Schools gone woke: a view from America | An American Educator

am an American educator who began teaching nearly two decades ago. During that time, I have taught at some of the most prestigious private secondary schools in the United States. Starting about five years ago, these schools began to be consumed by woke ideology.

When I say “consumed by woke ideology” I mean that these schools are obsessed with sophomoric and divisive notions of diversity, equality, and justice; increasingly hostile to freedom of expression; addicted to cancelling anything that offends the woke movement; and prioritising activism over understanding as the goal of education.

The pendulum will not swing back because the woke movement is not a pendulum; it is a steamroller

I am writing this letter to alert those we may describe as “sleep-wokers”. A sleep-woker is one who has not taken the woke creed to heart, yet nevertheless tacitly complies with the linguistic, pedagogical, political, and moral imperatives of wokeness. Sleep-wokers go through the motions; they are like religious folk who say prayers without thinking, attend worship services without engaging, and perpetuate dogmas without believing. I was a sleep-woker. In some ways, due to a combination of timidity and tiredness, I still am.

Sleep-woking, like sleepwalking, is very dangerous. While sleep-woking, an English teacher can unwittingly help cancel Chaucer, Keats and Conrad in the name of decolonisation. A biology teacher might find herself obliged to deny important differences between the sexes. A football coach will not be able to cheer on a player after a strong tackle, as strength and physical violence smack of toxic masculinity.

Wokeness has proven to be oppressive and totalitarian rather than inclusive and liberating

Most of my sleep-woking colleagues are good people. Like me, they were lulled into complacency by a woke take-over that was slow and subtle. What’s more, some changes were initially promising and even corrective — of course we should pay more attention to marginalised voices and overlooked narratives, and I am glad that we now do. To bemoan an expanded curriculum is simple chauvinism. In the end, however, wokeness has proven to be oppressive and totalitarian rather than inclusive and liberating.

It is worth noting that I have been a supporter of the left for most of my life. The only political donation I have ever made went to a candidate in the most left-leaning wing of the most left-leaning party in American politics. My objection is to the effect of woke ideology on education, not to liberal politics. My grievance is that teachers are increasingly under pressure to adopt the woke agenda or be ostracised.

I empathise with the difficult situation that top school officials find themselves in. As wokeness takes over American culture, schools face enormous pressure to follow suit. That said, those with the power to stop the degradation of education have a special responsibility to do so, and those of us with less power have a responsibility to remind our superiors of their duty….[    ]

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