In an April 3rd, 2013 editorial titled “Schools push a curriculum of propaganda“, George F. Will posited that:
Wisconsin’s [Department of Public Instruction], in collaboration with the Orwellian-named federal program VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America; the “volunteers” are paid), urged white students to wear white wristbands “as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband.” A flyer that was on the DPI Web site and distributed at a DPI-VISTA training class urged whites to “put a note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder to think about privilege,” to “make a daily list of the ways privilege played out” and to conduct an “internal dialogue” asking questions such as “How do I make myself comfortable with privilege?” and “What am I doing today to undo my privilege?”
However, the referenced flyer was apparently not distributed by DPI-VISTA trainers:
The document previously available via this URL is no longer here. It was not a VISTA document, nor was it a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) document.
The file that had been here was a document included in a resource packet offered to VISTA volunteers as they left a training session. The document was not referenced in the training, and the training session was conducted by individuals external to DPI and VISTA.
Unfortunately, misconceptions and misinformation about the
document are being spread by an out-of-state entity that has no
connection with the public schools in Wisconsin.
To be absolutely clear, no DPI official has asked, requested, or
encouraged any school district, educator, or student to wear any wristband, and none of our VISTA volunteers have had any children put on any wristbands.
Again, no DPI official, nor any VISTA volunteer has used, requested, or encouraged anyone in any school to use the wristband activity as ‘reported’ and shared by external groups.
The “reported and shared by external groups” statement refers to a Town Hall blog post referencing the same document.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued a followup announcement to this same effect, here:
Important Updated Message:
It is unfortunate that this agency has to respond to misconceptions and misinformation being spread by an out-of-state entity that has no connection with the work being done by the public schools in Wisconsin.
First and foremost, and to be absolutely clear, no DPI official has asked, requested, or encouraged any school district, educator, or student to wear any wristband, and none of our VISTA volunteers have had any children put on any wristbands. To be clear, no Wisconsin students were given white wristbands.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction participates in the federal Corporation for National and Community Service/AmeriCorps VISTA program, and can place up to seventeen VISTA volunteers in local community projects across the state that have specifically requested hosting a VISTA volunteer.
As part of the requirement allowing the DPI to participate in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, the DPI must:
Arrange and be responsible for providing in-depth on-site orientation and training for all incoming AmeriCorps VISTA members at the beginning of their service.
Assist in the provision of pre-service, and in-service training (online or face-to-face), as specified in the Project Application.
The AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers are serving in schools and communities that are culturally and racially diverse. Wisconsin schools are becoming increasingly diverse, and therefore multiple opportunities for training are provided to the VISTA volunteers to help them better serve the schools, and communities in which they placed. This year’s volunteers have been offered training many topics, including: grant writing, community engagement, conflict resolution, volunteer management, family-school-community partnerships, and race/ethnicity, among others.
The material about the white wristbands was not covered/discussed in a training VISTA volunteers received—training which was conducted by an outside (non-DPI) group. At the end of a training session, a packet of ‘additional resources’ was offered by the trainers as the volunteers left. Subsequently, that entire resource packet was posted to the VISTA web site.
Again, no DPI official, or any VISTA volunteer has used, requested, or encouraged anyone in any school to use the wristbands as ‘reported’ and shared by external groups that thrive on spreading rumors and misinformation. The bottom-line is that there is no wristband program in Wisconsin.
So, are we going to see a retraction (or a correction) from The Washington Post’s editor?