For students in John Gannon’s American history class at Santa Barbara High School in California, every day is a reminder that the United States is an unfair place, where white people get all the breaks and non-whites are routinely discriminated against.
April 11 was a typical day.
Gannon led students, some of whom were Caucasian, through an exercise intended to heighten their awareness of the privileges he claims they enjoy because they are white, a 16-year-old white male student in the class told The Epoch Times.
The teacher took the students through a controversial, racially charged essay by professional basketball player Kyle Korver, titled “Privileged,” that was published on The Players Tribune website on April 8.
Gannon told students they were reading the essay because it offered valuable insights into the state of race relations in the country today. But critics say Korver’s essay, a politically correct laundry list of everything that is supposedly wrong with the country, offers a facile, Marxist, identity politics-driven analysis of the United States intended to sow division.
This idea of collective racial guilt is popular in academia and left-wing activism circles, and was given a huge boost by former President Barack Obama, who, while in office, regularly praised left-wing radicals and invited the racially divisive Al Sharpton to the White House. Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, kept himself in the headlines by doing things like accusing Americans of being “cowards” on the issue of race.
Egged on by radical leftist organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which offers teachers across the country preparatory materials loaded with ideological information, Santa Barbara High School is just one of many secondary schools that presents students with a left-wing perspective on U.S. history and current affairs.
Santa Barbara’s education sector has become a hotbed of radicalism.
Santa Barbara City College adjunct professor Celeste Barber was heckled and mocked at a Jan. 24 meeting of the college’s board of trustees when she spoke out against the board’s ban on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during meetings. SBCC board President Robert Miller told Barber that the pledge was banned because it contains the phrase “one nation under God” and because it is “steeped in expressions of nativism and white nationalism.” Under pressure, Miller backed down.
In Gannon’s classroom, “we were talking about the civil rights movement,” the student said, adding that some of his fellow students were made uncomfortable by the discussion and thought it was inappropriate.
“He used that to compare the past and the present,” the student said.
Echoing Korver’s words, Gannon “said how slavery and racism still have a role in today’s society and how we weren’t responsible for slavery, but we should be for the descendants.” The teacher made it clear that he believes reparations should be paid to the descendants of the slaves in the United States.
Gannon talked about how his great-grandfather was involved in the oil industry and was racist, according to the student. “White privilege was the only reason white people have been successful,” the teacher was quoted as saying.
Gannon said his father was a lawyer and that the only reason the man was successful was because he was white, the student said.
The class then examined Korver’s opinion column.
In the article, Korver wrote:
“When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference.
“As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.
“But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.
“And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism—police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to health care, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.
“It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word ‘equality,’ for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word ‘inequality,’ for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history … not some random divide.”
Korver’s essay continued, saying “what’s happening to people of color in this country—right now, in 2019—is wrong.”
It’s wrong that blacks “are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans,” and “own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.”
“The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong. And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”
The ideas in Korver’s opinion piece may be worthy of discussion in a balanced classroom setting, but students in his class felt strongly pressured to agree with their teacher, as opposed to thinking through the information presented and arriving at their own conclusions, the student interviewed for this article said.
Gannon frequently screens episodes of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” in class, treating the left-wing comedy show as a legitimate news program to launch classroom discussions. He embraced the ideas in Korver’s essay and presented the claims contained in it as fact, the student said.
Local parent Sheridan Rosenberg co-chairs Fair Education Santa Barbara, which is suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) and a nonprofit called Just Communities Central Coast over “implicit bias” training her group claims falsely portrays the United States as a cruel, oppressive, and racist country. The lawsuit, originally filed in federal court, has since moved to state court.
“In my opinion, the school district is not hiring educators—they’re hiring activists,” Rosenberg told The Epoch Times.“We need educators, not activists. And clearly they’ve crossed a line and anyone they hire to work with our children needs to leave their politics at the door. This pressure to toe an ideological line has intimidated many good teachers into silence and driven others away.”
The ideological bent of the SBUSD reveals itself in other ways.
For example, the district recently announced it was hiring Analese Alvarez as dean of student engagement at San Marcos High School. Alvarez’s “professional background and academic pursuits align precisely with our district’s focus on expanding social, emotional, and behavioral supports for all students,” said Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent of student services.
Alvarez comes to Santa Barbara from a radical LGBTQ group called Equality Toledo, which says it “works to eliminate discrimination in our region on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, through education, activism, and other anti-defamation efforts.”
But Alvarez, a longtime left-wing activist, exhibits racial animus toward a large chunk of the population. Alvarez recently wrote on social media, “We already know the scales of opportunity are heavily balanced in the direction of the rich, and the rich white.”
Neither Gannon nor the school district responded to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.
This article by Matthew Vadum appeared May 2, 2019, in The Epoch Times.