Parents Defending Education has obtained documents from Orange Southwest School District via public records request detailing the curriculum for a class focused on racial justice and activism. The class, called “Racial Justice: PBL Challenge” (PBL stands for Project-Based Learning) is taught at Randolph Union Middle High School in Randolph, Vermont.
The course description states that students “will study the history of social injustice in our country, including the creation of race, the function of class division, and the history of exclusion based on gender and sexuality.” It also aims for students to learn “organizing around social issues and advocating for change through education and civil resistance.” To put this student advocacy into practice, the course requires students to “establish and maintain a Racial Justice Student Alliance” at Randolph Union High School.
Lesson plans for the course detail several films and podcasts used as learning materials for students. One podcast, called “Sounds Like Hate,” details another Vermont high school’s debate over flying the Black Lives Matter flag on campus. The podcast presents the view that opponents to flying the flag are ignorant or racist conservatives, with one community member saying: “Enough of the conservative folks are entrenched in their views…I think there’s just, literally, an oblivious self-righteousness.” The podcast also presents the claim that Vermont is systemically racist and therefore that all white people are subconsciously racist, saying, “If you are raised as a white person in a white supremacist society or in a society where white supremacy is baked into one of the systems, you are going to enact racism in your speech and in your actions throughout your life.” The podcast interviews the mother of a mixed-race student in the Vermont high school, who says, “In Vermont, unfortunately, if you’re not white, you’re black. There’s no Indian. There’s no Puerto Rican. There’s no African-American. It’s all: You’re just black.”
The class also presents examples of “civil resistance” for racial movements by showing students documentaries like “Takeover.” The documentary focuses on the Young Lords’ Party’s (an offshoot of the Black Panther Party for Puerto Rican-Americans) forceful occupation of Lincoln Hospital in New York City in 1970 to demand a socialist society and free healthcare. One of the original participants of the riot says in the film, “We’re not dead—we’re training up a younger generation to be revolutionaries.”
Teachers attended several professional development conferences in connection to the course, including a conference called “Seeing the Racial Water: Combatting Institutional Racism in School” and a conference through the Education Justice Coalition which hosted workshops on youth activism and restorative justice. Another professional development conference was sponsored by Outright Vermont, which describes itself as “a vast community of queer, trans, and allied youth and adults” offering GSA resources and teacher workshops to “create vibrant queer joy in schools.”
The class is currently offered as an elective for high school students at Randolph Union Middle High School.