Knox County Schools (KCS) approved a dual enrollment course from East Tennessee State University (ETSU) that has historically taught Critical Race Theory. The KCS board of education approved the course offering, “SOWK 1030: Cultural Diversity,” as part of a larger list of ETSU dual enrollment courses during their meeting last week.

The course is characterized as pre-professional social work curriculum focused on social justice topics such as “diversity within diversity,” referring to intersectionality – a concept coined by preeminent Critical Race Theory scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw.

The required textbooks listed for fall 2020/spring 2021, “Multicultural Social Work Practice: A Competency-based Approach to Diversity and Social Justice,” discussed Critical Race Theory at length.

Per the agreement, KCS must provide the course materials, online supplemental instruction, and administrative support for the ETSU instructor.

The current course description matches the course descriptions listed for the fall 2020/spring 2021 course description.

Introduces the knowledge necessary for social work practice with disadvantaged, marginalized, and oppressed groups and advances a philosophy that people come first and must be treated with dignity and respect. Issues of power, privilege, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, civil rights, historical and legal heritage, and contemporary news events are central course components. Opportunities are provided for examining personal values and beliefs and their impact on interactions with minority groups. Although several aspects of diversity are examined, the emphasis is on race, class, gender, ethnicity, and affectional orientation. Implications for sensitive, effective, and affirming practice with minority groups are examined.

In May, the Tennessee legislature banned K-12 schools from teaching Critical Race Theory.

The first of the course’s learning outcomes asked students how the “dominant social institutions in our society create and perpetuate privilege, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, inequality, and injustice.”

The course also required students to submit a role-playing essay, asking students to write a narrative from the perspective of historical individuals like “Harvey Milk fighting for gay rights” or characters such as “a woman with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, seeking an abortion prior to the Roe v. Wade decision.” Among those listed was Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist who founded Planned Parenthood with an explicit intent to eradicate the disabled and Black individuals. The syllabus asked students to write Sanger’s narrative as if they were “trying to take birth control to women to save their lives.”

It also required students to write an end-of-course reflection paper on awareness of themselves, including their own biases.

The Tennessee Star submitted an open records request to KCS last Friday for the most current version of the course syllabus. KCS hasn’t responded to our request as of press time.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “East Tennessee State University” by Smoke321. CC BY-SA 4.0.