Kenny Xu is a renowned commentator on education, identity politics, and our culture’s war on meritocracy. He is the author of two books: An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy and the subject of this interview, School of Woke. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and The Federalist. He is the President of Color Us United and lives in North Carolina.
Awareness of the rise of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools, and of how it has shaped the education system, has taken the USA by storm over the last few years. Parents truly became conscious for the first time of how deeply entrenched CRT was in the classrooms, and their eyes were opened to the insidious agenda thoroughly embedded in public (state-funded) schools. As a result, CRT and parental rights in education became some of the most explosive issues facing Americans today—and parents in many other Western countries.
Shedding all responsibility and sowing suspicion
In this short, vital interview, Kenny Xu engages in a fascinating dialogue with David Scott about Critical Race Theory in the USA, the woke agenda and its impact on the achievement and mental health of schoolchildren and young people.
Scot opens with the observation that the doctrines being foisted disturb children with respect to who they are and where they come from. The agenda creates anxiety and destabilises children, sexualises them at a young age and sensitises them to all aspects of race. The ideologies being pushed are hostile to children’s development. Children are taught that everyone is prejudiced against them. This creed is perhaps encapsulated by the notion of wokeness, but people are not familiar with the specific terms used by the woke in their indoctrination. Scott invites Xu to explain the findings of his book with regard to Critical Race Theory.
Xu responds by highlighting that the agenda is deployed to suggest that in the US, racism is not solved as long as blacks underachieve in comparison to whites or Asians. As long as they underachieve, there is racism; ergo, the USA itself is racist. Xu himself ascribes the ethnic differences in US academic achievement rates to culture, families and state policies.
Scott points out that history demonstrates that after the American Civil War, black society was robust enough to be able to advance through a century of lingering genuine racism. American blacks advanced even when they faced state-imposed prejudice against them, such as that keeping them out of the workplace. Each generation was an improvement on the previous one and black people took huge steps forward in difficult circumstances, surpassing whites on several measures of attainment and family strength. Solid families had strength and took a genuine pride in what they were building. After 1967, black efforts at further self-improvement were undermined by the decision that Washington would fix things for the blacks. In fact, this statism caused crime and family breakdown, and undermined the numerical growth of black society by abortion. In recent decades, race theory came along to tell black people that none of their troubles can possibly be their fault; they are effectively the fault of racists.
Xu explains that the doctrine of white fragility represents the extreme of what critical race theorists lead people to believe. This doctrine enjoins whites to remain silent and not contradict whatever any black person says. The concomitant teaching of white guilt suggests that a white person can never put any responsibility on individual black Americans for any of their shortcomings. Xu underlines that these teachings are not obscure philosophies, but genuinely represent the view of Americans who want to shift the blame for any failings of theirs onto anyone else. Wokeness particularly appeals to people who don’t want to take responsibility in their lives.
Kenny Xu expands his analysis: teachers and administrators are ignoring parents, even though parents have a right to criticise the curriculum. Some people will say there is no problem with the lesson plans they can see, but people need to understand the actual direction of the school system. Teachers are being instructed to lower standards for black Americans and must emotionally affirm children to be comfortable at their worst. Schools are now operating at the expense of learning, whereas we need to teach our children to work hard. In contrast, the woke insist that a child is perfect just the way he or she is.
David Scott introduces the evidence that, strangely, the slur of ‘whiteness’ is also impacting on black and Asian Americans who succeed. They are being tagged with the guilt of white supremacy, a made-up term to tarnish anyone who advocates the universal values of a good work ethic and advancement by merit. Those who dare espouse these values, which built Britain and America, are now being labelled as unfair or inherently racist.
Xu responds that children and the whole population are told that white people have concocted such values in a covert effort to oppress black people. Critical race theorists would claim that the metric itself is wrong: they suggest that we place too much value on intelligence or on a society structured on intelligence. Xu believes that IQ is part genetic and part environmental. He states that he can’t work on genetics, but he can on environmental issues, underlining that America as a nation needs to acknowledge the truth of these factors.
Scott comments that the British working class has now become the underclass. He suggests that in the UK, we are seeing similar levels of failure in working-class people as occur with American blacks. He suggests that a great deal of the cause is environment and culture, and points to the University of the West of Scotland, which takes it upon itself to warn of racism on campuses and in society. He points to a chart giving a range of supposed stances by white people, ranging from white supremacy to white indifference. Scott highlights that we live in meritocracy, but under the label of white indifference, being honest is characterised as being racist. These lies must worsen our educational position, he suggests.
Forced apologies for supposed racism
Kenny Xu focuses on northern Virginia, where some ethnically diverse schools in the Washington DC commuter belt were high-achieving. Their successes were to be challenged and undermined by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organisation which claimed to speak on behalf of blacks. Under pressure, one school district capitulated to the NAACP, which resulted in an ‘audit’ that claimed to reveal shocking racism. Ultimately, the school authorities had to do penance for their supposed racism. With examples like these, Xu stresses that his book serves as a warning to those in the school system,
Scott broaches the subject of (East) Asians doing well in the USA and notes the increasing criticism of them for their achievements. He also highlights that any smaller group that is overachieving now runs the risk of losing academic places that its members have won by merit.
In response, Xu stresses that his book School of Woke chronicles indulgent affirmation, which does not inspire children to achieve, and which leaves them victims. Increasingly, nobody wants to be the best at school, as young people don’t see the rewards. Asian Americans are taught from birth to aim to be excellent and to be high-achieving, but schools increasingly push back, telling them that they are achieving too much, are aiming too high, that the school wants them to be ‘normal’. A by-product of this victimhood is that teachers are left frightened that if one child in their class is higher-achieving, it is taken as read that they must be discriminating against others.
Feelings do not make science
Scott moves on to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. He suggest that technical education was the last area to fall victim to the woke agenda. STEM is based on thought and on the imperative of finding the right answer. It is not opinion-based; it is reason- and induction-based. He would have thought that this would have been a group of subjects immune from wokeness.
Xu agrees that in STEM subjects, feelings don’t matter. He believes the rise of emotionality in teaching coincides with lowering of mathematical standards. He adds that the woke are trying to get rid of mathematics altogether in favour of woke social subjects. For mathematics, you don’t have an opinion in the first place; but Critical Race Theory obliges opinions, teaching as its foundational doctrine that everything is racist. This social-emotional teaching is antithesis to mathematics.
Yet we are seeing a great increase in Social and Emotional Learning. Schools now often labour under the conviction that their main job is to affirm the feelings of children. Some of this drive is supposedly to counter depression, but what the schools are teaching is itself depressing: you live in an unjust country and the world is about to burst into flames. Xu admits that as a child, he himself was scared after some of these kinds of lectures. Other examples include insisting to children that white people will lynch you and it’s the end of the world. If you want to de-stress people, Xu argues, then tell them that they can live well and achieve. He adds, to solve the emotional problems of children, how about not feeding them depressing stuff?
Scott asks Xu what he thinks about President George W. Bush and his administration’s No Child Left Behind agenda. In the first instance, Xu is of the view that No Child Left Behind forced many weak American schools to buck up, as they faced losing federal funding for failure. So it was an agenda that produced some results, but the soon-to-be-President Obama heavily criticised the agenda when campaigning and he hobbled No Child Left Behind. Obama’s approach was to say that the US Government would not penalise schools by removing funding. Hence, schools could do what they wanted. A law that inserted the federal level into education has now bloated the education system and made it unaccountable.
Scott returns to the subject of Critical Race Theory being embedded in education while deviant sex education is nevertheless being criticised. Parents have been demonstrating against sexualisation on British streets. Richard Lucas of the Scottish Family Party elicited the most astonishing example of the contradictions of school sexualisation when his quoting from explicit materials being taught to young children induced Joanna Murphy of the National Parent Forum for Scotland—not from the government or the school system!—to wave madly at him to stop because the event was being livestreamed. The irony was that content made for delivery to small children could not be repeated in front of the adult public, as it is admittedly obscene. David Scott stresses all this comes from queer theory and its derivatives.
Scott asks Xu what he thinks of queer theory. Xu answers with the observation that queer theory seeks to suggest that the child is repressed by Puritan norms. Of course, some children do want to explore their sexuality, and teachers encourage this under the queering agenda. Hypersexualised pre-teen consequently go as far as raping each other in school toilets. Never lower discipline, Xu insists, as this makes things worse. Some children are narcissistic, and they enjoy parading around insisting, “Look at me; I am a guy in a dress.” Teachers do not know know how to handle this phenomenon now. In his book, Xu urges a fight for well-adjusted, high-achieving children and the use of proper discipline.
Xu adds that parents must push back. They must get on the school board (after this interview was recorded, Loudoun County parents did just that and overthrew the appointment of every last member who had sexualised and race-baited their children). Parents committed to mathematics and literacy must continue to push for education and be represented. They should insist, “I deserve a seat at this table.”
David ends the interview with a short summary of examples of parents fighting back. He focuses on the castigation of Loudoun County school board. A Chinese lady addressing the board said, “You are now teaching our children to be social warriors. When I was growing up in China, they used class [as the tool of division] instead of race. Children and teachers were turned against each other. Red Guards destroyed statues. This is a US version of the Chinese Revolution and it has its roots in the Cultural Revolution.”
David Scott cites the one-minute school board address by retired senator Richard Black of Virginia. It is immoral to teach that girls are boys and boys are girls and to force children and adults to lie about their sex; the bigotry is disgusting. Scott adds in closing:
So is teaching children to hate each other due to their skin colour. The bigotry is outstanding. Bigotry is being used against people who work to make a better life for themselves. Black has become white. The agenda is working to make your ideas, which are correct, become dirty. It is bigotry. Stand up for what you feel is right. Do not fear. Speak boldly about evil installing itself in schools and amongst our children.