Higher Education

Left-wing activists capturing OU College of Education

August 17, 2021

David Randall, Ph.D.

Picture a snake halfway through its meal: The part outside the jaws seems unchanged, but you know the snake will soon swallow the whole beast.

Now picture the state institutions that train teachers. The woke activists there haven’t finished swallowing Oklahoma’s education schools, but they soon will. What they do already is bad enough.

The Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma has shifted its self-description. It not only prepares its students to work as “professional educators for the classroom” but also “for careers in diverse fields such as administration, professional counseling, literacy, and advocacy.” Advocacy. That's the word of art for professional agitation for radical causes. Rainbolt declares that its purpose is to include vocational training for the permanent revolution’s activist cadres.

The activists have set up the bureaucracy to tighten their hold on Rainbolt. A “multicultural committee” helps the college develop programs that promote “multicultural awareness and respect for diversity.” The committee is said to have “contributed items regarding diversity issues to the biennial College Climate Survey administered by the Climate Committee.”

Rainbolt reports that it interweaves “diversity advocacy” into its faculty searches: “All members of a search committee are considered active advocates for the university’s commitment to intentionally act to create a diverse and inclusive community. The diversity advocate is a full, voting member of the search committee.”

Rainbolt now has two “diversity liaisons.” These dedicated personnel will convert ever more of Rainbolt to woke activism.

Already the University of Oklahoma has begun to tilt its internal funding to subsidize the “research” of the education school’s activists. Because inequities “start early,” the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships now supports Diane Horm for secondary analysis “to investigate associations among neighborhood factors and the development of executive function in young children.”

The OU Arts and Humanities Forum awarded a faculty grant to Associate Professor Mirelsie Velázquez for “Space, Place, and Schooling: African American and Indigenous Oklahoma, 1865-1925.” Velazquez hopes “to challenge monolithic readings of schools as not only sites of oppression within Oklahoma and Indian Territories, but similarly speak to how both groups enacted agency to situate these spaces as sites of liberation prior to statehood.”

Rainbolt sponsors conferences, such as the “Diversity Scholars Conference” and the “Social Justice in Education Conference,” which both forward the activists’ careers and give them a further means to disseminate their propaganda. At the “Social Justice in Education Conference,” Rainbolt professors Kirsten Edwards, Neil Houser, and Heather Shotton helped lead a workshop on “Social Justice in the Classroom: Inclusive Teaching Praxis.”

Oklahoma’s education schools are almost certainly beyond reform.

National organizations also work to forward the careers of activists at Rainbolt. Rainbolt happily publicized the good news that the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) gave a Special Merit Award to members of the Indigenous Scholars Collective. The collective includes two of Rainbolt’s faculty, Heather Shotton and Natalie Youngbull. “The Indigenous Scholars Collective has generously worked with ASHE to help the organization recognize, understand, and transform its complicity in colonial norms and practices.” The Spencer Foundation, meanwhile, awarded a $50,000 conference grant to Siduri Haslerig and Kirsten Hextrum to organize and host a “Colloquium on college sport (in)equity: Working within and beyond the law to achieve intersectional racial justice praxis.”

These funds, internal and external, support the substantial number of radical pedagogues who use their professional perches on Rainbolt’s faculty to forward identity politics and activism. Rainbolt “research” is a tissue of radical activism.

But the clearest indication of activist inclinations is provided by the faculty’s research and professional activities. Amy Bradshaw writes on “reframing interdisciplinarity toward equity and inclusion.” Kirsten Edwards focuses on “black women theorizing curriculum studies in colour and curves,” while Siduri Haslerig zeroes in on “affirming race, diversity, and equity through black and Latinx students’ lived experiences.” Vickie Lake writes on “fostering social justice through service-learning in early childhood teacher education.” Shotton writes on “indigenous motherhood in the academy;” Velázquez on “Puerto Rican women and the quest for educational justice in Chicago.”

Within Rainbolt, several of the departments have committed themselves further to the radicals’ agenda. The “Instructional Leadership & Academic Curriculum” program commits itself “to support and promote diversity, social justice, and service.” The “Early Childhood Education Institute,” with cultish fervor, has declared its pledge that “Black Lives Matter” and that it will work “toward rooting out systemic racism, bias, and injustice. As part of that effort, our full staff recently wrapped up a series of three study-and-share sessions on becoming an anti-racist workplace ... each team member ... [made] an individual commitment to take action in the next month to continue their journey towards being anti-racist.”

Rainbolt’s newest hires will accelerate the school’s radicalization. Rainbolt advertised for faculty “whose intellectual traditions are grounded in the following areas: (1) Queer, Trans, and/or Sexualities Studies in Education as intersecting with anti-racism/oppression in education, critical race theory, ethnic studies, queer studies, diaspora/migration/immigration studies, disability studies, or decolonial studies in education; (2) Critical Policy Studies in Education as intersecting with anti-racism, anti-oppression, equity, and justice in education.”

A wide variety of Rainbolt courses now push radical advocacy, including:

Of course Rainbolt also acts as a feeder for Oklahoma’s K-12 diversity bureaucracies. Stephanie Williams, who serves on the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s “Education Professions Division Advisory Council,” was hired last year as “Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” for the Norman Public Schools.

Rainbolt isn’t unique. Radical activists have also begun to take over the education school at Oklahoma State University. But Rainbolt by itself, Oklahoma’s flagship education school, does quite enough already to radicalize Oklahoma’s future teachers. Soon it will do worse.

In a good world we could reform Oklahoma’s education schools. In our world, they are almost certainly beyond reform. We must focus instead on creating alternate pathways to teaching licensure, which allow would-be teachers and education administrators to avoid undergraduate or graduate education school courses.

As a second best, we should stiffen subject-matter requirements for teachers, so at least they learn something besides radical propaganda before being let loose in the schools.

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]