious in the world — to be top tier, and the idea of going abroad for an education wasn't seen as especially beneficial. In addition, many U.K. undergraduate programs are three years, compared to four in Canada.

Nemecek said these days, American universities — especially prestigious Ivy League schools — are still the top choice for U.K. students looking to study abroad but that Canadian institutions are now competitive. Students are attracted by lower international schools fees, a broad variety of courses and unique degree combinations, he said




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