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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
A contentious English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum which has prompted a lawsuit is currently being used in 33 counties in Tennessee.
In May of last year, Moms for Liberty – Williamson County formed a “Wit & Wisdom Deep Dive Team” to take a closer look at the ELA curriculum for which waivers had to be granted by the state. To date, 30 parents have spent more than 1,200 hours looking through the content.
According to Robin Steenman, spokesman for the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty, Wit & Wisdom failed a state review twice before the Department of Education, under Penny Schwinn, granted waivers.
In the curriculum, ELA is intertwined with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – something that conservative parents say is a cover for Critical Race Theory (CRT) and which is now outlawed in Tennessee’s public schools.
The state’s Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn – appointed by Governor Bill Lee – previously founded a charter school in her hometown of Sacramento, CA, where Wit & Wisdom is used. That school, Capitol Collegiate Academy, is one of two nationwide that sits on a panel for the curriculum’s publisher, Great Minds.
While a voting member for the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, Schwinn granted the waivers for 33 counties in the state to use Wit & Wisdom in their school districts. This action ultimately cost Schwinn her ability to vote on the commission, taking away her ability to grant waivers in the future. For a list of counties where Wit & Wisdom is taught in Tennessee, click HERE.
According to Moms for Liberty, the investigation of Wit & Wisdom began after the parents of a 2nd grader exposed to the curriculum “was suddenly ashamed of his skin color and his country” and then more parents became increasingly concerned about the dark and inappropriate content that their children were having to read.
Moms for Liberty found some common themes running through the ELA curriculum which is used in Kindergarten through 5th grade:
- Mean White People
- Suicide Ideation
- Extreme Emotion
- Anti-Nuclear Family
- Dark Imagery
- Age-Inappropriate Topics
- Graphic Death
Age-Inappropriate content was found in the following grades:
1st Grade: Graphic Mating, Gender Fluidity
2nd Grade: Anti-Police, Anti-Fire Department
3rd Grade: Anti-Church, Torture
4th Grade: Rape, Murder, Adultery, Scalping/Skinning, Stillbirth
5th Grade: Gore, Excessive Violence, Alcoholism, Promiscuity & Harmful Relationships
The curriculum is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit that has been filed by parents against Williamson County Board of Education; Jason Golden, in his official capacity as Superintendent of Williamson County Schools; Dave Allen, in his capacity as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment; and Penny Schwinn. Patricia and James Lucente say that implementing Wit & Wisdom in Williamson County violates Tennessee law that prohibits the teaching and inculcation of CRT in Tennessee.
For concerned parents who wish to shield their children from the harmful content found in Wit & Wisdom, Moms for Liberty – Williamson County has an opt-out toolkit on their website.
More information on Wit & Wisdom can be found here.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.