‘Social justice’ education hurts students
May 7, 2012
Editor’s note: This first appeared on UnionWatch.org.
May 7, 2012
By Larry Sand
Last month, the drone-like National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel gave a talk at the annual gathering of the Nebraska State Education Association. The California Teachers Association is an affiliate of the NEA.
Van Roekel unleashed the same tired old class warfare hogwash that teacher union leaders have been yammering about for years. The latest version of this old whine stresses closing corporate tax loopholes. As I wrote earlier, the NEA claims the U.S. can recoup $1.5 trillion in taxes if those greedy corporate types would just pay their “fair share.” Van Roekel conveniently omits the fact that NEA took in $400 million in 2010-2011, mostly in dues forcibly taken from its members, and didn’t pay one red cent in taxes.
Van Roekel then reprised another union mantra — claiming that NEA must pursue “social justice.” He said,
“You can’t have an organization with our core values and not care about social justice.”
“You can’t have a democracy and not care about social justice, whether it’s discrimination based on race or religion or sexual orientation, discrimination is discrimination and it’s wrong. And we as an organization have to stand up and say that.”
The subject of social justice — its history and damage that it has caused — could fill volumes. But here is an abridged version:
Social justice (SJ) is based on the concepts of human rights and egalitarianism, and involves fostering economic equality through progressive taxation along with income and property redistribution. Around since the late 19th Century, this philosophy made its foray into education in the early part of the 20th Century when John Dewey, a progressive, and his socialist partner, George Counts, challenged teachers to replace the development of each student’s individual talents with a focus on social justice.
The bedrocks of American culture and our economy — capitalism, individualism and competition — were frowned upon, to be replaced with distributive egalitarianism, collectivism and statism. Also paramount to the SJ movement was the socialization of children. Historically, schools had partnered with parents in reinforcing the values of the family. But over time, progressive educators came to assume a disproportionate role.
The progressive philosophy soon became part of the national zeitgeist with even President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, getting into the act. He said in a speech in 1914, “I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.” (Bold added.)
The effect of the SJ movement on education cannot be exaggerated. The changes were not dramatic at first, but over the years, SJ picked up steam. By the 1960s, SJ had become mainstream, especially in our nation’s colleges. University professors who spouted this poison did much damage, as many college students of that period became the tenured radicals who still infest our schools of higher education — most notably in the social science and education departments. And therefore today, our future teachers sit at the feet of ed school professors who teach them more about how to indoctrinate students than to prepare them for the more traditional “participation in public life as well as success in private life.”
As a result, in our elementary schools, instead of learning basic skills and the real history of the country, students are all too often taught nonsense like anti-racist math and that America is evil and can be saved only by a litany of progressive “isms” — environmentalism, feminism, socialism, etc. Several months ago, I reviewed Kyle Olson’s excellent book, “Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism,” which documents how public schools today are being used to turn children away from the ideals that have made this country extraordinary.
By the time American students finish their K-12 indoctrination, they are primed for the big finale – the university. The seeds that were planted in the elementary schools come to a hideous bloom in college. Last month, the non-partisan California Association of Scholars came out with a scathing report, “A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California.” In his review of it, Peter Berkowitz wrote,
“The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.”
Excluding from the curriculum those ideas that depart from the progressive agenda implicitly teaches students that conservative ideas are contemptible and unworthy of discussion. This exclusion, the California report points out, also harms progressives for the reason John Stuart Mill elaborated in his famous 1859 essay, “On Liberty”: “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”
Unfortunately, while many Americans do not ascribe to SJ tenets, too many of us are ignorant of its agenda or have become apathetic to its dangers. In 2009, admitted terrorist Bill “Mad Bomber” Ayers co-edited the ”Handbook of Social Justice in Education,” a 792 page “Hate America First” manifesto which brazenly instructs teachers how to spread the collectivist dream to America’s children. As many of us emit a collective yawn, the poisoning of young minds continues unimpeded.
Is it any wonder that the “Occupy” movement is saturated with young people who, beyond a few clichés, cannot articulate what exactly it is that they are demonstrating against? They just know that some people have more money than other people and that’s just not fair. The regnant attitude is, “If you’re rich and I’m not, you owe me.” If Dennis Van Roekel and his ideological comrades have their way, the dumbing down and radicalizing of American youth will ultimately destroy the very foundation of this society. But hey — everyone will be equal, all right — equally miserable.
About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.