‘Whiteness, and White privilege are unpopular and avoided topics’
A professor of education at the University of New Mexico doesn’t think much of Wyoming principals and superintendents when it comes to diversity and social justice.
William “Toby” Holmes, a Native American who researches “leadership communications, Motivating Language Theory, and Culturally Sustaining Instructional Leadership,” administers an annual survey which makes use of a new “framework” known as “Cowboy Epistemology” to analyze responses.
According to Holmes’ paper titled (oddly enough) “Cowboy epistemology: Rural school and district leadership for diversity and social justice,” this framework (in Wyoming) is exemplified thusly: “Whiteness and its dominating effects are clear in historical and the present time […] Learning critically and more deeply about institutional racism, Whiteness, and White privilege are unpopular and avoided topics in most institutional spaces.”
Holmes told UNM Newsroom “I got these really off the wall kind of responses. I was just totally shocked” regarding his survey.
What sort of answers from school administrators could have elicited such a statement from Prof. Holmes? These: “I don’t have time for diversity” and “We’re in an elementary school and we don’t do that.”
Holmes (pictured) is worried that kids in a state which is over 90 percent white would be “in absolute culture shock” when/if they leave the state, and that the Wyoming’s growing diversity might not “be matched at a teacher and leadership level.”
“I think we need to always be thinking about what we need to be doing in terms of professional development and continually always be reflecting and thinking about where we are, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it in working with students of color and working to ensure that we are working and engaging appropriately,” Holmes said.
To give you more of an idea of where Holmes is coming from, here’s part of his paper’s abstract, published in the Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice:
It appears that despite double-digit increases in diversity between 2010 and 2018, some Wyoming school and district administrators continue to demonstrate actions and practices congruent with the demographic divide, cultural homophily, and Whiteness along with cultural worldviews that suggest a failure to: (1) value diversity, (2) engage political organizations and individuals in a manner that advocates for the needs of diverse students, (3) implement multicultural instruction beyond superficial means, and (4) engage the community in tolerance for others who are different from the traditional White Wyoming ranching, conservative, materials extraction, isolationist way of life.
Holmes argues that “more needs to be done” to “resist the negative influences” of the aforementioned “demographic divide, cultural homophily, and Whiteness [and] Cowboy Epistemology.”
But this is quite interesting, however: According to the latest educational statistics, Wyoming places fourth in the country on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Score State Rankings.
Here’s the (very) interesting part: Compared to the national average, every sub-group in 4th and 8th-grade math and reading (such as Hispanic, Special Ed, English as a Second Language — a total of 32) is higher with but four exceptions: Special Education and white 8th-grade reading, and white 4th and 8th-grade math.
That’s right — three of only four sub-groups that didn’t meet the national average involve … white students!
To put it another way, Wyoming seems to be doing something right. The last thing it needs is a university EdD trying to push critical race theory-based “diversity” measures on school staff and students.
IMAGES: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock; U. New Mexico