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Carol Kocivar / ON EDUCATION

Actual members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in cross burnings after a white pride rally in rural Paulding County near Cedar Town, Georgia in April, 2016. Photo courtesy of AP /John Bazemore

SFUSD needs to take responsibility.

SFUSD: the White Supremacy Strawman

• • • • • • • • November 21, 2023 • • • • • • • •

At last!  SFUSD has identified why students aren’t learning. Ready? The real cause is White Supremacy. That’s right. White Supremacy Culture is preventing our students from learning.

That insight is revealed in the Superintendent’s report on how the school district is going to look through its equity lens and improve instruction in our high schools.


  1. Did white supremacists secretly infiltrate the school board and the math department and ban the teaching of algebra?
  2. Did white supremacists intentionally choose a curriculum that fails to teach students how to read in our elementary schools?
  3. Did white supremacists go door to door urging parents not to send children to school after the pandemic?
  4. Did white supremacists ignore the WARNING SIGNS that district spending was higher than its revenues?
  5. Did white supremacists urge the School Board to spend precious time debating school names?

I think not.


Let’s not blame white supremacy for the failure of the district to teach our children well.”

Below is a quoted excerpt from the school district Deeper Learning Framework that sets up White Supremacy as the strawman.


Instructional Priorities of Deep Learning

Equitable Access and Demand

Curricula is designed and instruction is delivered to ensure access for all and cognitive demand for “each and every student, supporting independence, not dependence.”

White supremacy culture is furthered by perfectionism and either/or thinking - simplifying complex work, assuming deficit, and with little room for personalization. 


Students interact in meaningful ways through conversation, or participation in collaborative structures.  The educator serves as facilitator and a collectivist or communal approach is used.

White supremacy culture is furthered by individualism and power hoarding - a focus on competition with individual winners and losers. 


The thinking and questioning of students is the focal point. Students build connections to prior learning and experiences and are independent learners who make their thinking visible.

White supremacy culture is furthered by worship of the written word and objectivity - the belief that there is only one right way to do things (learn skills, content to digest, etc.) and that content can be objective. 

Assessment for Learning

Students are provided with time, space, and support to set goals, assess learning, track progress, and present their growth.  Students are seen as co-designers of their assessment, owning and sharing their learning. 

White supremacy culture is furthered by paternalism - educators making decisions for students and families without their input, and sense of urgency along with quantity over quality - where process is rushed and not valued.


What I find offensive is the failure of SFUSD to look clearly in the mirror and accept some responsibility for what has happened to our students. Instead, the district sets up White Supremacy as a racist strawman to blame.

Could it be that the school district superintendents in the dead of night gave the orders to use white supremacy teaching strategies? Cortines? Rojas? Ackerman? Garcia? Carranza? Mathews?  Are these the White Supremacists you are referring to?

Deeper Learning: Good teaching by another name.

How do we fix our high schools?  SFUSD now calls its strategy ‘deeper learning.’  Years ago, when my kids went to public schools in San Francisco, it was called ‘quality instruction.’  Deeper learning’ strategies are time proven strategies for student success.

As the district rightfully acknowledges:

In many ways, we are traditionalists, and we admit that most of the ideas here are as ancient as philosophy. To learn by doing. To learn by asking questions. To learn with people. This isn’t innovation, nor is it— to use a buzzword of the day—’disruptive’. The concepts are not radical; they’re fundamental”.

Let’s not blame white supremacy for the failure of the district to teach our children well.

To thine own self be true.

Carol Kocivar is a children’s advocate and lives in the Westside. Feedback:

November 20, 2023

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