As a former Rio Rancho High School principal and RRPS district administrator, I am always gratified when community members take an interest in our children’s education.

But faux concern designed to start culture wars in our community — as demonstrated by Patrick Monroe Brenner’s Sept. 5 letter to the editor — is a distraction from our solemn duty to educate our children and prepare them for success in the real world.

His ill-informed letter claims that critical race theory is part of the RRPS curriculum. Not so, says Superintendent Sue Cleveland.

He is upset that our teachers are trained in cultural competence. Adopting extremist talking points, he deliberately confuses cultural competence with critical race theory in order to scare the community.

In great contrast to his misplaced concern about a theory, I see concrete opportunities to better serve our students such as by strengthening career technical education; ensuring universal availability of high-speed, reliable broadband, which is now essential for learning; imparting financial literacy; and more.

When the extreme right wing talks about “critical race theory,” they are distorting an obscure academic concept to attack any acknowledgement of the existence of historic and structural racism in this country, and its echoes in the present.

In the context of education, cultural competence is the ability to understand and constructively teach students from cultures or belief systems different from those of the teacher. The focus is not on theory but on how best to engage the student in the classroom.

The letter takes offense at the very idea that implicit racial bias exists, as if coming to grips with the fact that we all have biases makes someone a racist. It does not.

You don’t have to be a racist or morally flawed to harbor implicit bias or to have blind spots about the experiences of other cultures. The point is that it’s implicit, not deliberate, and culturally competent educators with the self-awareness of their own bias will be fair to all of their students.

Deliberately attacking cultural sensitivity is intended to muzzle educators who seek to impart a full and accurate understanding of our history and our current reality, disturbing as some of it assuredly is.

Research shows culturally competent teaching positively benefits students behaviorally, emotionally and academically. Why would any well-intentioned parent, teacher or community member object?

With some Republican support, the state legislature recognized the need for cultural competence when it passed the Black Education Act this year. The act provides for training of school personnel on racism, racial awareness and sensitivity.

It helps educators foster an equitable and culturally responsive learning environment for all students.

As educators, we have not done our job until we prepare our students to be successful in the real world and to properly fulfill their role as citizens. This means nothing less than providing a quality education conveyed in a culturally sensitive manner.

Gary Tripp
Rio Rancho