VA school teachers studied book that decried 'adultism,' 'religious privilege'

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Educators at a Virginia Beach middle school appear to have studied a book that decried Christian privilege and attacked “adultism,” or the idea that children must be controlled.

School board member Vicky Manning brought attention to the issue on Tuesday when she released a video criticizing the book’s content and releasing purported emails showing involvement from the school’s administration.

“The Racial Healing Handbook” by Anneliese Singh contains controversial ideas seen in media reports about other school districts. It also criticizes the concept of “adultism,” or a way of allegedly oppressing children.

It reads: “Age identity refers to your chronological age or the age you are perceived as in society. When it comes to age identity, there are a couple of systems of oppression operating. Adultism is the oppression of children, adolescents, and those who are perceived as young in society.”

The book adds that adultism “manifests in the idea that children and adolescents must be controlled and don’t have agency over their own bodies and decisions.” One of the examples provided is that “A White trans child’s gender pronouns are not used or respected by educators in their school.”

In another portion highlighted by Manning, the book suggests privilege is behind Christians assuming that atheists are wrong.

“Christian privilege is a hallmark of religious/spiritual privilege, and is present in many countries in the West (e.g., US, Europe, Latin America),” it says, before adding that religious privilege can look different in various parts of the world. It adds that “people can enact religious privilege when they assume those under the atheist umbrella (e.g., agnostic, nonbeliever) are ‘wrong’ or ‘misguided.'”

Documents by a nonprofit after a public records request indicate that dozens of educators of various positions were involved in the book study, which was led by the assistant principal.

Fox News has reviewed an email that appears to show Lynnhaven Middle School’s assistant principal telling recipients that their next meeting would be on Feb. 22. The recipients included nearly 30 names that matched names found on the middle school’s website.

“Please ensure that you have read and completed the activities of chapter 5 and 6 of The Racial Healing Handbook,” it reads.

Manning, who has been a vocal critic of critical race theory (CRT), sounded off in video posted Tuesday. “I am just disgusted and appalled … it includes vile indoctrination that attacks Christianity,” she said.

She also criticized the book’s racial content, which says, among other things, that “when you are born, racism is already in place. There are clear messages that being White is superior and being a person of color is inferior.”

It also argues that denial of racism can look like White people are enacting White supremacy. Because “racism is pretty much everywhere,” the book argues, people will unexpectedly find themselves in the “flow of racism.” 

Manning was mentioned in a letter that allegedly came from multiple teachers protesting the book study’s discontinuation. 

“How can we have conversations with our students if we cannot have conversations amongst ourselves?” asked the letter which was addressed to the school board. “We know that Ms. Manning’s views are not shared by all of you, but we did want to make you all aware of this recent event and express our concern about the future of equity, professional development and discourse in our school and the school system at large.”

While Virginia Beach City Schools declined to comment for this story, the teachers’ letter argued: “The stakes are simply too high to abdicate our role as educators and advocates for inclusion, equity, diversity, and racial and social justice.” It also argues that “any and all efforts to promote diversity, inclusivity, and racial and cultural understanding in our schools should be embraced and promoted.”

The incident was just the latest to demonstrate the hotly contested nature of ideas associated with critical theory – and critical race theory in particular. 

Across the country, parents and educators have risen up to attack what is often described as a divisive ideology that relies on indoctrination rather than actual education. Several states have already passed or considered bans on related ideas.

Manning told Fox News that she intends and her colleagues intend to submit an anti-CRT resolution for a vote before the school board. It holds that all schools and related entities cannot teach or promote the idea that any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race.  It also contains an explicit prohibition on CRT, as well as teaching that capitalism is racist, people bear responsibility for past sins of others in their race, and that the U.S. is a systemically racist country.

While much of the reported diversity trainings and curricula include concepts such as systemic racism, ideas about Christian privilege and “adultism” aren’t as commonly seen in media coverage.

It’s unclear what exactly Singh meant by “adultism” and a request for comment wasn’t immediately returned after Fox News emailed a contact on her website.

It seems as though her use of the word is primarily concerned with controversies over gender. She previously told the American Psychological Association that “when you’re working with transgender and gender nonconforming young people, what this group of people has to face additionally is adultism. So, adults tend to have power in the lives of young people. We know that. But, when you add a gender identity that may or may not be accepted by society and families, then you’ve got a different situation on your hands.” 

A paper on ResearchGate also purportedly shows a study in which Singh attempts to gauge “transprejudice” through awareness of “adultism.”

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