By Elaine Donnelly
Center for Military Readiness
STARRS Board of Advisors Member
After months of criticism of the philosophy and attitudes of Kelisa Wing – a self-identified “woke administrator” who was appointed to head the Diversity & Inclusion Office of Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools – the Department of Defense has reassigned Wing and disbanded her former office.
This is good news, but unless Congress intervenes, problems of critical race theory (CRT) teachings in the DoDEA worldwide school system likely will continue. This is the largest school system in the world, educating approximately 67,000 military dependent children.
DoDEA Director Tom Brady, a strong supporter of Kelisa Wing and her woke philosophy, had previously praised her as “exactly the right person” to do the job. After Wing’s reassignment, Brady announced that he plans to disperse DEI specialists like her into existing units as part of a “reconfiguration of talent.”
Controversies surrounding Wing erupted in January, when House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Austin. The letter, which strongly objected to Ms. Wing’s radical views, reported abrasive statements and writings promoting divisive elements of critical race theory.
The Rogers/Banks letter also asked for more information about Ms. Wing’s activities, including instructional materials that promote “the exclusion, denigration, or discrimination against any individual or group of people on account of race or ethnicity, critical race theory, or culpability of any living person for historical actions.”
Ms. Wing responded to the lawmakers’ letter by disingenuously claiming that her tweets and published comments disparaging white people didn’t count because she was speaking only as a private citizen and not on the job. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), members of the House Armed Services Committee, are not buying it.
During a recent HASC hearing, Gaetz and Stefanik grilled Gil Cisneros, the DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, asking why Wing (whose reassignment occurred just before the hearing) had not been fired.
The lawmakers displayed excerpts of Wing’s racially tinged tweets referring to the “CAUdacity” of “white folx” who left her “exhausted.” They also asked Cisneros about materials resulting from a six-month investigation of Wing that Cisneros was supposed to conduct.
Cisneros claimed that he had not read a series of glossy multi-colored polemic booklets for elementary school students titled “Racial Justice in America,” written by different authors “With Kelisa Wing” as their “Content Advisor.” Cisneros also echoed Wing’s claim that private racist comments made while off-duty don’t count.
Primers in Woke Prejudice
CMR reviewed three of the six booklets in the Racial Justice series, titled “What is White Privilege,” “What is the Black Lives Matter Movement?” and “What is Anti-Racism?” This is a brief analysis of excerpts from the 32-page booklets, printed on glossy colored paper:
- CMR Analysis: Racial Justice in America – A Series for Grades 4-6
Among other things, passages in the booklets claim, “In the United States, racial bias and racism have led to something called White privilege. . . and “The actions that the people who founded this country took and the laws that they created deeply hurt people who were not White. That hurt continues today.”
The Racial Justice booklets also encourage children to become involved with Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network – a controversial activist movement that instigated many violent demonstrations after George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.
One of the booklets denies that BLM had equated anyone saying “All Lives Matter” with white supremacist groups, and does not mention the founders’ self-proclaimed “trained Marxist” philosophy and abundant evidence that the organization misused millions in donations.
The Wing-endorsed booklets constitute entry-level CRT indoctrination for elementary school children. Each of them misleads students with half-truths, prejudicial stereotypes, CRT-influenced history lessons that misrepresent or omit essential facts, and disparaging comments about America’s Founding Fathers and documents such as the U.S. Constitution.
CRT Is Worse in Defense Department Schools
It is difficult to imagine a more destructive philosophy in the military, an institution that depends on unity, not division.
The exposure of military dependent children to toxic CRT ideology is worse than in civilian schools, since the messages conveyed could confuse children and cause them to question why their own parents are serving in defense of a nation that they learned in school was founded in “racism” by white supremacists.
And in future years, it may become harder to recruit children of military families, who usually are more inclined to consider military life. This will compound chronic recruiting problems that threaten the All-Volunteer Force.
According to Open the Books, a non-profit government watchdog, eleven DoDEA schools have carried 45 copies of the Racial Justice series booklets in their libraries. Since the entire Pentagon seems to be in the grip of woke “anti-racist” groupthink, it is up to Congress to act.
Woke-Ism in Defense Department Schools – What Can Congress Do?
The Department of Defense runs DoDEA schools, and DoD policymakers are accountable to Congress. The aggressive questioning of DoD Personnel & Readiness Under Secretary Gil Cisneros made progress toward the goal of eliminating critical race theory indoctrination from Defense Department schools, including the military service academies.
In the 117th Congress, several members offered amendments to halt CRT instructions in DoDEA schools, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) teamed up with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) to publish a booklet calling for action:
Several NDAA amendments were offered last year, and in the 118th Congress, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), together with co-sponsors Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) plan to reintroduce legislation to defund critical race theory programs in DoDEA schools:
As Christopher Rufo explains in his article, Racism in the Name of “Anti-Racism,” diversity, equity, and inclusion programs are closely tied to critical race theories defining America as a “racist nation divided between white oppressors and minority oppressed.” Rufo adds that CRT instructions teach that Society, using the logic of ‘anti-racism,’ must actively discriminate against the oppressors in order to achieve social justice.”
Given how radical CRT programs are, members of Congress should defund such instructions, and consider legislation to strengthen military parents’ rights.
Protection for Military Parents Rights
In 2022 Rep. Stefanik sponsored a “Parents Bill of Rights,” which would have strengthened the rights of military parents who want to oversee their children’s education.
Rep. Stefanik’s bill passed with a 39-19 bipartisan vote in the House Armed Services Committee and again on the floor. (Similar legislation sponsored by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) was defeated in the Senate Armed Services Committee on a 13-13 tie vote.)
However, House/Senate negotiators watered down the Stefanik amendment, turning it into a “Sense of Congress” resolution, not binding law. Congress should revisit the issue in 2023.
If Congress passes a law protecting parents’ rights to oversee their children’s education, civilian parents would be supported in their demands to do the same.
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