(Vancouver Courier, April 20, 2011)
Language matters. The words we put on paper carry more weight than speech. History’s great movements rely to varying degrees on documentation. Where would Christianity be without Paul’s letters? Or America without Jefferson’s independence screed? Without Karl Marx, there’d be no Lenin, Stalin or Mao. They’d be strangers of history, in fur ushankas and sandals.
Last Monday, the Vancouver School Board approved changes to the district’s “Multicultural and Anti-racism Policy.” The changes, authored by Lisa Pedrini, manager of the district’s so-called Diversity Team, invent a new narrative in public schools, cast white people as villains and elevate political correctness to fantastic heights. And most importantly, create more work for Pedrini’s Diversity Team.
Smart move. In a budget crunch, you better look busy.
Faced with an $8.4 million budget deficit, the school board must cut dozens of fulltime staff positions, including teachers and managers, to balance the district budget for next school year. Earlier this month, the board axed eight managers at the district head office on West Broadway, sending shockwaves throughout the public school bureaucracy.
The Diversity Team, a six-member troop of bureaucrats, was untouched. Formed in 2005, the team enjoys loyal support from the Vision-dominated school board. This school year, the team budget is $762,495. (Citing policy, the district won’t reveal salaries for the current school year but last school year Pedrini made $99,031.)
The team instructs teachers and models lesson plans, injecting a specific brand of politics into public education in Vancouver. Team members target school libraries, concealing activism in euphemism. Last year they launched a book-banning campaign that, if adopted by librarians, would purge libraries of classic children’s literature (Dickens, Dahl, etc.) deemed racist by Diversity Team standards. The district’s head librarian opposed this campaign.
The team’s most recent maneuver may be it’s most ambitious to date. The school district’s original anti-racism document, drafted in 1995, included common sense declarations of equality. It was standard fare for any public institution, aimed at discrimination and abuse. The new 12-page policy, penned by Pedrini and greenlighted Monday by school board trustees, replaces fact with fantasy. New definitions—parameters, if you will—venture far beyond conventional wisdom.
For example: According to Pedrini, race, humanity’s ancestral catalogue of colour and culture, doesn’t exist. “Race is a socially constructed belief that human beings can be divided up into distinct racial groups,” writes Pedrini. “Although science has proven the notion of races and racial differences to be false, the belief has been ingrained into 9 cultural worldviews and is perpetuated despite evidence to the contrary.”
Pedrini doesn’t clearly source her bizarre theory or identify her muse. L. Ron Hubbard perhaps?
A few pages later, Pedrini claims the so-called “Racial Achievement Gap” between “racialised groups in Canada and their fellow White students… is due to systemic racism inherent in educational systems and society.” The solution? Eliminate “Eurocentric bias” from the classroom including “calendars and religious/historical holidays and history” taught from a “European perspective.”
To summarize the Diversity Team’s position now enshrined in the school district canon: There’s no such thing as race, but the public school system is racist. Educators must be reeducated to reflect new district policy. European culture and tradition, upon which our country was built, must be purged from the classroom.
Pedrini ends her manifesto with an eye on job security. She wants to “implement practices” and compile “annual reports” because “specific staff development in Multicultural, Diversity and AntiRacism Education is crucial to understand and accommodate diverse learning and communication styles.”
Most probably, the prism Pedrini and company peer through does not reflect the views of most Vancouver parents. Their meddling, outside the bounds of democratic accountability, is possible only through continued support from the school board.
In an era of austerity, waste must die first. Is there anything more wasteful, more utterly indefensible, than a team of ideologues waging cultural warfare in public schools on taxpayer time?