Desmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

I expect part of the reason has to do with the shrinking newsrooms and employment insecurity compared to the stable number of teachers and job security that provide more time for these discussions:

If there’s one thing The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole makes clear, it is how integral racism is to Canadian life. It winds its way through the justice system, military decisions, child welfare, the education system and of course, the media, and leaves in its wake a trail of destruction for many, but particularly cruelly for Black, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The burden of educating society always falls on those with the least — not just the least amount of wealth but the least social capital, too. The people society is accustomed to ignoring have to make themselves heard, be taken seriously and then force a change in behaviour. This is gargantuan cross-generational work, and Cole’s national bestseller, much like Robyn Maynard’s Policing Black Lives, is also an ode to that resistance.

One example of that resistance, the work of influencing change, that The Skin We’re In inspired, was a series of conversations among Ontario teachers.

Colinda Clyne, an Anishinaabe woman and curriculum lead at the Upper Grand District School Board, had read the book and appreciated how Cole wove together colonial history and anti-Indigenous racism with anti-Black racism. “There are many great resources to support one or the other, but not often together, and rarely with the Canadian context,” she said. Late in March, she sent out feelers to see if fellow teachers would be interested in a discussion based on this book, expecting a discussion involving about 10 people.

Instead, she ended up hosting a weekly panel titled “Anti-Racist Educator Reads” on VoicEd Radio, an educational broadcast/podcast site, with more than 500 listeners on the fifth and final week, May 13, that featured Cole himself. (For those who missed the discussions, the episodes are online.)

The people tuning in, Clyne said, were “mostly white educators with thoughtful reflections on the learning and unlearning they were doing with the book and our conversations, and the actions they were willing to commit to. It gave me a boost of hope for this anti-racism work in a way that I have not felt in a long time.”

The discussions ran deep, including the impact of police presence in schools, how Canada’s “humble colonialism” plays out in society and schools, what ignorance on racism looks like and the easily dismissed but vital role of anger to bring about change.

A sketch note by educator Debbie Donksy of a panel discussion of Anti-Racist Educator Reads that aired April 22 on VoicEd Radio in which curriculum lead Colinda Clyne hosted Camille Logan, a superintendent of education, and Kevin Rambally, a social worker and former chair of Pride Toronto.

I listened with envy to these conversations between Clyne and other leaders in anti-racism education from various Ontario school boards such as Debbie Donsky, Pamala Agawa, Melissa Wilson, Tisha Nelson and Camille Logan.

The education system is nowhere near where it should be in terms of nurturing all students with care. But teachers are at least engaging in these critical and uncomfortable reflections. Clyne also seeks an action that teachers can commit to. While I’m not one to pat people for being at the “at least it’s a start!” stage, I raise it to make the point that other sectors are not even there.

A case in point is my own industry. Journalists are duty bound to demand accountability — but this is rarely focused inward. Race and attendant issues are an extra or an “inclusion” issue, maybe even as a new-fangled lens of discussion that could bring in new audiences. It’s why solutions look like hiring a journalist of colour or two, using images of racialized people to suggest representation or speaking to a few sources of colour.

As a journalist, Cole makes extensive references to media in his book. Of course, he mentions his fallout with the Toronto Star. His blunt reporting on CBC and CTV reporters’ rude — and chiefly arrogant — questioning of Indigenous elders and activists at a 2017 press conference on the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIWG), should at least make every journalist squirm.

But I don’t hear of critical inquiry-based collective reflections in newsrooms based on that or on Cole’s highly contextualized reporting of Black Lives Matter shutting down the Pride Parade in 2016. For instance, “What role did white supremacy play in guiding our coverage on it?”

Or, “Did media, with our overwhelming whiteness, have the authority or even a balanced perspective in declaring the MMIWG inquiry’s conclusion of genocide as wrong?” Or, “Whose voices did we privilege in the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests?”

No, journalists are supposed to be a bunch of eye-rolling cynics, the know-it-alls above self-reflection. There are, after all, “real” crises to be dealt with every day. Discussions on racism are usually held among journalists of colour, on the sidelines to the main business of journalism. In newsroom after newsroom, these journalists tell me, they struggle to be heard.

That explains why it’s taken weeks after Canada was hit by the global pandemic for media to start waking up to who was most badly hit — Indigenous and racialized people — and that too after relentless advocacy by rights groups and by the bravery of those risking everything to tell their stories.

In education, too, one of the issues raised through the VoicEd Radio episodes, “are the barriers constantly put in place in our systems, a big one being denial of white supremacy and that folks ‘aren’t ready’ to have the conversations and do the work of anti-racism,” Clyne said.

It’s worth reflecting, across sectors, on who these folks who aren’t ready are, and why, when lives are at stake, we feel compelled to wait for them at all.

Source: Shree ParadkarDesmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

Leveraging international education for a globally connected and prosperous Canada

The education industry view. Will need a major rethink of their business model’s dependence on international students. Their business case would benefit from more rigorous evaluations of the longer-term contributions, not just the more short-term contributions while at college or university:

Canadians understand the importance of welcoming individuals from all around the world to our country. Canada is a desirable destination for trade, travel, study and immigration. We know that our prosperity and international competitiveness rely on being open to people and opportunity from every corner of the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis without modern equivalent. The actions Canada takes post-emergency can set the foundation for a sustainable growth and recovery with global opportunity in mind.

We believe that Canada’s colleges and universities– and the network of business and community leaders who came to Canada as international students– can play an essential role in responding to this crisis, and in helping Canada recover and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

Universities and colleges are already key drivers of Canada’s international agenda. In 2019 alone, international students contributed over $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy, more than the value of automotive parts, lumber, or aircraft exports. These contributions are made in communities all across the country, and support employment and innovation in every province and territory.

The more than 600,000 international students at the postsecondary level also bring new perspectives, ideas, and valuable networks abroad. International students become highly trained individuals who contribute to their local Canadian economies, and then either immigrate to Canada and join our labour market or return home with an appreciation for what Canada has to offer as a business partner.

Canada’s response to the economic impact of the crisis to date has been commendable. Still, we need to ensure international students feel welcome and supported so that Canadian PSE remains competitive in these uncertain times and we can continue to be leaders in a global marketplace.

Canada needs:

Responsive and informed study permit processing — Ease of obtaining a study permit is a key factor in international student decision making. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has already shown a lot of flexibility in responding to the pandemic. To remain competitive, we need IRCC to be nimble and to allow, on an exceptional basis, international students to start programs online this fall without jeopardizing their eligibility for a post-graduate work permit.

Strengthening IRCC’s capacity to facilitate business resumption — Once health and travel restrictions start to be lifted in Canada and around the world, we must ensure that there is capacity to address large volumes of new study permit applications, quickly. Measures must be put in place now to ensure that disruptions to processing for the fall intake will be minimized.

Two-way mobility and international cooperation — As part of comprehensive federal government support to the Canadian postsecondary education sector, it is also imperative to maintain our commitment to a national outbound mobility program for Canadian postsecondary students to support Canada’s goals around trade diversification, skills development and the future of work.

We’ve seen colleges and universities across Canada stepping up and supporting their communities in this time of need, donating medical equipment and retooling processes to manufacture more. We’ve seen our students, recent graduates, in medical fields rushing to be of service in support of our health care systems. With the right investments, universities and colleges can also continue to play a critical role in building skills and increasing global competitiveness, helping Canada thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. Education opens doors, for students and for Canadian companies — across all sectors — looking to do business internationally. Leveraging international education, and the people-to-people ties it generates is a sound investment towards a more globally connected and prosperous Canada.

Source: Leveraging international education for a globally connected and prosperous Canada

As universities move classes online, let’s not forget the digital divide

This article, like so many, would benefit from some hard data to back up the assertions. Are there any studies on the number of university students without a computer? Without web access? Are international students less likely to have computers and web access than Canadian ones? Unlikely, given how they remain in contact with family.

Not to say that there are not digital and other divides but more than anecdotal evidence required before advocating for greater resources:

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that in times of turmoil, decisions made for the greater good can have collateral impacts. It’s becoming evident that efforts to contain the virus and limit social distancing are increasing precarity for some people, especially those already in socio-economically disadvantaged positions. Universities are not immune to these collateral impacts, and last week’s decision by most Canadian universities to finish the current term by moving pedagogical components online is one of those times when a small segment of students will be neglected in a move meant to benefit all of them.

The decision is a show of resilience and solidarity by our higher education institutions. But the problem is the digital divide among students. Even in our great cosmopolitan country, not everyone has equal access to the web and all its resources. This digital divide was on the radar a few years ago, with a push to bring broadband to remote constituencies. But less attention has been devoted to the divide in urban settings, and especially within the hubs of knowledge that are universities.

Yet, as is becoming apparent to education professionals like me, the digital divide exists among our students, and, like everywhere else, it reflects deeper socio-economic, gender and race inequalities. Existing disparities influence who are the “haves” and “have-nots” of information and communication technology. Our universities and student bodies are a microcosm of broader society; they reflect society’s divisions. Though digital disadvantage affects Canadian students, we also have a class of students, often from abroad and often women, with little to no economic safety net in Canada, who can be more cut off from the privileges of our affluent and digitally connected world. Though they are not alone in being affected by the digital divide, they are a group of students at risk of being more hurt by the online migration of teaching components.

We have made the right decision, driven by financial reasoning and the pursuit of diversity, to open our higher education institutions to increasing numbers of international students, including from the developing world. Yet we have not always reflected on the hardships many from the Global South face once they arrive in Canada, including high tuition, lack of funding during the summertime, and their need to support dependents here and abroad, which is often the case.

A number of our students cannot afford the technology that allows full access to university resources. Some students do not have data plans or connection speeds that would allow them to follow online courses, take part in virtual meetings on platforms such as Zoom, or have access to the suite of online resources the university has for research.

A 2018 American study showed that students often have the basics such as a cellphone, but 20 percent of students had difficulties accessing information because of hardware, data limits and connectivity issues. Underprivileged groups were likelier to fall within this percentage. For some, their reality is far from the privileged student we often imagine, the one who can go home and be highly connected to all the digital university has to offer.

Do we continue to provide online courses to the many, knowingly excluding the few? How do we provide grades in a manner that is fair to all, knowing the constraints that some of our less privileged students will face in an all-digital environment?

The decision on the part of universities to move all teaching components online is thus leading to heartbreaking decisions – some of the hardest decisions I have had to make in my career. These include: Do we continue to provide online courses to the many, knowingly excluding the few? How do we provide grades in a manner that is fair to all, knowing the constraints that some of our less privileged students will face in an all-digital environment? There are no simple answers. Most professors are adopting a two-tiered strategy: teach online to the many, offer alternatives to the others. In doing so, we are unwillingly reproducing the digital divide and the deeper inequalities that undergird it.

We are working hard to make sure no one will be left behind, but remedial solutions are always second-rate. We can send summaries of online discussions to students who cannot join; we can offer to take questions by email, text or phone. But they pale next to discussions online or recordings of entire lectures.

And, of course, campus libraries, labs remain open – for now – in many cases. Some people will ask: “Couldn’t these students go to campus to avail themselves of wi-fi there or research course material on university equipment?” But with people being told to stay off campuses, this is tantamount to asking our already underprivileged students to accept greater risks to their health and their family’s health so they can keep up with connected students. I have worked in parts of Africa (Great Lakes region, Francophone West Africa) over the last 15 years, and I have seen how the burden of risk is often shifted to those who are most disadvantaged.

Universities have other alternatives, from adopting one low-tech strategy for all, assigning term papers and exams that are less reliant on access to online resources, for example, to simply cancelling the term. Different strategies are being discussed. But for now, courses continue, papers are still due and exams will take place – most of this happening electronically. Digital divide or not, students need to keep accessing information. And they will in all likelihood continue to do so as we begin talking about Spring and Summer terms going online.

To be sure, not all university policies related to COVID-19 have neglected those who face structural discrimination. Many institutions have taken charge of students in residence who cannot return home, though, as of writing, universities are being increasingly more strict about who they agree to keep on campus. But the decision to steadfastly move ahead with an online end of semester is one that reminds us instead that these great institutions of higher knowledge, which we often take be built on a mission of equality and access to all, remain built on important divides and forms of discrimination.

There is little we can do immediately to address these structural inequalities in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. But eventually we must reflect on divides, digital and other, that are woven into the very functioning of our higher education, to address this discrimination and close the digital divide.

A first step would be to cultivate a greater awareness of the structural biases our students face. Universities talk of inclusion and like to show that students are welcome, but they fall short of understanding the real constraints some students live with, and how some of these are grounded in socio-economic, gender and race inequalities.

Measures could then be put in place, for example, to fund laptops, high speed home Internet or cellular data packages for low income students living off campus. The creation of robust funding packages throughout the year could help support international students from the Global South.

The coronavirus crisis reminds us that the use of technological tools can exacerbate exclusion and inequality. Once we have cared for our sick and moved beyond the immediate emergency, we should use our momentum for action to strive for more structurally inclusive higher education institutions.

Source: As universities move classes online, let’s not forget the digital divide

Peel board review team finds ‘racism and discrimination’ and slams administrators for inaction

Of note:

Three reviewers sent in to investigate the Peel school board heard “painful and difficult” stories of racism — including how white supremacists attend meetings — and have reprimanded senior leaders for being “paralyzed by inaction” to make changes.

The reviewers detail how racism disproportionately impacts Black students, from lower enrolment in academic classes to higher suspension rates — and often for dubious reasons such as “wearing a hoodie,” do-rags or even hoop earrings, says the reviewers’ report, obtained by the Star.

Their report, to be released Friday, also covers issues of equity, poor leadership and a lack of diverse staffing, including a dearth of Black guidance counsellors in the province’s second largest board.

“The accounts of racism and discrimination documented in the report are deeply troubling and will not be tolerated,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement. “After decades of inaction, I want to see swift implementation of these recommendations to drive the change racialized and other discriminated students deserve.”

Lecce said “students and the community have demanded change and I want to assure them that we will monitor board implementation and hold them to account to deliver this transformational change that will put every student on a path to success.”

The reviewers — Ena Chadha, Sue Herbert and Shawn Richard — were called in to probe the board late last year as it struggled with allegations of racism, dysfunction and troubling trustee conduct. Patrick Case — a human rights lawyer and assistant deputy education minister — oversaw and assisted in the investigation.

In their final report, the review team found that “some teachers use any excuse to exclude Black students from the classroom and some principals use any excuse to suspend Black students from schools.”

Black students comprise 10.2 per cent of high school students, but make up 22.5 per cent of those suspended — and many of those suspensions don’t meet standards set by the Ministry of Education, they found.

“During our review, Black youth told us that they feel like they are held to higher standards, and different codes of conduct in comparison to white or other racialized students,” and that they are disproportionately streamed into classes that don’t give them the requirements for university, the report says.

“It is untenable that, for many years, the board has been unaware of this terrible state of affairs.”

Black students are the target of “degrading, inappropriate and racist comments” made by teachers and principals, and often hear the N-word uttered by other students without punishment, the report says.

They heard about one teacher who commented that a Black student “will be a drug dealer just like his dad.”

The level of enrolment of Black students in specialized arts schools or International Baccalaureate programs is “abysmal,” and disproportionately low for students of Latin American heritage, the reviewers found.

Islamophobia is also a concern, and the reviewers said they “were provided with French curriculum materials that were clearly Islamophobic, conveyed blatant hostility to the Muslim community and an ignorance of the basic tenants of Islam.”

In speaking to Muslim students and community members, the reviewers said they heard of many incidents of Islamophobia. “Citing conflicts referable to prayers in (Peel) schools and the presence of white supremacists at a meeting of the board of trustees, we heard from the students, families, and educators of the real need for an Islamic co-ordinator to support Muslim students.”

The reviewers acknowledged that trustees and administrators agreed there is anti-Black racism in the board, yet have done nothing to address it.

Teachers and principals “escalate trivial issues unnecessarily…involving police for minor issues leading to arrests and stigmatization of Black children at a very young age,” the report said. Black children, it added, “are leaving the (Peel board) because it is not safe for them.”

The report also says that “approximately 25 per cent of (staff) are racialized, which is almost the opposite of the demographics of the student body.”

In their interim report released in January, the three reviewers said they had already “consistently heard painful accounts of traumatic experiences in schools and school communities.”

The “narratives shared with us signal a profound lack of respect in relationships, demonstrated by stories of marginalization, discrimination, differential behaviour, and harassment.”

The reviewers began their work amid turmoil at the board and after a trustee referred to the diverse McCrimmon Middle School as “McCriminal,” and after a senior administrator in charge of anti-discrimination launched a human rights complaint.

Their report demands that the board “immediately issue a responsive and respectful public apology for the mishandling” of the McCrimmon incident — and it also noted that other diverse schools are known by disparaging nicknames, including Central Peel being referred to as “Central Africa,” and Meadowvale as “Meadow Jail.”

The report also directs the boards to create a four-year plan to improve enrolment and achievement of Black and other racialized students.

Among staff, the reviewers found a “culture of fear” — which past reviews of other boards, including the Toronto public, have also uncovered — as well as poor communications with the community. Trustees, who are bitterly divided, were criticized for often overstepping their roles in hiring and promotions.

“The (Peel District School Board) is facing a crisis of confidence,” they wrote.

Among their recommendations: hire a mediator to broker peace among trustees, as well as between trustees and senior administrators; improved trustee training; and also to “retain the services of an integrity commissioner who has demonstrated experience in, and knowledge of, human rights principles.”

The Peel District School Board has more than 155,000 students in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon schools, and about 17,000 staff members.

It is highly diverse, and among students the three largest groups are South Asian (45 per cent), white (17 per cent) and Black (10 per cent).

The reviewers heard from more than 300 people, including 115 in-person interviews.

They also noted that there are issues of “factional violence amongst South Asian communities and, in particular, in relation to male youths of the north Brampton Punjabi community” that teachers and administrators “either ignored or were indifferent to the violence.”

Drug and alcohol abuse is also a concern in the South Asian community.

Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s newly named advocate for community opportunities, said the minister is taking action on the recommendations and that is “an important step toward building a public school system that gives each child — regardless of race, background, or postal code — a fair start in life.”

He said “with the announcement of 29 new ministerial directives, the Government of Ontario is positioning the (Peel board) to immediately strengthen its governance and leadership practices to focus its attention on ensuring that all (Peel) students can realize their full potential in classrooms and schools where they are supported, respected, valued and welcomed.”

Source: Peel board review team finds ‘racism and discrimination’ and slams administrators for inaction

Chinese government’s Confucius Institute holds sway on Canadian campuses, contracts indicate

Of note:

Sonia Zhao had to lie, in effect, when she left China to teach Mandarin at an Ontario university.

The contract she signed with the Beijing-run Confucius Institute indicated that Falun Gong practitioners – people like her – were barred from the job. But she kept her beliefs secret and hoped she could find more freedom in Canada. It was not to be.

She says she was trained beforehand to spin Beijing’s line if students asked about Tibet and other taboo topics, while Chinese staff at McMaster University’s branch of the institute made clear Falun Gong was poison. After a year, she quit and sought asylum here, becoming perhaps the world’s first Confucius Institute whistle-blower.

“I think they’re aiming to build a really beautiful, healthy image (of China) among those students,” Zhao said about the institute’s ultimate purpose. She believes Canada should have nothing to do with the agency. “It isn’t worth it to give up your freedom of speech or freedom even of thinking just to learn about a different language or culture.”

Her experience in 2011 did lead McMaster to end its relationship with the institute, a division of China’s education ministry that pays for Mandarin-language and cultural programs worldwide – and has long been embroiled in controversy. Advocates call the organization a generously funded cultural bridge, critics decry it as a “Trojan horse” for Chinese propaganda and influence.

But 10 other universities, colleges and boards of education across Canada still host their own Confucius outlets. And a National Post survey of the closely guarded contracts they signed found little in them that might prevent the kind of censorship and discriminatory hiring highlighted by Zhao.

Only one of seven agreements obtained by the Post includes any protection for academic freedom.

Several of the contracts indicate the local institutes must accept the agency headquarters’ assessment of “teaching quality.” One at the University of Waterloo-affiliated Renison College says any disagreements about running the institute should be referred to the Beijing headquarters, called Hanban.

Almost all bar the institutes from contravening Canadian or Chinese law, the latter routinely excoriated for its abuse of basic human rights. They also require compliance with the institute’s own constitution and bylaws. To this day, Hanban’s website says overseas teachers must have “no record of participation in Falun Gong and other illegal organizations,” a clear violation of Canadian constitutional and rights law.

Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., even pledged to find a “prominent location” to erect a statue of Confucius to advertise the institute’s presence.

“I would say (Confucius headquarters) have absolute control,” said lawyer Clive Ansley  after reviewing some of the contracts. The former China studies professor practiced for several years in the country. “Any decision on what they call teaching quality, teaching materials, it’s all going to be made by Hanban.”

Ivy Li of the group Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said she was struck by the different roles set out in the contracts she perused at the Post’s request.

The Canadian hosts agree to provide office and classroom space and a steady supply of students, and in some cases to promote the program. Most of the contracts also say the Canadian school will provide funding, directly or in kind, at least equal to what the Chinese government contributes.

Hanban, the contracts stipulate, supplies the content – Mandarin teachers, textbooks, course software and other educational materials, which Li said come with Beijing’s particular spin.

“Even purely from a business point of view, it’s a very bad deal,” she charged. “Our universities are being used as a platform to promote (China’s) message, and that message is disinformation.”

But administrators here argue that despite what the contracts suggest, China does not actually interfere in the arrangements – arrangements they argue are an important conduit between the two nations. Meanwhile, they say, political issues never arise in the type of activities – from language training to Tai Chi – the institutes oversee.

“We have not had any pressure from China to do anything other than enhance cultural understanding,” said Lorne Parker, an assistant superintendent with the Edmonton public school division. “We are looking at our relationship with (Confucius Institute) as building a cultural bridge and not a wall. You can have more influence … by having those bridges.”

Launched in 2004, Confucius has opened 540 branches around the world. Unlike Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institute and other cultural-outreach groups funded by some European states, it is an actual department of government and embeds itself, uniquely, inside foreign educational bodies.

The organization is hosted in Canada by two school boards – Coquitlam, B.C., and Edmonton – plus two colleges – Montreal’s Dawson and Toronto’s Seneca – and six universities – Saint Mary’s, Carleton, Waterloo, Brock, Regina and Saskatchewan.

The official stated goal is to teach Mandarin and spread the good word about Chinese culture and traditions. But even Xu Lin, Hanban’s director general, has said Confucius Institutes are “an important part of our soft power.”

“We want to expand China’s influence. This relies on our instructors, Confucius Institutes and language,” she told a conference in Beijing.

After a burst of expansion in Canada, there has been some retrenchment in recent years. Both McMaster and Quebec’s Sherbrooke University shut down their institutes amid controversy, while New Brunswick is in the process of closing the Confucius program run through one of its school districts. Toronto’s board killed the institute in 2014 just as it was about to launch. The B.C. Institute of Technology’s branch has been suspended.

But the program appears to be going strong elsewhere. To understand what the remaining hosts agreed to in exchange for Beijing’s largesse, the Post asked all for copies of the contracts they signed.

Three refused. Carleton University and Seneca College offered no reason for the denial; St. Mary’s University in Halifax said its contract is “with an external organization, and is a record that is not publicly available.” A university spokesman suggested the Post file a freedom of information request, a process that typically takes months, with no guarantee of success.

In fact, several of the Confucius contracts contain non-disclosure clauses.

Other schools said they had secured Hanban’s permission to release their agreements, or the documents had already been disclosed to local media after freedom of information applications.

All set up an arrangement between the Canadian educational facility and a partner college in China, with a director appointed from each side and a board to oversee the institute. In almost every case, Hanban agrees to supply Mandarin teachers, as many as 3,000 textbooks and other teaching material. Some mention start-up funding from Beijing of $150,000 to $250,000.

China provides about 15 teachers at a time to the Edmonton school district, though they act as “supports” in Mandarin classes that are led by the board’s own staff, said Parker.

“We received about a million dollars’ worth of books and materials from Hanban,” Bob Lajoie of the Coquitlam School District enthused to filmmaker Doris Liu in her documentary In the name of Confucius.

The nature of those books is a concern for some institute critics. Terry Russell, a senior scholar in China studies at the University of Manitoba, said institute texts he’s seen talk of Tibet being “liberated” by China and Taiwan forming part of the country.

“The perspective that is set out in the teaching materials is very much the Chinese perspective,” he said.

Most of the contracts also contain a clause that says “the institute must accept the assessment of the headquarters (Hanban) on the teaching quality.”

It suggests a degree of control by Beijing that director general Xu spelled out openly in an interview previously posted on the organization’s website.

“We haven’t lost education sovereignty,” Xu said. “It’s like the foreign universities work for us.”

Zhao said training before she left China was clear: never mention sensitive topics and if asked about them, offer Beijing’s standard line, that “Tibet is part of China and the government is treating them nicely, that Taiwan is part of China.”

When she and other Confucius teachers at McMaster watched and discussed the Hollywood movie Seven Years in Tibet – a critical look at China’s treatment of the region – their Chinese director said “if we kept talking about those things or watching those things, we need to write a report about our thinking because our minds, our thoughts are not following the Communist party.Institute staff immediately tossed in the garbage a Falun Gong pamphlet brought in by a student, she said.

But Edmonton’s Parker said Hanban does not assess the teaching work there, and suggested the clause was included only to ensure the agency’s teachers provide good-quality instruction.

A Coquitlam spokesman said that its Confucius staff are hired locally, without the agency’s input, and Hanban has never visited the district to perform assessments.

Institute administrators in Canada also deny having to abide by any aspect of Chinese law or Hanban rules, despite what the contracts say.

“I’m not aware of any of those restrictions,” Parker said when asked about the Falun Gong teacher ban.

But if some Canadian Confucius partners dismiss any suggestion of undue influence from China, and their contracts erect limited firewalls against potential Beijing meddling, there is at least one exception.

When the University of Saskatchewan renewed its agreement with Hanban in 2016, it managed to include a provision that said the institute’s activities “will respect academic freedom and transparency, as well as University of Saskatchewan institutional values, priorities and policies.”

Without that caveat, the contract would not have been extended, Karen Chad, the university’s vice-president research, said in a statement.

But critics of the Confucius Institute question whether it will have much impact. To achieve its goals, they say, the institute has never needed to overtly propagate Chinese propaganda. It has taught Mandarin and presented Chinese culture in a way that simply avoids mention of religious persecution, censorship and other topics unflattering to the Communist regime.

“The Canadians get duped as they most often do when they deal with the government of China. They get duped into thinking these things are just cultural institutions and ‘Hey it’s a good idea to have a lot of Canadians learning Mandarin,’ ” said Ansley. “That’s not the Chinese goal at all … The goal is soft power, to promote a favourable image of China in the minds of Canadians.”

Source: Chinese government’s Confucius Institute holds sway on Canadian campuses, contracts indicate

End of Quebec course on religion and ethics seen as win for nationalists

Good overview of the various perspectives. But always felt that course was useful effort to increase understanding:

Since 2008, elementary and high school students in Quebec have taken a mandatory course aimed at cultivating respect and tolerance for people of different cultures and faiths.

But after years of relentless criticism from Quebec nationalists and committed secularists who say the ethics and religious culture course is peddling a multiculturalist view to impressionable young Quebecers, the provincial government is abolishing the course.

In a statement announcing the move, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said it was a response to “abundant criticism from experts and education stakeholders.” An aide to Roberge said too much time was being taken up by a section of the course devoted to religions.

It is striking that a course aimed, in the words of the Education Department’s teaching guides, at fostering “the recognition of others and the pursuit of the common good” has proven so divisive.

But critics have long described the course as a type of mental virus, contaminating a generation of young people by making them amenable to Canadian multiculturalism and other pluralist ideas. Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge says a new class will be taught instead by fall 2022.

Nadia El-Mabrouk, professor at Universite de Montreal’s computer science department, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the course, which she says defines citizens by their religion.

She suggested in a recent interview the course is partly responsible for the fact that, according to polls, young Quebecers are less likely to support Bill 21, the legislation adopted last June that bans some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.

And she’s not alone in that belief.

Jean-Francois Lisee, who lost the 2018 election as leader of the Parti Quebecois, wrote in January that it’s “difficult not to see a cause-and-effect connection” in the fact that young Quebecers who have taken the course “are the least favourable to prohibiting religious signs.”

For Sabrina Jafralie, who teaches the program at a Montreal high school, the decision to abolish the course is another sign of the growing influence of Quebec nationalists on the Coalition Avenir Quebec government.

The curriculum, she said, explains to students that Quebec is filled with people who have different driving forces. It doesn’t teach young people to be religious, she said, it simply explains why other people may be.

“But what the government is trying to do,” Jafralie said, “is in fact replace the ability to investigate and explore religiosity, with their own new religion — which is secularism.”

The course was introduced in 2008 under the Liberal government of the day to replace long-standing classes on Catholic and Protestant moral and religious instruction. Jafralie, who was one of the first teachers trained to teach the new course, says the content comes from a secular perspective.

The course exposes students to religions from around the world, and according to the teaching guides, “attention is also given to the influence of Judaism and Native spirituality on this heritage, as well as other religions that today contribute to Quebec culture.”

But for El-Mabrouk, that is precisely the problem.

The course teaches young people to “recognize, observe, to accept and to tolerate the way people practise (religion),” she said.

The issue, she continued, is that the material puts religious practices on an even footing, whether or not they run contrary to such Quebec values as the equality of men and women.

“The course is based on a vision of living together that is tied to Canadian multiculturalism … but we have changed orientation,” El-Mabrouk said, pointing to the adoption of Bill 21 as evidence.

Francis Bouchard, spokesman for the education minister, said the government recognizes that students should have an appreciation of the major religions to better understand the driving forces of the world.

But in the current program, he explained in an email, religion “took up too much space.” He said the goal of the new course isn’t to remove the religious component completely but to “rebalance” the content with “other concepts to prepare young people for Quebec society.”

Those could include themes about environmentalism, digital literacy and democratic participation, he said.

Roberge launched three days of consultations in February to collect ideas from education stakeholders for the new course’s content. The consultations sparked a scandal after one of the experts invited, McGill University law professor Daniel Weinstock, was blocked from speaking following the publication of an inaccurate newspaper column.

Richard Martineau wrote in the Journal de Montreal that the ethics and religious culture course “shoves the multiculturalist credo down the throats of children.” He then falsely stated that Weinstock — whom he called a “dyed-in-the-wool multiculturalist” — had previously advocated the symbolic circumcision of young girls.

Weinstock’s invitation was swiftly withdrawn by the minister, which led to an uproar among academics and an eventual apology from Roberge after Weinstock threatened legal action.

El-Mabrouk maintains the course should be done away with entirely. Teaching about religion in school is fine — but not in a class that is tied to ethics, she said. Religious material belongs in classes about politics, science or geography, she said, and it should be limited to older students who have the “intellectual tools” to digest the content.

“What is the best way for children to learn to live in a society, to live with one another?” she asked. “It’s having more time for sports, cultural activities, to talk together. It’s in real life situations that children learn to be together.”

But Jafralie says the content of the course reflects the realities of Quebec society, and changing it is a denial of the facts on the ground.

“There seems to be this desire to eradicate this (reality) or shape young people’s values to be more ‘Quebecois’ — and what ‘Quebecois’ is, is defined by (the government).”

Source: End of Quebec course on religion and ethics seen as win for nationalists

Saudi Arabia Rebuffs Trump Administration’s Requests to Stop Teaching Hate Speech in Schools

“Modernization” only goes so far:

In 2018, Saudi women took to the streets around the country, permitted to drive cars themselves for the first time. That same year, unrelated men and women were allowed to mix at a Formula-E car race and concert extravaganza, listening to DJ David Quetta and the Black Eyed Peas—unthinkable not long ago in a country where religious police used to enforce a strict separation of the sexes.

That’s part of the raft of highly visible social reforms that Saudi Arabia has launched in recent years as the Kingdom tries to reposition itself as a modern global economic powerhouse. But you don’t have to look far to see a very different country, where officials plotted the violent murder of The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi, where a young Saudi Air Force officer studied before deploying for training in Florida where he shot three U.S. Navy Airmen last fall, and where millions of children go to school every day and read state-sanctioned hate speech in their text books.

For a White House that seems to have given Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a wide berth on the first two incidents, the Trump Administration has been pushing hard behind the scenes for the last one to change. Since 2017, when President Donald Trump marked Saudi Arabia as a key regional ally, the Administration has seen the state’s textbooks — which teach a version of fundamental Islam so extreme it was used by the Islamic State — as a security threat and a key part of its efforts to fight terrorism.

Two new reviews of Saudi government textbooks show not much has changed, despite these efforts. In 2019, Saudi students were still being instructed to keep westerners at a distance, to consider Jews “monkeys” and “assassins” bent on harming Muslim holy places, and to punish gays by death. All those sentiments are included in text books that are required reading for Muslim children in Saudi Arabia from kindergarten through high school, according to a review by Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT SE, a nonprofit whose research has been cited by the UN and the Anti-Defamation League.

A second organization highlighted similar disturbing material. “Students are being taught that Christians, Jews and other Muslims are ‘enemies’ of the true believer, and to befriend and show respect only to other true believers, specifically the Wahhabis,” the strict sect of Islam upon which Saudi Arabia was founded, says Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Gulf Studies, in a preview for TIME of his own meticulous review of the 2019 textbooks due out in March. The two groups have shared their results with U.S. government officials.

Both reviews acknowledge there have been some changes to the Saudi curriculum, designed to appease the Kingdom’s western critics. Al-Ahmed notes that in one passage, the phrase “Christians and Jews” has been replaced with phrase “the enemies of Islam,” but says other parts of the same textbook make clear that Christians and Jews remain in the ‘enemies’ camp. Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT SE, says some of the most notable changes in the curriculum fit in the Crown Prince’s ambitious modernization plan for the country, called Vision 2030, such as depicting women as entrepreneurs. “But they are encouraged to be entrepreneurs while not befriending westerners they would do business with,” Sheff adds.

The slow pace of change and the Saudi government’s refusal to do more has been a source of disappointment to Trump, a senior administration official tells TIME. Trump joins a long line of U.S. leaders, UN bodies and human and civil rights groups that have been pressuring the Saudi government for decades to stop proselytizing its harsh version of Wahhabi Islam, spread inside and outside the Kingdom by its clerics’ sermons online or given in mosques that Saudi money built. The government freely distributes hundreds of thousands of Wahhabi Qurans around the world, and makes its school textbooks freely available on the internet. Since the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., largely by Saudi-born jihadists, every administration that has occupied the White House has asked the Saudi government to revise what it teaches its children, with only glacial change as a result.

Trump Administration officials say they’ve been working in private to point out the dangers of this kind of hateful language to Saudi officials, but they are reluctant to publicly criticize Riyadh’s foot-dragging. “We can’t just demand from a sovereign nation ally an immediate fix,” a second senior administration official told TIME. “The Saudis are crucial to our national security efforts in the region, mainly those in places like Yemen… They have provided us a lot of support in those fights that we share.”

The Bush and Obama Administrations also kept similar critiques behind closed doors, according to Farah Pandith, who served in both administrations and was appointed first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities. “They were our partners in the post-9/11 context in fighting al Qaeda. We wanted to do this in a way that allowed them to keep a little bit of dignity but also show leadership,” she told TIME. “It should not be others forcing them to do the right thing.” She says the Saudi government has dismissed some of the more extreme preachers and taken some of their most hate-filled sermons off the internet, but much of the material is still accessible, including in the national curriculum. “It’s a question of scale. I traveled to 80 countries as representative to Muslim communities. None has more influence than the Saudis.”

Saudi critics like say the curriculum is perpetuating extremist violence, including the actions of Saudi Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, who is accused of opening fire on U.S. personnel at Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6th, killing three Navy Airmen and injuring eight. Alshamrani, an officer of the Royal Saudi Air Force, had armed himself with a legally purchased 9mm Glock handgun, only days after reportedly showing videos of mass shootings to other Saudi students training at the base as part of a longstanding U.S. military training program.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom says the material Alshamrani would have ingested at school back home was so extreme that the State Department found it was used by the Islamic State during its reign of terror in Iraq and Syria. “Until ISIS started publishing their own ‘Al-Harouf’ series of children’s textbooks, ISIS used Saudi textbooks in their schools to train the cubs of the caliphate,” Bloom told TIME, a subject she detailed in her 2019 book, Small Arms: Children and Terrorism. “The Saudi textbooks promoted a view of the world that was virtually indistinguishable from ISIS ideology: hatred of the west; hatred of other Muslims, that are not Sunni; hatred of Jews and antagonism towards women.” Al-Ahmed says the Saudi officer would have had to prove mastery of such malevolent material to rise in the military ranks.

None of the Trump Administration officials would go so far as to blame such lessons for the Saudi officer’s alleged actions, but they concede if the education had been reformed shortly after 9/11 in 2001, when Alshamrani would have been around two years old, it may have helped. “Unfortunately, Pensacola is a reminder — a harsh one — of work left undone,” an administration official said.

“You could go back to 2001,” a second senior official added, referring to the attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans. “If they had changed their textbooks in 1975, we’d be in a better spot.” The administration officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity to brief TIME on their sensitive discussions with the Saudi Kingdom over the issue.

Among the gradual changes IMPACT SE notes in the 2019 Saudi textbooks include striking several references of Christians as “pure infidels” or unbelievers, and removing the statement that “Christianity in its current state is an invalid and perverted religion.” The Christian faith is no longer defined as a “colonial religious movement that subjected Muslims to Western ideas and stopped the spread of Islam,” the report said, all of which are positive changes if your number one supporter is President Trump, whose base is largely made up of evangelical Christians.

Also deleted is the claim that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” are “a secret Jewish plan to take over the world,” and that Jews believe the world was promised to them and that it’s their right to control it. But Zionism is still described as a racist movement that uses money, the media, drugs, and women to achieve its goals, according to IMPACT SE’s review.

A Saudi official told TIME that the Kingdom “is implementing a comprehensive program to reform and improve all its educational institutions,” which include “ongoing” reforms to the textbooks. The official declined to comment on an advance copy of IMPACT-SE’s report made available to him by TIME.

Amb. Nathan Sales, the State Department’s Acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, asked the Saudi government to make further changes to the textbooks, but was rebuffed, a senior administration official told TIME. The State Department declined to comment on Sales’ interaction, but a senior State Department official said that “the Saudi government has worked to modernize the educational curriculum in public schools” but that “some textbooks containing derogatory and intolerant references to Shia and non-Muslims remained in use.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the friction with the Kingdom.

Administration officials are still hoping for bigger reforms this summer, when the government publishes the 2020 edition of the K through 12 textbooks.

Pandith says the textbooks aren’t the only thing that needs changing, as the hundreds of thousands of Saudi Korans distributed around the world also portray Wahhabism as the only true version of Islam. “If you want to demonstrate that you see the folly of what you did before…let’s do a buyback program,” she says, an idea she outlines in her 2019 book, How We Win.

“If MBS (the Crown Prince) wanted to overhaul the viewpoint that they are the only Muslims that matter, he could do it in a minute with the kind of government they have,” she says. “The choice to do it piecemeal means their heart isn’t in this endeavor.”

Source: Saudi Arabia Rebuffs Trump Administration’s Requests to Stop Teaching Hate Speech in Schools

Racism probe finds ‘marginalization, discrimination, harassment’ in Peel school board

Ongoing review:

Just weeks into their probe of racism and dysfunction in the Peel public school board, three provincial reviewers say they have already “consistently heard painful accounts of traumatic experiences in schools and school communities.”

The “narratives shared with us signal a profound lack of respect in relationships, demonstrated by stories of marginalization, discrimination, differential behaviour, and harassment,” says their interim report, obtained by the Star.

Ena Chadha, Suzanne Herbert and newly appointed reviewer Shawn Richard are looking into complaints of racism — in particular anti-Black racism — as well as issues overall with equity, hiring and leadership.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce ordered the investigation in early November after the Peel board reached out for help as it grappled with allegations of anti-Black racism, a trustee who referred to the diverse McCrimmon Middle School as “McCriminal,” and after a senior administrator in charge of anti-discrimination launched a human rights complaint.

So far, the review team has received more than 350 interview requests as well as email, mail and phone submissions, which they characterize as a “strong” public response.

The review began in December, and that month alone they spoke to 50 people, both individually and in groups.

Richard, a lawyer, was appointed later last month after concerns that no one from the Black community was on the front lines.

At the time, Lecce noted that the entire review was being overseen by assistant deputy education minister and human rights lawyer Patrick Case, a prominent member of the Black community who was part of a review team in 2017 — with Herbert — that issued a scathing report on racism and a lack of leadership in the York Region District School Board.

The trio filed their interim report on Peel to Lecce on Dec. 30, and their final report is due by spring.

In a statement, Lecce said he has met with the reviewers “to better understand their immediate observations of systemic anti-Black racism, and lack of adherence to governance, leadership, trustee conduct” and hiring and promotions practices.

“I believe students and families deserve better,” Lecce said. “It is my hope that the final report will build momentum for the transformational change racialized families are seeking, after a period of inaction.”

Their interim report says “we have received written and oral submissions from many individuals and groups representing diverse perspectives on the issues within the scope of the review.”

The reviewers have also been examining “various documentation, minutes of board meetings, board policies and data. We have consistently heard painful accounts of traumatic experiences in schools and school communities that speak to systemic and historical disparities between and across racial, ethnic and cultural groups with respect to access to programming, services, academic achievement, transitions to post-secondary education and the workforce, hiring, and promotion, as well as discipline measures both in education and employment.”

They go on to say that a “profound lack of respect (is) demonstrated by stories of marginalization, discrimination, differential behaviour, and harassment. To date, these sentiments relate to leadership, governance, human resources, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia and other forms of inequities put forward by students, parents, educators, staff, senior administrators, elected officials and community members who we have met with thus far.”

The Peel District School Board is the second largest in the province, with more than 155,000 students in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon schools, and about 17,000 staffers. Its student body is highly diverse, with the three largest groups identifying as South Asian (45 per cent), white (17 per cent) and Black (10 per cent).

So far, the reviewers say that “all stakeholders, from students and parents to educators, staff, senior administrators, trustees and community members, have expressed consensus that the review is a much needed intervention to better understand the challenging and compounding dynamics operating within the (Peel board) and broader community.”

However, there has been some criticism that given the tight timeline, the review will not be as comprehensive as needed. The reviewers say they will identify the problems and make recommendations, but more work will need to be done.

The board, they say, will need a “process that will allow community members to directly ‘speak their truth’ to trustees and senior staff” in order to “regain public confidence that will be necessarily longer-term and that will be monitored by the ministry,” they wrote.

Those they’ve interviewed “have told us that they expect that this review will assist the (Peel board) to become more transparent and responsive in its commitment to provide inclusive learning and working environments where all students and staff feel respected.”

Last month, Lecce himself met with some Peel community members who told him part of the problem is a lack of diversity among teachers.

Lecce said that Regulation 274, which was brought in under the former Liberal government, impedes boards in hiring because it forces schools to hire the most experience supply teachers for full-time jobs, rather than their top choice or who will be the best fit.

The regulation is a part of the current negotiating round between teacher unions and the province.

The Peel review team had at least 13 days of interviews in January — in Brampton, Mississauga, Malton, Etobicoke and Toronto — and notes that “considering the urgency to complete this review and the volume of requests to participate in the review process, we will not be able meet with everyone who has expressed interest” but promises that all written submissions will be looked at.

Lecce said he wants families to know the government “is listening and is fully committed to combating racism and improving equity and opportunity for their children.”

He pledged to “continue to empower students — notably from racialized communities — to be a part of the solution, to have a voice, and to work collaboratively to eliminate obstacles to academic success and well-being.”

Source: Racism probe finds ‘marginalization, discrimination, harassment’ in Peel school board

Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.

Would be interesting to see a Quebec and Ontario comparison, and an Alberta and Ontario one, although the small size of the Canadian market likely means less variation in texts for English Canada:

The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

The left has pushed for students to encounter history more from the ground up than from the top down, with a focus on the experiences of marginalized groups such as enslaved people, women and Native Americans.

The books The Times analyzed were published in 2016 or later and have been widely adopted for eighth and 11th graders, though publishers declined to share sales figures. Each text has editions for Texas and California, among other states, customized to satisfy policymakers with different priorities.

“At the end of the day, it’s a political process,” said Jesús F. de la Teja, an emeritus professor of history at Texas State University who has worked for the state of Texas and for publishers in reviewing standards and textbooks.

The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.

Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.

A California panel asked the publisher McGraw-Hill to avoid the use of the word “massacre” when describing 19th-century Native American attacks on white people. A Texas panel asked Pearson to point out the number of clergy who signed the Declaration of Independence, and to state that the nation’s founders were inspired by the Protestant Great Awakening.

All the members of the California panel were educators selected by the State Board of Education, whose members were appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. The Texas panel, appointed by the Republican-dominated State Board of Education, was made up of educators, parents, business representatives and a Christian pastor and politician.

McGraw-Hill, the publisher whose annotated Bill of Rights appears differently in the two states, said it had created the additional wording on the Second Amendment and gun control for the California textbook. A national version of the pages is similar to the Texas edition, which does not call attention to gun rights, the company said in a written statement.

Pearson, the publisher whose Texas textbook raises questions about the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature, said such language “adds more depth and nuance.”

Critical language about nonwhite cultural movements also appears in a Texas book from McGraw-Hill. It is partly a result of debates, in 2010, between conservative and liberal members of the Texas Board of Education over whether state standards should mention cultural movements like hip-hop and country music. Their compromise was to ask teachers and textbook publishers to address “both the positive and negative impacts” of artistic movements.

Texas struck that requirement in 2018, but its most recent textbooks, published in 2016, will reflect it for years to come.

Publishers are eager to please state policymakers of both parties, during a challenging time for the business. Schools are transitioning to digital materials. And with the ease of internet research, many teachers say they prefer to curate their own primary-source materials online.

How Textbooks are Produced
1Authors, often academics, write a national version of each text.
2Publishers customize the books for states and large districts to meet local standards, often without input from the original authors.
3State or district textbook reviewers go over each book and ask publishers for further changes.
4Publishers revise their books and sell them to districts and schools.

Still, recent textbooks have come a long way from what was published in past decades. Both Texas and California volumes deal more bluntly with the cruelty of the slave trade, eschewing several myths that were common in textbooks for generations: that some slave owners treated enslaved people kindly and that African-Americans were better off enslaved than free. The books also devote more space to the women’s movement and balance the narrative of European immigration with stories of Latino and Asian immigrants.

“American history is not anymore the story of great white men,” said Albert S. Broussard, a history professor at Texas A&M University and an author of both the Texas and California editions of McGraw-Hill’s textbooks.

Here is how the politics of American history play out in California and Texas textbooks, on subjects like race, immigration, gender, sexuality and the economy.

White resistance to black progress is covered differently in the two states.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Continuity and Change,” California, P. 505

California notes the suburban dream of the 1950s was inaccessible to many African-Americans.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 436

Texas does not.

California and Texas textbooks sometimes offer different explanations for white backlash to black advancement after the Civil War, from Reconstruction to housing discrimination in the 20th century.

Southern whites resisted Reconstruction, according to a McGraw-Hill textbook, because they “did not want African-Americans to have more rights.” But the Texas edition offers an additional reason: Reforms cost money, and that meant higher taxes.

Whole paragraphs on redlining and restrictive deeds appear only in the California editions of textbooks, partly as a result of different state standards. Texas’ social studies guidelines do not mention housing discrimination at all.

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Texas says that white Southerners opposed Reconstruction because of tax increases as well as racial resentment. California instead includes primary-source quotations from black historical figures about white resistance to civil rights.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Growth & Conflict,” California, P. 586; McGraw-Hill, “United States History to 1877,” Texas, P. 555

Both states say that breaches of “racial etiquette” led to lynchings after Reconstruction. But only California, whose edition was written more recently, makes clear that the perpetrators of lynchings also hoped to discourage black political and economic power.

HMH, “American History: Reconstruction to the Present,” California, P. 245; HMH, “The Americans: United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 288

Nevertheless, Kerry Green, a high school social studies teacher in Sunnyvale, Tex., a small town east of Dallas, said she discussed redlining with her 11th graders, adding it as a counterpoint to lessons about postwar prosperity — the optimistic story of consumerism, television and the Baby Boom that is emphasized by her state’s standards.

Ms. Green said she preferred to assign primary sources that “encourage students to explore history on their own.” But she said she would welcome textbooks that contain more historical documents and a greater diversity of voices and themes from the past.

“The textbook companies are not gearing their textbooks toward teachers; they’re gearing their textbooks toward states,” she said.

On gender and sexuality, California textbooks include history that is not in Texas editions.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Growth & Conflict,” California, P. 624

California states that the federal government failed to recognize nonbinary gender identities and female leaders in its early relations with Native Americans.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 111

Texas does not mention gender roles or gender identity in its discussion of efforts to “Americanize” Native Americans.

In Texas textbooks, mentions of L.G.B.T.Q. issues tend to be restricted to coverage of events in recent decades, such as the Stonewall uprising, the AIDS crisis and debates over marriage rights.

But for recent California editions, publishers wrote thousands of words of new text in response to the FAIR Education Act, a law signed by Governor Brown in 2011. It requires schools to teach the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and disabled Americans.

Peppered throughout California books are passages on topics like same-sex families under slavery and early sex reassignment surgery in the 1950s — text that does not appear in Texas versions.

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California states that enslaved women faced sexual violence from owners and overseers.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Growth & Conflict,” California, P. 449; McGraw-Hill, “United States History to 1877,” Texas, P. 443

California mentions the “lavender scare” that targeted thousands of gay men and lesbians.

Pearson, “United States History: The Twentieth Century,” California, P. 486; Pearson, “United States History: 1877 to Present,” Texas, P. 456.

California states that Alfred Kinsey’s research and early sex reassignment surgeries challenged “the postwar ideal” on gender.

Pearson, “United States History: The Twentieth Century,” California, P. 498; Pearson, “United States History: 1877 to Present,” Texas, P. 470.

Both states focus on women’s fight against discrimination in the workplace. Only California says birth control played a role, by “allowing women to exert greater control over their sexuality and family planning.”

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Continuity and Change,” California, P. 627; McGraw-Hill, “United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 525.

Stephanie Kugler, an eighth-grade history teacher in West Sacramento, Calif., said she had expanded an idea mentioned briefly in her classroom’s textbook, about women who dressed as men to fight in the Civil War and continued to live as men, into an entire lesson on troops who today would be considered transgender. The students read accounts of those soldiers’ lives alongside more traditional sources, such as letters written by a black Union soldier and a Confederate soldier.

Her goal, Ms. Kugler said, was to “make it really authentic” to talk about diversity in the context of each historical period.

While both states devote many pages to the women’s movement, Texas books, in general, avoid discussions of sex or sexuality.

Immigration and nativism are major themes in American history textbooks.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Continuity and Change,” California, P. 736

California includes an excerpt from a novel about a Dominican-American family.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 609

In the same place, Texas highlights the voice of a Border Patrol agent.

Michael Teague, a Border Patrol agent, is featured in the Texas edition of McGraw-Hill’s 11th grade textbook. He discusses his concerns about drug trafficking and says, “if you open the border wide up, you’re going to invite political and social upheaval.”

Mr. Teague’s story is featured at the end of a chapter on recent immigration, alongside accounts from a Vietnamese immigrant and a second-generation Mexican-American.

That section in the California edition of the same book is devoted to a long excerpt from the novel “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents,” by Julia Alvarez. It deals with intergenerational tensions in a Dominican-American family.

In a written statement, McGraw-Hill said the full-page Border Patrol narrative was not included in the California edition because it would not fit beside the literary excerpt. And at the time the Texas edition was produced, six years ago, state standards called for students to analyze both “legal and illegal immigration to the United States.”

In contrast, California textbooks are more likely to note when a historical figure was an immigrant. And they include more detail on the role immigrants such as Japanese and Filipino farmworkers played in labor movements.

California is one of many states to ask teachers and textbooks in recent years to cover the contributions of specific immigrant groups, including Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, European-Americans and Mexican-Americans.

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Only California states that Levi Strauss was a German Jewish immigrant.

McGraw-Hill, “United States History & Geography: Growth & Conflict,” California, P. 416; McGraw-Hill, “United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 417

California tells the story of Wong Kim Ark, whose 1898 Supreme Court case established birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants; Texas’s edition, which is older, does not mention this case, but does cover the Chinese Exclusion Act.

HMH, “American History: Reconstruction to the Present,” California, P. 247; HMH, “The Americans: United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 289

These additions are part of the reason California books are almost always longer than their Texas counterparts.

California’s Board of Education adopted an expansive 842-page social studies framework in 2016. Two years later, Texas’ school board streamlined its social studies standards, which are now laid out in 78 tightly compressed pages.

Critics of California’s approach say that making state standards and textbooks longer and more inclusive can be overwhelming to teachers trying to move quickly through hundreds of years of material.

Both states emphasize the role of big businessfrom the Gilded Age to the present.

HMH, “American History: Reconstruction to the Present,” California, P. 160

California is critical of wealth inequality and the impact of companies like Standard Oil on the environment.

HMH, “The Americans: United States History Since 1877,” Texas, P. 235

Texas is more likely to celebrate free enterprise and entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie.

Texas policymakers feel strongly about giving students a positive view of the American economy; since 1995, state law has required that high school economics courses offer an “emphasis on the free enterprise system and its benefits.” That emphasis seems to have made its way into the history curriculum as well.

California’s curriculum materials, by contrast, sometimes read like a brief from a Bernie Sanders rally. “The yawning gap between the haves and have-nots and what is to be done about it is one of the great questions of this time,” says the state’s 2016 social studies framework.

As a result, California textbooks are more likely to celebrate unionism, critique the concentration of wealth and focus on how industry pollutes the environment.

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California refers to “the income gap” and explains that “changes in tax structures and safety-net programs” and “higher costs for education, child care, and housing” played a role. Both state editions discuss economic inequality in reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the decline of labor unions.

Pearson, “United States History: The Twentieth Century,” California, P. 728; Pearson, “United States History: 1877 to Present,” Texas, P. 687.

The older Texas edition highlights additional Republican critiques of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies, while the California book discusses the threat of rising sea levels.

Pearson, “United States History: The Twentieth Century,” California, P. 749; Pearson, “United States History: 1877 to Present,” Texas, P. 709.

Both the California and Texas 11th-grade textbooks from Pearson state, “The main argument against environmental legislation is that it hurts the economy and the nation’s industries.”

The Texas edition goes further to highlight criticism of federal efforts to subsidize the green energy industry: “Republicans accuse the government of wasting taxpayers’ money, for example by supporting the failed solar manufacturer Solyndra.” The Solyndra controversy was a fixation for conservatives in 2011, when the company went bankrupt after accepting half a billion dollars in federally guaranteed loans.

The Texas book also states that American action on global warming may not make a difference if China, India, Russia and Brazil do not also act.

The California edition does not mention Solyndra or the other nations. However, it does include a section on the threat to American states and cities from rising sea levels, noting that the impact on tourism in Florida could hurt that state’s economy, and that transportation networks and buildings could be threatened.

Pearson said in a written statement that the differences between the books could be attributed mostly to the fact that the California book was published several years later, and that concerns over coastal flooding have become “more heightened in recent years.”

Anti-Semitism in the schoolyard: A new front in Germany’s struggle

Disturbing:

The security at the New Synagogue, located in Berlin’s city center, is regrettably familiar in Germany.

The approach is well protected: A chain-link barrier keeps vehicles at a distance, two guards flank the main entrance, and a metal detector arcs over visitors’ heads. It takes about five minutes to get through.

“In the U.S. you can go into a synagogue without any kind of controls,” says Sigmount Königsberg, the commissioner against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community in Berlin. His office is housed within the synagogue. “In Germany, we hardly remember a time like this. Even when I was 10, growing up in the 1970s, there was always a police officer standing in front of the synagogue.”

Such security remains critically necessary, as anti-Semitic incidents in Germany are on the upswing. A shooting outside a synagogue in Halle captured global attention in October, but the gunman couldn’t foil security measures to enter. Metal detectors also stand at the entrance to Jewish kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and homes for senior citizens.

Christian Mang/Reuters
Security like these police officers outside the New Synagogue in Berlin has long been used at Jewish institutions in Germany to protect from anti-Semitic incidents.

But Mr. Königsberg and other activists warn that though such measures are still needed, to root out anti-Semitism it must be fought someplace where it cannot be physically blocked: in schoolyards and classrooms. To stop an anti-Semitic hate that seems at once more aggressive and also more subtle, they say, it needs to be addressed at an early age. And that means ground zero must be schools.

“Nine of 10 children are in public schools,” Mr. Königsberg says. “You can start there.” Yet efforts to date are underfunded and a bit random; more systemic action is needed, he says.

Anti-Semitism in the schoolyard

Society-wide, the numbers around anti-Semitism are stark. Six of 10 Jews in Germany have experienced anti-Semitic “hidden insinuations,” while 9 of 10 Jews in Germany feel “strongly burdened” by anti-Semitism directed at their family, according to a 2017 qualitative study out of Bielefeld University titled “Jewish Perspectives on Antisemitism in Germany.”

Schools in Berlin have seen an uptick in incidents, reporting 41 incidents in 2018, up one-third from the previous year, according to RIAS, a monitoring agency that tracks anti-Semitic incidents.

Recently, at one Berlin public school, Mr. Königsberg says, a teacher was instructing a unit on religion. One boy offered up that he was Jewish, only to hear a classmate mutter in response, “I’ve got to kill you.” The teacher heard the remark, but did nothing to intervene, says Mr. Königsberg.

Other school situations can be understated or offhand, and even perpetrated by teachers, he adds. Take the time a Berlin public school took a field trip to the city’s Holocaust memorial. A 14-year-old Jewish girl, emotional over what she was seeing, began to sob. Her German teacher told her, “Why are you crying? It was so long ago.”

“There is no typical story, no typical solution,” says Mr. Königsberg. “Sometimes I need a lawyer, and other times I need a psychologist.”

Other times, one might need the police. A Jewish woman whose child attends an elite Berlin public school says she volunteered to run the Israel booth at the school’s international fair. She says she immediately felt uncomfortable. First, a child of about 5 years passed by and told her, “Israel is bad.” Later, as students assessed the falafel offered at the booth, several offered that the food had “nothing to do with Israel.”

Toward the end of the fair, a teenager leaned over the table to get in her face, snarling, “I wish the falafel were grenades, and that they would explode in your face.” Another parent intervened and moved the teen away from the table.

The woman visited with police over the verbal assault, but ultimately decided not to file a report. “I didn’t feel a 15-year-old should have a criminal record,” she says.

When she reported the incident to the school principal, she came away disappointed. “The issue was never raised with the community,” says the woman, who wished to remain anonymous since her child is still enrolled in the school. “Eventually the principal left. Nothing was done.”

That incident brings up the question: Where is the anti-Semitism coming from? Reporting around incidents doesn’t often include the background of the perpetrator, so good data is unavailable, says Mr. Königsberg. Yet, while it’s clear that some problems stem from increasing immigration from the Middle East, a greater hostility originates inside Germany’s increasingly vocal far-right, exemplified by the Halle shooting. The far-right is hostile to both Muslims and Jews, says Mr. Königsberg, and it’s important to tackle both. “People need to learn to accept minorities.”

Teaching teachers how to respond

Doing nothing is easiest in the face of an issue that’s “massively complex,” says Levi Salomon, lead spokesman for a lobbying group called Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of group-targeted hatred, and 2,000-year-old stereotypes are archived in European memory. Teachers are hesitant and unclear how to deal with that history.”

On top of that, teachers are overwhelmed and overworked in the face of a massive educator shortage, says Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of Deutscher Lehrerverband, Germany’s largest teachers association. In other words, even if there were a nationalized curriculum for addressing the issue of prejudice, there’s little time to implement it.

There are also institutional problems: Reporting an anti-Semitic incident is not universally required. “Teachers should be required to report,” Mr. Meidinger says. “I also wish that every German state appointed an independent contact person in the school ministry to take reports.”

Administrators’ instincts also might be to keep the issues quiet. “For example, if a student does the Hitler greeting, school management is often afraid of reporting because they think, ‘If this reaches the outside world, we’re ruined,’” says Mr. Meidinger.

Other times, educators who are sensitive to the issue feel isolated or alone, found a 2017 survey of anti-Semitism in schools out of Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.

The German government has implemented a number of measures against anti-Semitism broadly in society. For example, denial that Jews were murdered during the Holocaust is a crime, as is the display of a swastika. Golden Stolpersteine, concrete cubes with inscribed brass plates, are displayed at thresholds to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

Regarding schools specifically, anti-Semitism has been introduced as a category of discrimination in the emergency response plans for schools in Berlin and two other states. This requires administrators to report any incidents to a government office starting the 2019-20 academic year. Politicians in other German states are considering following suit.

Yet the people working on this issue feel that much more awareness around anti-Semitism and structural change inside the education system is needed. “We’re hoping for a continuous conversation, rather than one-off approaches around single incidents,” says Marina Chernivsky, head of the Competence Center for Prevention and Empowerment. Her organization is focused on bringing change via outreach and providing educational workshops to teachers, families, and the public. “We can help educate and teach, but there needs to be a shift and systemic change.”

She’s working toward a time when a Jewish child won’t be asked to draw a family tree in class, without the teacher first thinking about the context and possible repercussions of such a request.

In that recent case, says Ms. Chernivsky’s colleague Romina Wiegemann, a child given such an assignment suddenly came home asking questions of a mother who wasn’t prepared to field questions about relatives lost to the Holocaust. When the mother raised the question with administrators, she found little support.

“We must think about the effect this has on children, and make sure schools engage with topics,” says Ms. Wiegemann.

Mr. Königsberg at the New Synagogue thinks that there’s reason to hope. “When I call the schools now, I get an appointment,” he says. “Last year, they ignored me.” But he sees the fight against anti-Semitism as a fight for democracy. “A true democracy doesn’t work with discrimination.”