by Karrie Marren
Williamson County parents are upset about the recently adopted “Wit & Wisdom” curriculum being used with their children. On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, about 350 parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens settled into their seats at the Moonshine Harley-Davidson in Franklin, Tennessee to listen to Robin Steenman and her Moms For Liberty-Williamson County discuss how the concerning curriculum snuck its way into our school district. In a mostly Republican, conservative, community on the outskirts of Nashville, residents were shocked.
Williamson County School (WCS) Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, David Allen, and the district’s Superintendent, Jason Golden, have praised and protected “Wit & Wisdom.” Many residents feel the curriculum borders on indoctrination. According to the English Language Arts (ELA) textbook waiver application submitted by Jenny Lopez, Director of Curriculum at WCS, on February 13, 2020, the rationale for requesting “Wit & Wisdom” was that it “will supplement the K-2 with the [Tennessee Department of Education] TDOE foundational skills curriculum.” There are still many questions left unanswered; however, we do understand now that the Tennessee Department also offered Wit & Wisdom supplements free to school districts.
You may be asking yourself how could this curriculum get into any Tennessee school district. The short answer? Governor Bill Lee’s appointed Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn and money. Let me connect the big dots for you.
Penny Schwinn is the education commissioner for our state. She was appointed by Governor Bill Lee and took office in February 2019. Before she landed the top job here in Tennessee, she founded a charter school in her hometown of Sacramento, California called the Capitol Collegiate Academy where she is still an active board member. This is a particularly important point to remember.
A deeper dive into this charter school reveals that this school is using the “Wit & Wisdom” curriculum as well. Her school is one of two schools in the nation on a panel for GreatMinds.org, the company that publishes “Wit & Wisdom.” Ms. Schwinn then played favorites and brought “Wit & Wisdom” to Tennessee as a voting member for the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission.
Due to her questionable behavior and loops, she created to get “Wit & Wisdom’s” failed curriculum here she was subsequently removed as a voting member which also included taking away her ability to grant waivers. However, this all happened too little too late for our children here in Williamson County Schools. Jenny Lopez and Jason Golden had already, with amazing timing, got their waiver approved before she lost those rights.
To make matters worse, she granted a multimillion-dollar contract to TNTP, for a Tennessee reading initiative. Her husband has ties to this company. According to TNTP’s website, their passion and mission are to end “injustices of educational inequality in every classroom.” This may sound harmless to the unsuspecting ear. However, TNTP – founded in 1997 as “The New Teacher Project” – appears to embed itself in social justice and its teachings.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, there are other blog posts written advertising and recommending the use of “Wit & Wisdom” which ‘Great Minds is sharing free, recorded daily lessons…’ with another blog post recommending the Wit & Wisdom workbooks. In taking a moment and reflecting on these dots that are strung together, I cannot help but NOTICE and WONDER, is this all just coincidental?
We cannot help but wonder, if parents and families of Williamson County Schools ever had a chance to protect our children from the curriculum. We wonder if parents would be shocked at what is being taught to their children. Parents need a seat at the table. They need to review this curriculum for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Math adoption is next. What’s next? Eureka MATH? If the pattern holds, we know what our district leadership will do – whatever they are told by state officials without any concern for our children.
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Karrie Marren is a Williamson County parent and resident who is concerned with the lack of transparency for parents in public school education.