Ethnic Studies “pedagogy” was at the root of the Santa Ana Unified School District’s decision last year to basically ditch academic rigor and expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an Ethnic Studies teacher who works at SAUSD.

During an interview earlier this year on Radio Santana, an online radio program that comes from a radical Left perspective (one of the co-hosts begins broadcasts with a reminder we are “living on stolen lands”), SAUSD Ethnic Studies teacher Carah Reed was asked about how the onset of the pandemic affected the SAUSD.

Reed spoke approvingly about the SAUSD Board’s decision to essentially drop academic expectations for students: no students could be failed, no homework, etc.:

“So they said, ‘Bring up zero to 55%’. They said, ‘No deadlines! Late work! Everyone have late work! They said, ‘No more homework!'”

“I told my students, ‘Look at what the school board has done because they care about you,” Reed told the hosts.

Reed attributed this laxity to the fact that “We have school board members who are Ethnic Studies-based, pedagogically,” Reed gushed. She was referring to SAUSD Board members Carolyn Torres (who teaches Ethnic Studies in the Anaheim Union High School District) and Rigo Rodriguez, a Chicano Studies professor at Long Beach State University.

Reed, a far-left political activist, noted that she had helped elect Rodriguez and Torres.

She also criticized the lack of support by her department and teaching colleagues for wanting to continue to hold students academically accountable.

“My department, they told me that they don’t care, they’re gonna figure out ways ’cause these kids need to fail,” Reed claimed.

Reed’s rant raises questions. Are progressive educators like herself doing students any favors by just letting them off the hook? Is it just to give 55% to students who use the pandemic as an opportunity to blow up their school obligations? Is that fair to students who study and do their work?  If you tell students they won’t get homework, they can turn in assignments whenever they want (or not turn them in at all) and the worse they can expect is a 55%, is it surprising when many of them accept the invitation?

The phrase “killing with kindness” comes to mind. It’s reasonable and necessary to wonder if Read’s approach does more harm than good.

SAUSD wasn’t alone in throwing in the academic towel last year. The Anaheim Union High School District took a similar path. As in other school districts, this laissez-faire approach contributed to learning loss – not that AUSHD Trustee Al Jabbar agrees.  At a Board meeting this spring, when staff requested approval of an agenda item to address learning loss, Jabbar not only claimed there was no learning loss as a result of closing the schools – but asked that the term “learning loss” no longer be used.