Politico

In crackdown on race-related content, Education Department targets internal book clubs, meetings


The Education Department plans to scrutinize a wide range of employee activities — including internal book clubs — in search of “Anti-American propaganda” and discussions about “white privilege” as it carries out the White House’s demand that federal agencies halt certain types of race-related training.

In an internal email this week obtained by POLITICO, the department ordered a review of agency contracts for diversity training and “internal employee activities” to root out topics such as “critical race theory” or materials that suggest that the U.S. is an inherently racist country. The crackdown comes as the department implements a government-wide directive the White House issued Friday to stop what it called “un-American propaganda training sessions” about race.

To implement that policy, the Education Department will require each of its offices in D.C., as well as regional outposts throughout the country, to review a range of training materials, including outside contracts for diversity workshops, plus content produced internally at the agency.

An Education Department spokesperson did not comment on the internal agency guidance Wednesday night.

The department’s guidance largely echoes OMB’s memo in describing the type of content that is now disfavored in government training sessions: any material “that teaches, trains or suggests the following: (1) virtually all White people contribute to racism or benefit from racism (2) critical race theory (3) white privilege (4) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country (5) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil (6) Anti-American propaganda.”

Department officials, according to the email, have already concluded that at least some of its training activities — including a program called “Unconscious Bias and Conversations in the Midst of Change” — would be allowed to continue because they do not include any of the topics prohibited by the OMB memo.

The email said department officials have similarly determined that all diversity and inclusion training offered by the agency’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Services complies with the new OMB policy.

The OMB memo, first reported on Friday evening by The Washington Post, states that “it has come to the President’s attention” that the federal government is spending millions of dollars to train its workforce using “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”

“The President has directed me to ensure that federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” OMB Director Russ Vought wrote in the memo to agencies.

The OMB memo comes amid growing racial unrest across the country following high-profile police killings of Black Americans, which has turned into a major issue in the presidential campaign. Trump over the weekend tweeted “Not any more!” in response to a person on Twitter who claimed that critical race theory was the “greatest threat to western civilization” and had infiltrated the federal government.

The president also retweeted various other accounts, including conservative media posts, praising his crackdown on certain types of anti-racism trainings in the federal government. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has accused Trump of stoking racial divisions in the country and has promised to address “systemic racism,” if elected.

The Education Department’s move to restrict discussions among employees also comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos finalized a new policy this week aimed at promoting free speech in other venues.

DeVos’ rule, which was finalized Wednesday, cuts off some Education Department funding to public universities that run afoul of the First Amendment or private universities that violate their own speech policies.

President Donald Trump threatened on Twitter over the weekend to nix federal funding for California schools that teach the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which reexamines the role of slavery in the formation of the United States.

The Education Department has not commented publicly on Trump’s tweet, nor has it confirmed that the agency is actually investigating whether to revoke federal funding from schools that teach the 1619 Project.

It is not clear how the Trump administration could make good on such a threat since longstanding federal law prohibits the Education Department from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” of the nation’s schools.

The 1619 Project has been a target of conservatives, who slam it as “propaganda” and revisionist history. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), for instance, has introduced legislation that would prohibit federal funds from being used to teach the material in elementary and secondary schools.

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