Could Garland’s School Board Crackdown Be Related To Social Justice Education Kingpin Son-In-Law
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who earlier this week injected the FBI into the nationwide debate over far-left local school curriculums, has a son-in-law whose company has gotten rich peddling K-12 educational materials obsessed with “systemic racism,” “intersectionality,” and white supremacy.
Alexander “Xan” Tanner, who married Garland’s daughter Rebecca in 2018, is the co-founder and president of Panorama Education, a major player in the teacher training and curriculum industry. Panorama pushes race-focused surveys and conducts trainings on systemic oppression, white supremacy, unconscious bias, and intersectionality — all under the rubric of “Social-Emotional Learning.”
Critics who viewed Garland’s recent order as an effort to chill parental outrage over controversial theories finding their way into mainstream classrooms say the family connection is a bad look.
“At the very least, it certainly creates an appearance of a conflict of interest,” Ian Prior, a former DOJ spokesman and the executive director of Fight For Schools, told the Washington Examiner.
Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican, was blunter in a Wednesday tweet.
“The AG’s war on parents is not only helping the teachers unions, but his own family!” Banks wrote.
Prior’s group and others have rallied parents to protest at local school board meetings over the teaching of “critical race theory” and other leftist perspectives on race, as well as controversial topics such as gender fluidity, in school classrooms.
Garland’s memo this week warned of a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against schools and said the DOJ will “discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.”
While the memo did not reference any specific threats or acts of violence against school officials, it came just days after the National School Board Association likened such attacks to “a form of domestic terrorism.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on whether Garland had a conflict of interest. But Panorama’s own promotional literature shows his son-in-law traffics in some of the very educational materials that have drawn the ire of parents around the nation.
One workshop titled “SEL as Social Justice: Dismantling White Supremacy Within Systems and Self” is designed “to explore actionable strategies for using SEL as a vehicle for social justice and advocacy in your community.”
The slideshow calls on activists to agree that “I affirm my intersectionality,” alludes to “unconscious biases,” and defines “systemic racism” as “the systematic distribution of resources, power, and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white.”
It encourages educators to “learn more about how Panorama centers the voices of community stakeholders to dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death , Panorama co-founder and CEO Aaron Feuer released a lengthy statement on “Panorama’s Stand Against Systemic Racism.” The Panorama leader emphasized that “education represents one of the most important levers for change in America” and said that “we commit to dismantling systemic racism.”
Panorama’s revenues are not public, but the company boasts it “supports 13 million students in 21,000 schools.” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education co-led a $4 million round of seed funding for the fledgling Panorama in 2013, and last month, Panorama announced a $60 million investment round with investors including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Not all parents want their children exposed to Panorama’s worldview.
Parents converged at a Moore County, North Carolina, Board of Education meeting in June to oppose what they called an “indoctrination platform” and to oppose the nearly $200,000 the company had been slated to receive. Last month, the Parents Defending Education advocacy group criticized Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia for agreeing to pay Panorama $1.84 million.
Parent groups say they don’t object to children being taught about the nation’s checkered history regarding race, but they do not want young children classified as victims or oppressors based on the color of their skin. But Panorama’s lessons mirror the critical race theory perspective that skin color is the dominant factor organizing society.
Panorama cites the definition of “social-emotional learning” created by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, which released a June 2020 webinar on “SEL as a Lever for Equity and Social Justice” in which CASEL President Karen Niemi said that “we see SEL as a tool for anti-racism.”
One Panorama lesson, dubbed the “Social-Emotional Learning Survey,” argues that “it is essential for educators to consider how situational or systemic forces, such as racism and racial bias, shape students’ lives.”
Panorama generates its curriculum materials in collaboration with a controversial Harvard Graduate School of Education-based project called Reimagining Integration: Diverse & Equitable Schools. RIDES says its goal is to ensure that “all students understand the role that institutional racism and other forms of oppression play in our society.” The “RIDES Booklist 2021” includes White Fragility, White Rage, and How to be an Antiracist.
Elizabeth Breese, vice president of marketing at Panorama, told the Washington Examiner the company is “not affiliated with any particular academic philosophy, including critical race theory.”
“Panorama only uses student data for the purpose of helping schools and districts better serve their students,” Breese said.
Asked about its co-founder’s powerful familial connection, Breese said Panorama and the nation’s top prosecutor aren’t working together.
“The only relationship between Panorama Education and Attorney General Merrick Garland is that Panorama’s co-founder Xan Tanner is AG Garland’s son-in-law,” she said.
Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Source: Washington Examiner: Critics question Garland’s school board crackdown after son-in-law revealed as social justice education kingpin