Professional Standards Commission to remove 'woke' language from teacher training despite pushback
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted to remove some language related to diversity, equity, and inclusion from its teacher training curriculum on Thursday.
More than 10 parents, educators, and activists spoke against the language changes at a public hearing. No activists spoke in favor of the changes at Thursday's meeting.
"We believe that the proposed changes would weaken teaching standards and rob students and educators of the opportunity to freely explore solutions to the thorny issues and entrenched biases that keep our nation from fully investing in the wealth of diversity and its people," John Boyd, Senior director for policy at the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, said.
Christopher Andrews, a teacher at Freedom Middle School in DeKalb County said diversity training helps teachers better support their students.
"Imagine if the higher education institutions that trained me took on this systematic disposition that intentional diversity, equity and inclusion training was optional or not worthy of attention at all," he said. "Would I have been as prepared to make the proper accommodations for my Muslim students, for instance, during a month of holy Ramadan?"
The changes will replace words such as 'diversity' and 'equity' with words like 'fair,' 'different' and 'unique.'
Commission Chair Brian Sirmans said the language change aims to minimize confusion. But, social studies teacher Ogechi Oparah said that the original, more specific terms can help clarify.
"I became a teacher in part because I love to play with language," she said. "I love words and words matter. As a teacher, I am not distracted by the words diversity, equity and inclusion. You use the word clarify as part of your intention."
Oparah also said that if the new language intends to convey the same message, it should not be changed.
"If it doesn't really matter, if there's not a meaningful difference, then in good faith, why change it? After only seven short years, no less? When I think of the political context of this decision, I have to ask myself 'What precedent does this set?' When the winds of political change come blowing, we bend to them," she said. "It says we are root-less. And in a time in which so much has been revealed in this country about the work yet to be done to make things just. I hope that we're not tools of injustice. Our values matter."
The commissioners, who watched the meeting online, voted in favor of the language change unanimously. The new rules will go into effect in July 2023.