09232021 Gregory Thayer CRT

Gregory Thayer, founder of Vermonters for Vermont, speaks to a crowd of approximately 30 people about Critical Race Theory in Springfield schools, which will be the main focus of a special meeting of the town’s school board on Thursday.

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Conservative speakers at a Springfield forum about Critical Race Theory denounced such diversity education curriculums as politically-driven indoctrination and cultural totalitarianism ahead of Thursday’s school district discussion about the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion education in Springfield schools.

About 30 people gathered at Commons Park in Springfield on Tuesday for a one-hour presentation by opponents to controversial diversity-focused school curriculums such as Critical Race Theory, which will be discussed in larger scope on Thursday at Springfield High School.

Katie Parent, a Springfield resident and parent, organized Tuesday’s forum to educate residents about the dangers of Critical Race Theory, a field of study that examines racism as a social construct.

Parent said that these curriculums are designed with heavy political biases and stoke division rather than unity.

“We need to come together and find a better, human approach,” Parent said. “We are all humans, and that is the way it should be. I don’t want children to be biased or taught biased information.”

The forum presenters — three of whom were founders of representatives of political action groups — emphasized that curriculums like Critical Race Theory are designed to indoctrinate students into a politically extreme and authoritarian ideology, one that originated in university academia culture and is now trickling into K-12 education.

“This is Orwellian [or] Clockwork Orange,” said John Klar of the Vermont Liberty Network. “We are going to use schools to reprogram children for a white supremacy that you are going to conclude they have on the virtue of their white skin.”

Citing conservative author Thomas Sole, Klar equated the aim of Critical Race Theory proponents to Naziism or eugenics, calling the shaming and scorning tactics of extreme anti-racism activists a dangerous campaign to cull unwanted views from society.

Several presenters said the teachings in these curriculums go against conservative principles like meritocracy and equal rules for everyone.

Gregory Thayer, founder of Vermonters for Vermont, said he particularly objected to the term “equity,” or the belief that society should adjust rules to account for the fact that people are born into differing advantages or disadvantages.

“Equity is not equality,” Thayer said. “Equity is the lowest common denominator for an outcome, bringing achieving students down to a low level or holding them back so that other kids can catch up.”

Thayer advocated for a curricular approach outlined by the nonprofit organization Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), whose philosophy includes treating everyone equally “without regard to skin color or other immutable characteristics” and applying the same rules to everyone.

Savannah Coelho, a field representative for Turning Points USA, a nonprofit liberty defense group, expressed her concerns about the hostility and intolerance she encounters on college campuses, which she believes feeds the mentality behind Critical Race Theory.

“I’ve had my [materials] stolen or destroyed,” Coelho said. “And I am exposing it, which is great. But if this has been happening at college campuses for this long, what do they think will happen at the public schools?”

The believed indoctrination in schools goes further than the teachings about race, according to the Critical Race Theory opponents. Coelho digressed into concerns about vaccinations and school mask policies. Thayer blasted the schools for teaching sex-education. A book of concern by Parent included writings about climate change and gender identity. One presenter drew attention to a teacher’s pro-union views.

Only one presenter, Scott Frye, shared from his personal experiences as a Springfield parent and former substitute teacher. Though like other presenters, Frye said that schools should concentrate on the qualities that connect people as humans rather than noting their differences.

“Instead of talking about oppression and guilt, provide opportunities for students to mentor, assist and tutor one another,” said Frye reading from the Springfield group’s mission statement. “Instead of focusing on the hate in our nation’s past, focus on how far we have come and where we want to go.”

Some people in attendance vocally disagreed with the presenters.

Springfield resident Pattrice Jones, who had formally studied Critical Race Theory, distributed a fact sheet at the forum to correct common misrepresentations by critics about the study. Some incorrect claims include the belief that Critical Race Theory teaches that all white people are racist or that some races are superior or inferior to others.

For Jones, having open conversations about racism is important. Jones said she has heard black Springfield students share about aggressive behaviors, including being called a racial slur in the school hallway.

“Springfield was the first town in Vermont to have a Ku Klux Klan chapter,” Jones said. “And if we aren’t allowed to teach our kids about racism, then whatever led that [chapter] to become true in Springfield will keep on persisting year after year.”

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