Do you have a child at St. Andrew's Public School? Know someone who does? BE CONCERNED. Please share this info.
Next week every class will have a workshop conducted by a company called "Unlearn." Among other ideologically troubling and scientifically false notions (e.g., multiple genders; white privilege), this company teaches children that they have "unconscious bias."
From its opening webpage, here is how Unlearn describes its core mandate and reason for being:
"We challenge educators, students and support staff to think critically about their own unconscious biases..."
The theory of unconscious bias is evil. It promotes the understanding that even if you don’t say bigoted things, commit bigoted acts, or consciously think bigoted thoughts, you are still likely a bigot “unconsciously."
Used in schools, this theory has been used to convince primarily white children, that they harbor implicit dislike for their visible minority/sexual minority classmates. After they are made to feel guilty, the suggestion is made that to fight back against and atone for their “unconscious bias” they must step back from opportunities and not voice opinions (often referred to as "checking their privilege") to allow marginalized people more opportunity.
Yes, this is racism against one group of kids to fight racism against another.
As all social scientists are now aware (and as I made the Principal of the school aware via multiple emails and conversations) the theory of unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, and its associated claims have been shown to be empirically false. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) used to validate the theory has been discredited. I provided the Principal with the research that shows all this. She was unconcerned.
When I pressed the principal, Ms. Matessich, whether she knew the details of what the unlearn staff were going to say to our students she admitted to me by email she does not have any idea of the specific ideas that they will be relayed to the students.
When I asked if she might find out, she told me to that I needed to contact Unlearn if I wanted more information on what the student population of St. Andrews would be told.
I contacted Unlearn and staff there said they DO NOT have presentation notes. The facilitator, Abhi, also made the claim that he is "not telling students how to think."
However, that claim is logically impossible and incompatible with his other responses where he wrote to me that "we raise critical consciousness" and "we facilitate a dialogue around human rights, social justice and equity issues." Unless he says nothing when asked questions by the students, he is telling them what to think.
Put bluntly, he is instructing the students on a great deal and he is giving NO specifics on what that instruction will be.
As I say, I am not the only parent to be concerned by this lack of transparency and lack of knowing.
Last night parents from four families attended the council meeting at St. Andrews. We were representing another 6 to 8 families. These numbers may seem low but keep in mind NO PARENT has been informed by the school that this workshop is happening.
We petitioned the Principal to delay the workshop until parents could be notified. After saying she would consider, today, at the close of the school day she notified us that the workshops would go ahead as planned without further notice to parents.
Again, even the principal cannot confirm what the unlearned staff will say in their presentations. But what we know for sure is already cause for terrific alarm.
This company admits on its website to basing its core messages on an unscientific theory that promotes racial stereotypes primarily against white students (accusing them of unconscious bias and unearned privilege).
Having a company come into a school while knowing that its core idea (from which all messages will be relayed) is empirically flawed and scientific unsound is in violation of the Education Act.
Section 169.1 (1) of Ontario's Education Act states:
Every board shall, (c) deliver effective and appropriate education programs to its pupils.
A workshop that is based on empirically discredited principles can be neither effective nor appropriate for students.
The unlearn workshop happens at St. Andrews school starting on Monday.
ACTION ITEM TODAY
Contact Amanda Matessich, Principal of St. Andrew’s Public School at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-621-7170 to demand that she stop next week’s workshops and inform all parents of the workshop content BEFORE inviting Unlearn to the school.
Dr David Haskell is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier and specializes in cultural trends. For more information, email him at email@example.com using the subject line "Workshop at St. Andrew's".