Privilege Bingo: Military Kids Need to Check their Privilege?

And so do white boys who don’t share a bedroom or take the school bus, according to Fairfax County Schools

Erika Sanzi | Sanzi Says

Schools across the country are increasingly obsessed with identity and it’s not unusual to see classroom resources and lesson plans that include activities focused on the concept of unearned privilege. White Privilege. Male privilege. Cisheteronormative privilege. The belief that being a member of the “dominant culture” automatically imbues one with privilege undergirds most diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and practices and is a basic tenet of critical race theory and critical gender theory. 

Fairfax County Public Schools may have just outdone themselves on the lessons-on-privilege-front with a district-approved English lesson that includes a bingo game. The usual suspects of course appear on the card: white, male, Christian, cis, heterosexual. But this version of the game includes a square that has ignited a justifiable firestorm.

One of the identities that imbues privilege, according to the game, is being a military kid. That’s right—if one of your parents is deployed overseas, you are privileged. If you have to move every three years, leaving behind your friends and teammates and perhaps a home you have grown to love, you are privileged. Gold star families? Privileged. 

On the one hand, it is unsurprising that a district as far gone as Fairfax could be so tone deaf as to label the children of the 1% of Americans who volunteer to serve their country as privileged. This is who Fairfax county schools has become. It has become the norm for them to shame students and families for their immutable characteristics, including the level of melanin in their skin. They yell and scream about equity and anti-racism and inclusivity when really, they epitomize intolerance. The district has shifted so far away from its mission of educating students to become a bastion of activism and ideology.

It would be one thing if these lessons were absurd but benign. But the brutal truth is that the school district, and many others like it, are peddling dangerous ideas to other people’s children. 

Let’s take a closer look.

According to the Bingo card, being mentally healthy is a form of unearned privilege. They are teaching students that they are privileged if they have not lost a loved one. All the boys in class are being told that they are automatically privileged simply because they’re male. 

After initial complaints, Fairfax Schools defended the assignment and confirmed that it had been approved. The following email is a response from the assistant superintendent:

The screen shot you reference comes from an approved FCPS English Curriculum lesson that is centered around students selecting a “choice” test and examining in detail the author’s perspective on a wide-range [sic] of issues. Students are asked, in the lesson, to read critically and think critically about the author’s perspective on several fronts including the author’s privilege that may or may not be present in the work. Students are then asked independently and self reflectively to juxtapose their thoughts regarding any perceived privilege they think they may have and how they would potentially rewrite portions of the text. Students are not asked or required to report out their self-reflections. This lesson is an adept vehicle to push student thinking to challenge the author’s thoughts/conclusions and to sharpen their ability to critically read selected texts. — Assistant Superintendent Douglas A. Tyson (as reported by Luke Rosiak at Daily Wire.)

But a few hours later, they changed course, sort of.

One the one hand, it’s a positive development that they responded to outrage over the idea that a military kid has unearned privilege. On the other hand, the fact that they don’t see a problem with the rest of the squares on the Bingo card is evidence that they are not serious people.

This article was first published sanzi.substack.com. Erika Sanzi is a self-described very imperfect mom of three sons, wife, former educator, former school board member, and Director of Outreach at Parents Defending Education.

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