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"Social Justice” and Other High School Indoctrinations By: Sol Stern
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 13, 2006


Leftist political indoctrination in the classroom is now even more pernicious in K-12 education than it is on the university campus.  While their protestations are often a sham, the higher education professorate at least pays lip service to the ideal of political neutrality in the classroom and of disinterested scholarship. When there have been revelations of professors egregiously indoctrinating students in leftist political views or intimidating conservative students (as in the Ward Churchill case) administrators have responded that these are isolated examples. When confronted with surveys showing that liberals outnumber conservatives in their humanities departments by a factor of 10-1 – or greater – these administrators usually argue that this is irrelevant, because professors are in any case duty bound to keep their personal political views out of the classroom.

Thus the job of reforming higher education can be advanced by revealing the professorate’s hypocrisy, and then by challenging the universities to live up to their own stated ideals. The situation is altogether worse in K-12 education (although perhaps less hypocritical.)  Here we have many of the nation’s leading teacher training and professional  institutions stating openly that it is the obligation of all caring K-!2 teachers to help mold their students’ attitudes on controversial political and social issues. These institutions openly support the idea of teaching and advocating for “social justice,” “peace,” “diversity” and “multiculturalism” in the classroom.

Nor is there any doubt as to what is meant politically by these objectives. For example, the goal of “social justice” as presented in teacher training is biased towards the idea of equal outcomes and racial preferences, rather than equal opportunity and meritocracy. As defined by the education schools, social justice teaching does not allow a teacher, say, to propose in the classroom that democratic capitalism has historically produced the most just society. Nor is it likely that a teacher in training in the education schools would be encouraged to suggest to students that the best way to achieve world peace is to deter aggression through maintaining the military superiority of the United States.

At Teachers College, Columbia University, one of the oldest and most prestigious graduate education schools in the United States, the ideal of “teaching for social justice” is literally infused throughout the curriculum and helps define the mission of the college.  The “scholarly” publishing ventures of the college – Teachers College Record and Teachers College Press – grind out a steady stream of articles and books extolling the benefits of training teachers to advocate for social justice in the classroom. 

One of the leaders in this effort is William Ayers, who took a doctorate in early childhood education from Teachers College in the late 1980s and is now Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ayers will be remembered as one of the leaders of the Weather Underground of the 1960s and 1970s. He participated in numerous acts of terrorism against our democratic institutions during that period, including planting a bomb in the Pentagon. Coming up from the underground in the early 1980s, Ayers found a second act for himself as an education professor (thereby proving F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong.) Without having expressed a word of repentance for his terrorist past, Ayers now promotes the infusion of “social justice” teaching throughout the K-12 curriculum. In fact, Ayers convinced Teachers College Press to launch a book series on social justice curriculums.

“Teaching for social justice continues the difficult task of constructing and reinvigorating a public,” says Ayers. “It builds on a fundamental message of the teacher – you must change your life – and goes a notch deeper: you can change the world.” And, according to Ayers and Teachers College, teachers can “change the world” not only in the social studies classroom, but in every discipline, including science and math. Thus one of the volumes in the book series is titled “Teaching Science for Social Justice.”

Here’s a sample of the Teachers College approach to teaching science: “Science education for social justice is transformative for all participants. Science pedagogy framed around social justice concerns can become a medium to transform individuals, schools, communities, the environment, and science itself, in ways that promote equity and social justice. Creating a  science education that is transformative implies not only how science is a political activity, but also the ways in which students might see and use science and science education in ways transformative of the institutional and interpersonal power structures  that play a role in their lives.”

Now you might think this so unredeemingly stupid and totalitarian that it would fall of its own weight, that it couldn’t possibly have any effect on the real world of American public schools. Well think again.  One of the authors of the above statement, Maria S. Rivera Maulucci, is the director of the Region 1 Science and Technology Center of the New York City Department of Education. She supervises science instruction for over 100 schools. And all New York City teachers have been given a curriculum guide that is dominated by the ideas of a radical education guru from Australia named Brian Cambourne, who believes that all teachers ought to strive to inculcate in their students a “literacy for social equity and social justice.” 

A few days ago we learned about an 8th grade science teacher, also a Democratic party candidate for the Alabama state legislature, who showed an obscenity laden anti-Bush video to his students. Perhaps he was inspired by the Teachers College Press book on using the science classroom for social justice. 

Since each prospective K-12 teacher trained in one of our education schools is likely to go on to affect the lives of thousands of American students, it should be clear why the American public and our elected officials should be concerned about how those teachers are trained and what they are learning, about what is permissible and not permissible in the classroom.

Ideas have consequences. At the present time there are a lot of bad ideas about classroom teaching percolating around the nation’s education schools. It’s those bad ideas that produced someone like Jay Bennish, the Colorado high school who delivered a 20 minute anti-American rant in the classroom and who was exposed by Sean Allen, one of his students. But we shouldn't have to rely on 16 year old high school students bringing tape recorders into the classroom to alert us to examples of wrongdoing.

The public schools are our schools. We pay the taxes that sustain them.  Lacking alternatives, most of us are forced to send our children to schools that may be dominated by Bill Ayer’s totalitarian cast of mind. We – that is parents and taxpayers – should cut these pernicious doctrines off at the source, by demanding that our education schools and our teacher organizations themselves adopt a professional code of ethics, something like a Hippocratic Oath for educators. That code of ethics should say clearly and unequivocally that the role of the classroom teacher is to teach the basic skills, to mold students intellectually, not turn them into activists for any social or political cause.  If the educators won't do this voluntarily, then let the legislators do it for them.

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Sol Stern is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal.


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