Person

Xan Tanner

Nationality:

American

Organization:

Panorama Education

 Xan Tanner (also known as Alexander Tanner) is the co-founder of Panorama Education, an education analytics company. Tanner is the son-in-law of Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland.

In 2021, the connection between the two came under scrutiny as Panorama’s curricula have been criticized by right-leaning journalists and political figures for allegedly promoting the radical-left ideology of critical race theory. In 2021, Garland ordered the FBI to investigate alleged threats against schools by parents opposed to critical race theory, prompting some right-wing critics to accuse Garland of using government powers to attack opponents of Tanner.

Education and Family

Xan Tanner earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Yale University. [1] Tanner worked as the head of metrics for Yale’s Men’s Basketball Team from 2010 through 2012. [2] He developed scouting reports for opposing players and coaches, as well as internal reviews. [3]

At Yale, Tanner reconnected with Rebecca Garland, a daughter of then-federal appellate judge Merrick Garland, now the U.S. Attorney General under President Joe Biden. Tanner and Rebecca Garland wed in June 2018. [4]

Panorama Education

In 2012, Tanner and fellow-Yale graduates Aaron Feuer and David Carel founded Panorama Education, a company which used data and surveys to design school curricula. In 2013, after the three had graduated, Panorama joined technology incubator Y Combinator where Tanner and the co-founders met with Mark Zuckerberg and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. The following year, the company relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, which became its permanent headquarters. Panorama received early funding from Zuckerberg, Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments, SoftTech VC, and Yale University. [5]

In 2017, Panorama raised $16 million in private funding from sources including the Emerson Collective, Spark Capital, Owl Ventures, SoftTechVC, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. According to data released by the nonprofit OpenTheBooks, Panorama also received more than $27 million in payments from state governments and public-school systems from 2017 to 2020. [6]

Tanner worked as president of Panorama until December 2020, but he retains a board seat. [7]

Controversy

Panorama claims that it does not promote critical race theory. [8] However, media reports have identified Panorama content focused on race. The Daily Mail reported that Panorama ran a free online workshop entitled “SEL [Social-Emotional Learning] as Social Justice: Dismantling White Supremacy Within Systems and Self” that included an article entitled “How White Supremacy Lives in Our Schools” among its recommended resources for teachers. The essay identified rallies supporting President Donald Trump as being comparable as symbols of white supremacy to the Ku Klux Klan. [9] [10]

This workshop is no longer available on the Panorama website, and in fact most workshops from prior to 2021, including several that discuss race and racism in schools, such as “Expert Q&A: Leading Adult SEL to Combat Systemic Racism & Implicit Bias in Schools” and “Live Workshop: Strategies for Addressing Racism with Students and Caring Adults” have been scrubbed from the online list of available resources, unless accessed using archived versions of the website. [11]

Critics drew attention to the relationship between Tanner and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland after Garland ordered the FBI to investigate alleged threats against school boards from parents who disapproved of efforts to implement critical race theory-inspired curricula in schools. [12]  The Washington Examiner, a right-leaning news outlet, editorialized that Garland should resign from his position due to the egregious nature of his memo ordering the FBI to investigate parents upset at their school boards, or at the very least recuse himself given the apparent conflict of interest stemming from having a close family member’s firm implicated in the controversy. [13]

Post-Panorama

In October and November 2020, while still working at Panorama Education, Xan Tanner worked as a canvasser for the presidential campaign of Joe Biden (D). In December, Tanner left Panorama and became a canvasser in Georgia for the Democratic Party during U.S. Senate run-off elections. In June 2021, Tanner worked for three months on the U.S. Congressional campaign of Nina Turner (D-OH), the former president of Our Revolution and co-chair of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) 2020 presidential campaign. Turner was defeated in the Democratic primaries. [14] [15]

Yale Halloween Costume Controversy

In October 2015, Yale University administrators sent a letter to the student body providing guidelines for “appropriate costumes” to wear for Halloween, which included condemnations of costumes which could be perceived as offensive to racial and ethnic minorities. In response, Yale lecturer Erika Christakis wrote an open letter to the Yale community criticizing some of the guidelines and asking for a more open intellectual environment of discussion surrounding the question of costume appropriateness. Christakis and her husband, Nicholas Christakis, a Yale professor, faced tremendous backlash on campus, including public harassment. Both would eventually resign, though Nicholas retained a position at Yale. [16]

On November 12, 2015, shortly after the controversy erupted, a group of alumni started a petition condemning the Christakises and calling upon Yale to combat institutional racism. As of November 30, the letter had 2,250 alumni signatures, including Tanner’s. [17]

References

  1. “Xan Tanner.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/xantanner/. ^
  2. [1] “Xan Tanner.” TOPIO Network. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.topionetworks.com/people/xan-tanner-55c2ec24b20924dc55000a48 ^
  3. Donchak, Lisa. “Interview with Xan Tanner, Co-Founder, Panorama Education.” People Analytics Conference. March 26, 2016. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://peopleanalyticsconference.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/interview-with-xan-tanner-co-founder-panorama-education/. ^
  4. “Rebecca Garland, Xan Tanner.” The New York Times. June 17, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/17/fashion/weddings/rebecca-garland-xan-tanner.html. ^
  5. Alspach, Kyle. “How Panorama Education got Mark Zuckerberg as a backer and picked Boston for its HQ.” Boston Business Journal. January 27, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2014/01/panorama-education-mark-zuckerberg-tech.html. ^
  6. Andrzejewski, Adam. “Panorama Education, Co-Founded by U.S. AG Merrick Garland’s Son-In-Law, Contracted With 23,000 Public Schools & Raised $76M From Investors.” Forbes. October 12, 2021. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2021/10/12/panorama-education-owned-by-us-ag-merrick-garlands-son-in-law-contracted-with-23000-public-schools-for-social–emotional-climate-surveys/?sh=2559dfb44e60. ^
  7. “Xan Tanner.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/xantanner/. ^
  8. “FAQs.” Panorama Education. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.panoramaed.com/faqs. ^
  9. Montilla, Altagracia. “How White supremacy Lives In Our Schools.” Medium. July 1, 2020. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://medium.com/@altagraciamontilla/how-white-supremacy-lives-in-our-schools-e541c5b3355. ^
  10. Lepore, Stephen M. “Education firm founded by AG Merrick Garland’s son-in-law issued ‘resource’ for teachers that claims supporters of Donald Trump are white supremacists.” Daily Mail. October 10, 2021. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.panoramaed.com/faqs. ^
  11.  [1] “Education Webinars and Virtual Workshops.” Panorama Education. Archived from the original November 1, 2020. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20201101011636/https:/www.panoramaed.com/webinars. ^
  12. [1] Andrzejewski, Adam. “Panorama Education, Co-Founded by U.S. AG Merrick Garland’s Son-In-Law, Contracted With 23,000 Public Schools & Raised $76M From Investors.” Forbes. October 12, 2021. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2021/10/12/panorama-education-owned-by-us-ag-merrick-garlands-son-in-law-contracted-with-23000-public-schools-for-social–emotional-climate-surveys/?sh=2559dfb44e60. ^
  13. “Merrick Garland should really resign, but the least he can do is rescue himself.” Washington Examiner. October 17, 2021. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/merrick-garland-should-really-resign-but-the-least-he-can-do-is-recuse-himself. ^
  14. “Xan Tanner.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/xantanner/. ^
  15. “Nina Turner (Ohio).” Ballotpedia. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://ballotpedia.org/Nina_Turner_(Ohio). ^
  16. “Halloween Costume Controversy.” FIRE. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://www.thefire.org/resources/spotlight/yale-university-school-feature/halloween-costume-controversy/. ^
  17. “An Open Letter Regarding Recent Events at Yale.” Medium. November 12, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2022. https://medium.com/@yalealumsagainstracism/an-open-letter-regarding-recent-events-at-yale-d459e9ef6820. ^
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