Union-Linked Coalition Scripts ‘Messaging’ To Counter Parental Pushback Against Critical Race Theory
Attacks on parents and groups opposing CRT in K-12 follow closely the messaging scripts and tactics prepared by the 300-group Future of Learning coalition CRT Messaging Guide. And deep in the mix was the largest teachers union in the nation, the National Education Association.
For the past several weeks, mainstream media and K-12 school and teachers union officials have been in a frenzy asserting that Critical Race Theory (CRT) does not really exist outside of legal and higher ed academia, that CRT is not taught in K-12, that parents protesting against CRT are billionaire-backed astroturf, and that opponents can’t even define what CRT is.
The opposition to CRT, we’ve been told, seeks to bar teaching historical truths and even “banning conversations about racism.” The messaging has been remarkably consistent, and erupted in the media in mid-June 2021, as we documented in two posts:
- Media Panics Over Mounting Opposition to Critical Race Theory (June 15, 2021)
- Panicked Media Escalates Disinformation War Against Critical Race Theory Opponents (June 17, 2021)
Was this media and activist frenzy organic, or itself astroturf?
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but shortly before the mid-June frenzy, a large coalition of over 300 progressive educational and union groups, over a dozen major left-leaning foundations and a parade of affiliated “influencers,” rolled out a CRT Messaging Guide with talking points identical to those repeated almost daily by teachers unions, in major newspapers, on MSNBC and CNN, and in digital media.
Whether the Message Guide was a script being read from, or simply reflected a coalescing of tactics and talking points, its appearance reflects how organized the messaging against parents has become.
Read the Messaging Guide below. It will all sound very, very, familiar.
NEA Comes Out Openly For CRT
No discussion about the ongoing targeting of parents opposed to CRT would be complete without mentioning The National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the country. NEA has a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and has been firmly behind the push to teach CRT to children in K-12. Those of us who have followed the attacks on parents speaking out against CRT in K-12 know of deep union involvement — we saw it in the attacks on Nicole Solas in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, by the local NEA affiliate.
But now it’s all out in the open. NEA has come out for CRT.
First, last week NEA’s Representative Assembly passed a resolution requiring NEA to research groups opposed to CRT. NEA was doing that already, but the resolution was important because it signaled that NEA members in your school districts are on board with investigating opponents of CRT. Second, that same Representative Assembly passed two resolution requiring NEA to promote CRT in schools nationwide and to protect programs already in place.
So CRT apparently is sufficiently defined and sufficiently taught in K-12 that NEA is coming to its rescue and promotion. The claims that CRT is not a thing in K-12 were a fraud.
So why have we been inundated with messaging to the contrary, trying to make parent protesters seem like they have invented CRT teaching out of thin air? The answer lies, in significant part, on message scripting reflected in a Message Guide produced by a massive coalition of educational groups funded in part by NEA, which has members on the group’s Steering Committee.
The Partnership For The Future Of Learning
The Partnership for the Future of Learning is a network of 300 organizations and 20 foundations that protects, strengthens, and advances education equity and meaningful learning—and supports the policies and practices that get us there.
This graphic tweeted by the group in Febuary 2021 describes the tremendous reach of the coalition:
The Future Learning website further adds: “The Partnership for the Future of Learning is housed and supported by the National Public Education Support Fund.” That group itself is funded in part by NEA, which has representation on the Steering Committee.
The list of Future Learning Funders includes major foundations supporting left-wing causes, including NEA itself.
NEA also is represented on the Future Learning Steering Committee.
The list of Partners is extensive:
The group also has an extensive list of speakers and “influencers” it uses:
The following partners are spokespeople, scholars, influencers, and storytellers who you can request for public-facing opportunities such as media inquiries, interviews, speeches, panels, and written pieces.
As can be seen from above, Future Learning is not some small activist group. It is a well-funded, highly-organized central hub for hundreds of activist groups, unions, foundations, “influencers,” and others enaged in progressive educational policy. NEA, which now is openly pushing CRT, is a funder and has representation on the Steering Committee.
The media frenzy demonizing opponents of CRT just happened to erupt not long after Future Learning rolled out its CRT Messaging Guide.
The Future Learning Messaging Guide
The introduction provides that the Guide is for use by “District leaders and legislators” to “change the narrative” about the forms of CRT taught in schools:
When it comes to race and politics in education spaces, there have been varying levels of pushback over the years. Recently, these efforts have become more concerted, resulting in state level policy moves against Critical Race Theory (CRT) in curriculum, propaganda around “divisive concepts,” attacks on local districts, and scapegoating of individual educators. This new level of aggression is part of a culture war that is playing out at a national and global scale. District leaders and legislators can change the narrative with attention to racial equity, culturally responsive curriculum, and meaningful learning.
The Messaging Guide then has “Top 5 Messages” that will sound very familiar (emphasis added):
Top 5 Messages
- Truth in our classrooms propels young people towards a more united, inclusive, and just future.
- Trust students to talk about what’s happening in the world around them.
- Coordinated efforts to control curriculum come from aggressive right-wing instigators who want to stop educators and districts from working toward racial equity.
- When educators teach the truth, students start to see themselves as part of a bigger story.
- Banning conversations about racism in schools is a form of censorship. A shared, honest understanding of the past bridges divides.
The Messaging Guide suggests the use of the term “Culturally Responsive Education” and provides “5 Talking Points”:
5 Talking Points About Culturally Responsive Education:
- Our [state/district’s] goal is to make sure every student has equal opportunities to succeed in school and has access to accurate, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum.
- There is a long and painful history of race and education in [our state]. Students are ready for systems and institutions to change. Creating a just and equitable learning environment that embraces the history and experiences of its learners is not only good for students, but also for our communities and our shared future.
- We cannot pretend to be race-neutral or “colorblind” if we are ever going to address and account for the inequalities that students of color face.
- Many districts around the country have already incorporated culturally responsive curricula in classrooms. The result is that students of color are affirmed and validated by having their unique histories and experiences elevated among their teachers and peers.
- Research shows that students who see positive representations of themselves in their curriculum have improved educational outcomes. For students of color as well as white students, CRE decreases dropout rates and suspensions, increases student participation, confidence, academic achievement and graduation rates.
Linked ASO Communications Messaging Guide
The Resources listed in the Future Learning Messaging Guide also link to a related “Honesty In Education” Messaging Guidance. That guidance indicates preparation by ASO Communications, which touts its founder’s “original approach through priming experiments, task-based testing and online dial surveys has led to progressive electoral and policy victories across the globe.” As with the Future Learning Messaging Guide, these appear to be tested messaging points created by professionals.
The ASO Communications guidance includes some familiar themes (emphasis added)
- Seize the moral high ground and engage on our terms. With attention on education, let’s talk about the teaching and curricula we support and desire.
- Ascribe motivations to the opposition. Instead of unwittingly repeating the opposition in order to dispel their claims (e.g. “we are not teaching grade schoolers about XYZ”), talk about why they’re attacking curricula and teachers.
- Bring this back – always – to what we want as opposed to leaving us on defense against their attacks. Don’t volunteer the term “critical race theory,” an academic concept the right has co-opted as an all-purpose dog whistle, but when asked directly about it, define critical race theory on our terms as the honest, up-to-date education students deserve.
It also provides Sample scenarios to use, including tying opposition to CRT to the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election:
Sample Narrative 3: Connecting to the Big Lie
No matter our color or background, most of us believe in handling challenges with integrity, focusing on solutions, and reckoning with our past so we can create a better future. But certain politicians are trying to teach our kids to confront problems the only way they know how: lying about it. The same grifters who have peddled lies about our election want to force our teachers to peddle lies about our history, hoping to keep us divided and distracted so they can take away our freedom to vote and deny us the resources our schools, families and communities actually need. By joining together, we can make this a country where every child has an honest education that sets them up for success and every one of us has a say about the leaders we elect to make key decisions that affect our lives.
The 5 Tenets of CRT in Education
The Future Learning guide then provides further guidance on CRT, which provides in part:
For an accessible breakdown of CRT, see: bit.ly/CRTbreakdown Google Doc
Critical Race Theory shows how racial inequity is baked into all of our social structures, and our social and political structures reproduce racism in ways that go far beyond interpersonal dynamics. Repairing a society that is divided by racism requires understanding of how the past relates to the present and how the structures that shape our lives affect people differently based on race.
Included in the Future Messaging Guide was a link to a Google Doc titled CRT Breakdown, which serves as a demonstration of how groups supporting CRT in Education see it playing in practice. The Messaging Guidance provide 5 principles taught in school that they acknowledge are CRT:
The 5 Tenets of CRT in Education (Solórzano, 1998)
1) Racism is entrenched in the fabric of American society and is intersectional (compounded by class, gender, sexuality, etc.)
2) Dominant narratives in education such as objectivity, meritocracy, color blindness, and equal opportunity need to be challenged.
3) The experiential knowledge of people of color is legitimate and crucial to understanding racial inequality (i.e. ‘counterstorytelling’)
4) Race and racism must be analyzed across many different disciplines (eg. psychology, sociology, history, science, literature, the humanities, the arts, etc.) as well as historically and currently.
5) CRT is committed to social justice and eliminating racism.
If you are looking for a list of CRT-related concepts that may not be called CRT, this is a good list to start with.
Reframing The Issue
The Future Learning Message Guide has a section on how to “Reframe The Issue”
Reframing the Issue
“WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH TEACHING THE STORY OF EVERYBODY? IT’S NOT ABOUT BLAMING SOMEONE, IT’S ABOUT UNDERSTANDING EACH OTHER.” – HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN OREGON References: FrameWorks Institute’s Talking About Racial Equity in Education, Making the Case for Equitable and Just Public Education, Quickstart Guide to Changing the Narrative on Public Education, Models of Education Thinking, Communicating about History: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations; We Make the Future Messaging Guide
- DO Advance a positive vision of educational opportunity that centers race. (Example Recommendation). Include solutions when talking about problems and disparities.
- DO lead with an aspirational appeal to shared values, not a stark negative evaluation of the status quo. Explain “how it happens” before talking about “who it happens to more often”.
- DO invoke common values (especially interdependence, shared fate, pragmatism, and ingenuity) that apply to all at the top of a communications, and subsequently explain how these values are derailed by racial bias and inequity.
- DO remind people of our common belief that everyone deserves to be in an educational environment in which they can succeed and how failures in the system hurt everyone.
- DON’T focus on the triumphant individual or other mechanisms that exceptionalize or engage in a rhetorical debate around victims vs victors.
- DON’T use edu-speak and policy jargon.
Attacking The Opposition
A key component of the Future Learning Message Guide is attacking the objecting parents as being part of “right wing” groups.
Who is really behind the attacks on CRT?
- Foundations and institutes like Koch, Heritage, and Fordham are associated with individuals pushing against CRT from various perspectives
- Parents Defending Education is sourcing stories that target teachers and districts for a map in order to push against CRT or anti-racism in schools
- 1776 Report / 1776 Unites & Commission
- America-first, Back to Basics, “foundational history,” “Love America Again” curriculum (also see Turning Point Academy)
We have seen this play out in Rhode Island, where Parents Defending Education has been falsely and maliciously attacked, as has local mom Nicole Solas, as we documented in these posts:
- South Kingstown Mom Nicole Solas: “They smear people who ask them questions, who disagree with them”
- Update: Smear of Mom Nicole Solas Was Prepared By Public Relations Firm Hired By South Kingstown (RI) School Committee
- RI School Superintendents Group: “We all know many of our citizens live in a separate news reality with Fox, Newsmax and their ilk”
- Rhode Island Mom Involved In Critical Race Public Records Fight And Targeted By NEA Gets High-Powered Legal Help
The Role of NEA In Driving Substantive Curriculum
As demonstrated above, the attacks on parents and groups opposing CRT in K-12 follow closely the messaging scripts and tactics prepared by the massive Future Learning coalition. Sometimes word-for-word. If we want to talk about astroturf, a better argument can be made that those falsely accusing parent protesters of being astroturf are in fact guilty of that charge.
It’s not just one group that produced the Messaging Guide, it’s a highly organized coalition of hundreds of activist and union groups, backed by an extensive network of funders, consultants, influencers, and public relations professionals, all part of the coalition that produced the Messaging Guide. And deep in the mix is NEA, which now is throwing its own massive funds and membership to push CRT into schools nationwide.
NEA has gone far beyond negotiating the terms and conditions of its members’ employment. At some point school districts and local and state governments are going to have to address why NEA now is trying to dictate substantive curriculum, and bullying parents who object.DONATE
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