11 Montana, 3 Missoula Educators Pledge to Teach Racism a “Defining Characteristic” of Present Day US in Defiance of AG Opinion

Eleven Montana educators including three from Missoula signed onto a pledge to “Teach the Truth” about the founding of the United States of America. Specifically that,

It was founded on dispossession of Native Americans, slavery, structural racism and oppression; and structural racism is a defining characteristic of our society today.

Pledge to Teach the Truth. Zinn Education Project.

The pledge is hosted by the Zinn Education Project. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by publisher and self-described advocacy organization, Rethinking Schools. The organization states on their website that they are, “dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism.” Rethinking Schools boasts of over 100,000 educators who receive access to their books and materials. Some cover stories for their self-titled magazine include, “Youth vs Apocalypse,” “Sustaining Black Lives Matter at School,” and an issue dedicated to “The Green New Deal.”

Rethinking Teaching. Coordinator of Zinn Education Project.

The pledge specifically calls on educators to help students acknowledge that, “From police violence, to the prison system, to the wealth gap, to maternal mortality rates, to housing, to education and beyond, the major institutions and systems of our country are deeply infected with anti-Blackness and its intersection with other forms of oppression.”

The pledge encourages teachers to turn students into activists, “This history helps students understand the roots of inequality today and gives them the tools to shape a just future. It is not just a history of oppression, but also a history of how people have organized and created coalitions across race, class, and gender.”

In May, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen released a binding opinion on Critical Race Theory stating, “much of the training and programming done in the name of ‘antiracism’ perpetuates and glorifies racial stereotypes and division in a way that violates the law.”

Knudsen listed examples of discriminatory activities that are prohibited by employers and educators such as using education or training materials that assert that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another. Also prohibited is, “Engaging in ‘race scapegoating,’ which means assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or members of a race on the basis of their race. This includes claims that by virtue of race, a person is inherently racist or inclined to oppress others.”

According to data compiled by the Daily Wire and shared by a concerned Missoula parent and tipster, the Montana educators that signed on to “Pledge to Teach the Truth” or Critical Race Theory include:

BillingsJohanna Trout Billings Elementary School
Laurie Van Roekel
Sara Kane First Grade Teacher, Washington Elementary School
BozemanHeidi Robison Social Studies/English, Bozeman High School
Josh Rassi Social Studies, Gallatin High School
ColumbusLorrie Henrie-Koski Retired
HamiltonKate Naughter Language Arts, Corvallis Middle School
LaurelBrianne Logan Teachers Aide, Laurel High School
MissoulaOlivia DeJohn Second Grade Teacher, Paxson Elementary School
Rebecca (Becca) Carson English, Big Sky High School
Celia Winkler Professor Emeritus, Social Sciences, University of Montana
Montana Teachers who signed “Pledge to Teach the Truth”. Zinn Education Project.

All of the Montana educators that we could identify are government-paid teachers that teach at government-run schools.

Some Montana teachers included a comment with their pledge to “teach the truth,”

History cannot only be told from one point of view. Hard history is still history and how we ensure we don’t repeat past mistakes and help people make sense of why things are the way they are.

Olivia DeJohn. 2nd Grade Teacher. Paxson Elementary School. Missoula.

“Our community deserves the truth. Our students need authentic experiences. We must confront the hard parts in order to bring brighter days.”

Sara Kane. Washington Elementary School. Billings.

“I believe our children must know the truth of the history of our country in order to learn from it and build a stronger, more unified country in the future.”

Laurie Van Roekel. Billings.

Other Montana teachers who made the pledge took to Twitter to sound off.

Big Sky High School teacher Rebecca Carson solicited ideas for a non-“whitewashed” “diverse” curriculum for high school sophomores via her Twitter account. It appears no one offered Carson any recommendations:

Paxson Elementary second grade teacher Olivia DeJohn is also passionate about social justice and now apparently so is at least one of her students. DeJohn shared a photo of a paper from one of her students who wrote a short ode to Black Lives Matter:

Tweet from Olivia DeJohn. March 4, 2021. Wayback Machine Archive.

Lest DeJohn be outdone by her peers, she also made a commitment as a “white teacher” to #teachblackhistory and #teachblackjoy. I think all Paxson second grade parents would be interested in learning what exactly DeJohn believes “black history” and “black joy” are. I am sure that first-generation black Americans from Nigeria will certainly relate to DeJohn’s preconception of what she believes black America is.

Tweet from Olivia DeJohn. January 27, 2021. Wayback Machine Archive.

As is so often the case, as AG Knudsen pointed out, this type of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion training and education often leads to re-enforcing stereotypes about one race or another.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his famous I Have a Dream speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Note here that Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically talks about children, his children, and their future in American society.

It may seem passé to bring this quote up, but I will do so as a reminder for the educators who may read this article. The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. was not to racialize children into ascriptive categories of black and white. It was to strive against prejudgment of people based on their innate qualities. People are not superior or inferior based on the color of their skin. Period.

Attempts to bind innocent children to the narrative that there are historical injustices that they are culpable for based on their race is racist and psychologically damaging.

In Germany, after the reign of Hitler, Germans instituted a campaign of remembrance so that the German people would never forget what happened, lest they repeat it. Educators in Germany share the horrific acts perpetrated by the Nazis against Jewish people and other minorities, but they are not encouraged to teach that German society still oppresses Jewish people or other minorities to this day or that the German people are to be the saviors of Jewish people.

Educators who subscribe to the idea that black Americans are still the subject of oppression under “whiteness” are misinformed at best and the material thrust of the propagation of this perspective onto children is to inflict upon them psychological damage and to destroy the fabric of American society. Some educators don’t realize what they are doing. Others revel in the idea of America being dissolved.

UPDATE (3:20pm – 07/18/2021): A commenter named Kate Naughter, a teacher listed on the pledge, provided a statement (below) saying that her name is not on the pledge despite the Daily Wire report from June 23, 2021 indicating that her name was on the pledge. We asked follow up questions in our reply in the comments below.

UPDATE (8:45am – 07/22/2021): Another 2nd-grade teacher from Paxson Elementary, Jane Doherty, a colleague of DeJohn’s and a former 12-year New York City Public Schools teacher, reached out to Missoula County Tyranny on behalf of DeJohn and her cohort at the school to organize a one-on-one discussion with the blog. Doherty did not address the pledge her colleague signed onto, but did want to discuss the social studies curricula they administer to children. We recommended to Doherty that she communicate with the parents of Paxson Elementary directly as they are the people government-paid teachers are accountable to. For parents interested in talking about the curricula Paxson teaches, Doherty is available at: [email protected]. Read the email chain.

UPDATE (9:45am – 07/22/2021): 2nd-grade Paxson School Teacher Olivia DeJohn made her tweets private after communications we had with Jane Doherty of which DeJohn was CCd. We have provided screenshots we captured prior to her locking down her Twitter account this morning. We also provided links to the tweets stored in the Wayback Machine Internet Archive.

By Roy McKenzie

Roy McKenzie is a former elected Montana Democrat who moved to Montana in 2017. Roy is the Publisher of Western Montana News. Get in touch with him on Truth Social (@royalton) or Telegram (@royaltonpatrick).
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