|Back to December Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 275||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||DECEMBER 2008|
|'Social Justice' Education is Already Shaping America's Future|
Naegeli and Merritt speak for the growing cohort of young, evangelical Christians willing to vote Democratic despite their moral conservatism on issues such as abortion. 32% of evangelical voters between the ages of 18 and 29 chose Sen. Barack Obama on November 4. Only 16% of that demographic group voted for John Kerry in 2004. In October, 55% of registered Catholic voters between the ages of 18 and 34 favored Sen. Obama, while just 40% planned to vote for Sen. John McCain.
In interviews, in political blogs, editorials, and casual conversation, young Americans like Naegeli and Merritt are identifying "social justice" as one reason they are choosing Democratic candidates, even when they disagree with those candidates on other issues.
William Ayers, one of the leading exponents of "social justice" education in schools, made headlines in the recent presidential election as a former Weather Underground terrorist and associate of Barack Obama. While some scoffed at conservatives who tried to call attention to Ayers's radical ideas, the "social justice" education that is already occurring in America's classrooms was a significant factor in the 2008 presidential campaign. Seven out of every ten voters between the ages of 18 and 29 now favor expanding the role of government, and agree that the government should do more to solve the nation's problems. Overall, 66% of voters under 30 voted for Obama.
Ayers-style "social justice" education has already influenced young Americans, even those who deeply disagree with the Left on abortion, gay marriage, or other important moral issues. Putting 'social justice' into the curriculum
The week of the election, the most respected education journal, Education Week, featured a front-page article on "social justice teaching." The article served as additional evidence that "social justice" education vitally concerns everyone who cares what the next generation is taught with taxpayers' money.
Education Week identifies Ayers-style "social justice teaching" as rooted in the writings of the late Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire. His best-known book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), is considered a classic text of radical education theory and is regularly assigned in education schools.
After Freire's theories took hold in teachers colleges, they made their way into public schools. Teachers lead low-income and minority kids in Oppression Studies, and schools that specialize in "social-justice teaching" exist in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, among other cities.
Education Week defined "social justice teaching" as "teaching kids to question whoever happens to hold the reins of power at a particular moment. It's about seeing yourself not just as a consumer [of information], but as an actor-critic" in the world around you. This explanation comes from Bill Bigelow, author of Rethinking Columbus.
Bigelow admits that this is "a subversive act in some respects because it is not always encouraged by the curriculum." Bigelow encourages his own students to walk in the shoes of groups that have been oppressed or disenfranchised. He assigns students to role-play oppressed groups in the U.S. and foreign countries. His lesson plans, like most "social justice" lessons, highlight past mistakes in U.S. history to the exclusion of our accomplishments and opportunities.
David Horowitz of the California-based David Horowitz Freedom Center says that "social justice" teaching is "shorthand for opposition to American traditions of individual justice and free-market economics." He says it teaches students that "American society is an inherently 'oppressive' society that is 'systemically' racist, 'sexist,' and 'classist' and thus discriminates institutionally against women, nonwhites, working Americans, and the poor."
The National Association of Scholars reports that "use of the term 'social justice' today generally equates with the advocacy of more egalitarian access to income through state-sponsored redistribution. The phrase is also frequently used to justify new egalitarian rights for individuals and whole categories of people i.e., legally enforceable claims of individuals or groups against the state itself."
It is clear that "social justice teaching" does not mean justice as most Americans understand the term. Those who speak of "social justice" mean the United States is an unjust and oppressive society and the solution is for government to "spread the wealth around." Activists who favor this solution know that influencing public school teachers, who can then influence the rising generation, is the most effective way to disseminate ideas they hope will soon become majority opinion.
Creating 'social justice' classroom resources
Even math teachers can join the fun: Whose Wars suggests that they show their students all or part of Fahrenheit 9/11, the inflammatory and propagandist Michael Moore documentary. Math teachers can then help their students to "see the importance of mathematics as it relates to three controversial issues that were touched on in the movie."
Whose Wars also suggests lessons in which students reevaluate, "Who are the terrorists?" For example, the United Nations has said that sanctions against Iraq killed as many as half a million children. Teachers who use Rethinking Schools' suggestions will guide their students to decide that those who imposed the sanctions against Saddam Hussein's inhumane regime were, in fact, the real terrorists.
Rethinking Schools also offers such resources as Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, and Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers, which shows teachers more ways to "weave social justice issues throughout the mathematics curriculum."
Groups that lobby for "social justice" education rarely pull punches in asking teachers to take specific political stances in the classroom. In an interview entitled "A Pedagogy of Resistance," Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, urges educators to prioritize "social justice" education over political neutrality or other things the public expects from public school teachers. "The first thing teachers have to do," says Zinn, "is make a decision for themselves that they will not be obedient in staying within the boundaries that are usually set by the principals, school administrators, and parent-teacher associations. The teacher has to make a decision right from the start that 'I am not here just to prepare these students to pass tests so they can move ahead and become successful and take their dutiful place in society.' "
The Lexington Institute, a libertarian think tank, recently issued a report examining "professional development" seminars encouraging teachers to integrate "social justice" teaching into the classroom.
NAME, the National Association for Multicultural Education, sponsors annual conferences with seminars such as "Our Work as Social Justice Educators: A Workshop for First Timers," "Teaching for Social Justice in Elementary Schools," "The Unbearable Whiteness of Being: Dismantling White Privilege and Supporting Anti-Racist Education in our Classrooms and Schools," "Talking About Religious Oppression and Christian Privilege," and "Creating Change Agents Who Teach for Social Justice: Working With Predominantly White Middle-Class Preservice Teachers."
Other social justice professional development seminars have urged teachers to begin inculcating "correct" sociopolitical attitudes in children as young as two. The Lexington Institute report asks whether some advocates of universal government preschool have in mind the relative ease with which teachers can impose their views on children who enter full-time school at such a young age.
School boards and principals allocate large amounts of money for teachers to receive this type of training. Registration for NAME's November 2008 conference in New Orleans cost $375 per NAME member or $475 per non-member. Each day-long or half-day institute cost an additional $60 to $175. $159-per-night hotel rooms, airfare and substitute teachers all added to the expense.
The Lexington Institute believes the public pays an even higher price for "social justice" education seminars such as NAME's annual conference. "Ultimately, the heaviest cost comes in precious time lost for learning because teachers have been convinced they need to push a leftist agenda."
"Social justice is a redistributionist political agenda any individual or party is free to advocate," concludes the Lexington Institute report. "But when a teacher does that advocacy in lieu of teaching children literature, math, history, and computer skills, the teacher is engaging in indoctrination, pure and simple." 'Social justice' teaching in the Obama Administration
On National Review Online, Andrew C. McCarthy recently underlined the fact that William Ayers is not the only associate of President-elect Barack Obama's who advocates "social justice" education. Michael Klonsky, another Obama supporter, co-founded the leftist group Students for a Democratic Society with William Ayers, and founded the Maoist organization that became the still-active "Communist Party (Marxist Leninist)."
After becoming one of the first Americans invited to visit Communist China, Klonsky maintained close ties to the Communist leadership until China began experimenting with free market ideas in the 1980s. ("Yes, Klonsky is apparently more committed to Communism than China's own Communist Party," quips McCarthy.)
In 1991, Klonsky co-founded, again with Ayers, the Small Schools Workshop. The Small Schools Workshop explicitly aimed to bring radical leftist teaching into classrooms where it could most powerfully influence young Americans to believe, for example, that capitalism is inherently oppressive and unjust.
Barack Obama helped two boards he sat on to direct nearly $2 million to the Klonsky/Ayers Small Schools Workshop. But his support for Klonsky's ideas has not merely expressed itself in financial patronage. Obama's official campaign website provided Klonsky a special platform, as a blogger on what Klonsky called "education politics and teaching for social justice." In June, after blogger Steve Diamond called attention to this radical blog, all traces of Klonsky suddenly disappeared from the campaign website.
McCarthy points out that Obama's fundamental agreement with Ayers and Klonsky, not his association with them, matters most as the United States enters the Obama presidency. "Get ready for Klonsky's 'social justice,'" McCarthy warns. "It's what Barack Obama calls 'change.'" (National Review Online, 10-22-08)
Not everyone means what Klonsky, Ayers, and Obama mean by "social justice." The group Christians for Social Justice advocates for the rights of the unborn, a far cry from what Obama has in mind. Catholic "social justice" teaching asks what concerned citizens can do for the poor, without advocating Communism or the end of economic freedom.
Young Americans exposed to radically left-wing ideas like those of Ayers and Klonsky generally have little background information at hand to help them evaluate the ideas. The Intercollegiate Study Institute found that seniors at American colleges earned a failing grade of 50.5% on questions testing basic factual knowledge of the market economy. Too many young Americans suffer from similar ignorance of other aspects of their nation's history, institutions and ideals. If public schools focused on teaching basic history, civics, and literacy with as little partisan bias as possible they would better enable the next generation to make well-informed decisions about politics, economics, and justice.