Education News

Top Biden Education Official Brought Critical Race Extremist to San Diego School District

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

President Joe Biden’s pick for deputy secretary of education helped organize a training for the faculty at her San Diego school district in which the school’s white teachers learned that they regularly “spirit murder” their black students.

a school bus is parked on the side of a road: School buses remain unused while schools are closed in San Francisco, Calif., April 7, 2020.

© Stephen Lam/Reuters
School buses remain unused while schools are closed in San Francisco, Calif., April 7, 2020.

In September, the San Diego Unified School District — led by superintendent Cindy Marten — hosted critical race theorist Bettina Love for a presentation on “Abolitionist Teaching.” The presentation centered around Love’s book, “We Want To Do More Than Survive,” and argued that staff must become “abolitionists” and “build conditions that create institutions that are just, loving, equitable, and center Black lives.”

Love’s presentation also mentioned the concept of “spirit murdering,” a term she explained in May 2019 as “a death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color.”

A participant in Love’s San Diego presentation, who first described the training to City Journal, told National Review that Marten introduced Love and “was very supportive of the programming and of the speaker as well.”

Notes from the presentation show that Marten urged those attending to “recognize our privilege and bias and how it affects our decisions.”

“She was obviously very familiar with what this woman was going to be talking about and delivering,” added the training attendee, who requested anonymity for fear of repercussion. In addition to the faculty training, Love also gave the keynote address to the San Diego Unified School District’s Principal Institute in August.

Marten was tapped for the deputy education secretary post on January 18th and must be confirmed by the senate.

In recent months, the San Diego Unified School District has revamped its grading system in an effort to “be an anti-racist school district,” in order to address the existence of a 13 percent disparity between the rates of failure for black and white students (20 percent of black students had received a failing grade in at least one class during the previous school year verses seven percent of white students).

In response, the district shifted away from the traditional grading method, which reflects the average grade the student received on assignments over the course of the semester, and began disregarding factors like timeliness in turning in assignments and classroom behavior.

“We don’t think if you had let’s say F’s early in the term and then you aced that final that that should average out to a C,” school board vice president Richard Barrera explained. “We think you’ve shown you’ve mastered the material and should get an A.”

Though Marten announced in December that 40 percent of high school students are failing or are at risk of failing — meaning they received at least one D or F grade — compared to 47 percent in 2019, data showed that 1,000 more high school students failed at least one fall class in 2020 than in 2019.

Marten was selected by the Biden administration earlier this month to serve alongside Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona, the former commissioner of education for Connecticut.

The decision was panned, however, by the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, which called it “troubling” — though the chapter noted that “Marten in the past year has attempted to correct harm by conducting anti-Racist trainings.”

“Educators at all levels must have a track record of dismantling the harmful practices of Anti-Blackness and institutional Racism that occur in our schools,” the San Diego NAACP’s statement reads. “Cindy Marten’s district has a historical pattern of disproportionately high suspensions and expulsions of Black students in San Diego.”

Marten was first appointed San Diego superintendent in 2013 after serving as an elementary school principal. The San Diego Union Tribune noted at the time “[i]t’s highly unusual — virtually unheard of — for a large urban school district to hire a superintendent so quickly and without community input.” Marten’s appointment was approved unanimously by the five-person board one day after the prior’s resignation.

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About the author

Mamie M. Arndt