Rantz: Tacoma teacher tried recruiting kids to join progressive campaigns in class

Oct 25, 2020, 11:57 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2020, 5:57 am
emily pinckney tacoma teacher...
Emily Pinckney. (City of Tacoma/City Line)
(City of Tacoma/City Line)

While parents trusted schools to teach their kids free of political bias, one teacher in Tacoma recruited young students to join Progressive political campaigns. But that wasn’t all.

Adjunct teacher Emily Pinckney, an area activist, pushed a slew of progressive political positions on students during remote learning sessions.

The class was taught at three specialty schools in Tacoma: Science and Math Institute (SAMI), School of the Arts (SOTA), and School of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art (IDEA).

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SAMI gets political

The elective course from last semester covered “Environmental and Social Justice.” It was introduced to juniors and seniors “in response to social justice issues that students at the three schools were already involved with,” according to a district spokesperson.

It’s not problematic to discuss the Green New Deal during a course on environmental justice. Presumably, you expect a course for older high school students to discuss the issues being debated nationally. But not only does Pinckney offer one-sided lectures, she actively recruited students to join political campaigns that push the policy.

“I specifically am working on the New Green Deal with Washington state,” Pinckney told students. “So especially for young folks who want the opportunity to work on some policy during this time, please email me. It’ll be really fun and exciting. There’s a lot of people who are going to be running for Washington state Senate who support the New Green Deal that’ll be looking for interns. Whether that’s people to help with the community outreach side or whether that’s people to help with these campaigns.”

Even on topics of environmental justice, students should get an objective presentation. There are clearly ideological criticisms of the far-left movement, including from other Democrats. And there are conservative policy prescriptions on environmental issues. But when you have an activist posing as a teacher, it’s hard to get different sides to a movement.

This seems like clear campaign recruitment. The district disagrees.

Tacoma School District doesn’t view this as recruitment

The content wasn’t a surprise to the district. It reviewed the material before it was presented. A spokesperson tells me they don’t view this as recruiting.

“This is an environmental justice class, remember. The instructor mentioned opportunities for students to extend their learning — if they choose,” the spokesperson tells me via email.

The only opportunities presented were likely progressive campaigns and causes, even though there is a Washington-based conservative environmentalist group, American Conservation Coalition (of which I’m an Advisory Board member).

Pinckney didn’t respond to a request for comment so it’s unclear which campaigns she was hoping to benefit by recruiting her students. She was, however, a volunteer helping progressive T’wina Nobles unseat Republican Senator Steve O’Ban of University Place.

The activism didn’t stop at recruiting students. It also included pushing specific progressive causes, like freeing criminal, illegal immigrants from detention.

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Immigration enforcement is racist, apparently

In another presentation, Pinckney focused on the Northwest Detention Center. She tried to tie her anti-Immigration and Customs Enforcement activism to the environment. She claimed the NWDC was committing “human rights violations” against detainees. The violations? Detaining criminal illegal immigrants during a pandemic.

“People are having extended detention and the thing that’s problematic about this is both folks being in these hearings is a health concern,” Pinckney told students, “but them being in extended detention is even more of a health concern. Detainees are the most vulnerable. And part of that is because there’s not a lot of health care in there for them.”

At the time Pinckney made this comment, there had been zero general population detainees who tested positive for COVID. That stat remains accurate today.

But anti-ICE activists have routinely exploited the coronavirus pandemic to target the NWDC. Under the guise of health concerns, these activists just want to release criminal illegal immigrants.

This activism isn’t appropriate

The topics in this class are appropriate, but the partisan presentation is not. Public schools shouldn’t tell kids what to think. They should teach students how to think. Students should be presented with different sides of all political topics and be allowed to come to their own conclusions.

This wasn’t a case of bias coming through despite a good faith effort to be fair. Pinckney is a literal activist in the community and the goal seems obvious: recruit people to the movement. It’s not even clear if Pinckney has training in teaching high school classes. She’s an area environmentalist and a youth volunteer coordinator with the Point Defiance Zoo.

There are no plans, at this time, to bring Pinckney back to the class. It was a one-time course offering.

Parents should use this story as a reminder to constantly talk with your kids. Become better aware of the topics they’re being taught and the way the material is being presented. Have conversations about bias and make sure you’re rounding out their education by exposing them to different viewpoints (including those different from your own if they’re not already getting it). If you don’t, they’ll be shaped by activists in the classroom.

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Rantz: Tacoma teacher tried recruiting kids to join progressive campaigns in class