- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The nation’s teachers need conferences and workshops just like the members of any other hard-working profession, especially one so public-minded. But taxpayers will howl when they learn what their school boards bought with those plane tickets and hotel reservations for this week’s National Association for Multicultural Education conference in Baltimore.

In addition to worthy trips to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum or the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, participants also get healthy doses of ideology in the week’s programming — surely not what taxpayers think of first when considering educational priorities. The conference begins today and runs through Sunday.

One of this week’s NAME seminars, titled “Talking about Religious Oppression and Unpacking Christian Privilege,” promises to “examine the dynamics of Christian privilege and oppression of minority religious groups and nonbelievers” at “individual, institutional, and societal” levels. With “Christian privilege and oppression” as the starting premise, we think we know whom the purported bad guys would be. Another program, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being,” promises to help teachers “deconstruct their own white privilege,” and thereby become better multicultural educators. At least in our region, we know that our teachers are already multiculturally aware — it’s a requirement of life in this region of the United States.

A taxpayer might ask: Are these seminars really what today’s pressing educational troubles require? In D.C., Maryland and Virginia, we have pressing problems like truancy, violence and poor literacy. What, if anything, do these seminars accomplish in those regards? Five days of political indoctrination shouldn’t be high on anyone’s list.

We suspect that this conference amounts to a few worthy programs intermingled with much less useful fare, the latter as the majority. It would amount, as many conferences do, to a chance for the politically and ideologically like-minded to kibbutz. That shouldn’t be financed with tax dollars, however. Teachers should be required to pay for that on their own.

Like any private nonprofit association, NAME is free to examine whatever issues it chooses and espouse whatever doctrines. But giving public-school teachers half a week off to attend this conference — and in some cases with public money for travel and lodging, not to mention public funds to pay those substitute teachers — is a misuse of public education dollars. Whether teachers are “Unpacking Christian Privilege” or unpacking Samsonite, they should do so on their own dime and time.

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