Your ninth grader comes home from school and drops his bookbag. “Dad, why do white-dominated institutions lower the life expectancy and income of people of color?” he asks.
Concerned, you come to get a closer look.
“After dinner, for my social studies homework, I have to write examples of the code words we use to mask bigotry and oppression.”
Now your concern is turning into something worse. Is that what your teacher told you in school today, you ask?
“It’s for a new project we started called Social Justice. This week we’re studying race. Next week we study how our country is unfair to people from other religions and languages…”
Sound far-fetched? At national and regional conferences around the country, public school teachers are being exposed to a radical brand of “social justice multiculturalism,” where lessons such as these are emphasized. Teachers participating in professional development workshops sponsored by the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) and its state affiliates are urged to go back to their classrooms and promote an anti-capitalist, anti-free market and redistributionist social agenda rather than teaching children the academic fundamentals.
NAME has conducted such workshops for thousands of teachers since 1991. These conferences are often cosponsored by taxpayer-funded entities – last year’s NAME conferences listed the Maryland and Connecticut state departments of education as cosponsors, along with a number of local school districts and public universities. Maryland state education regulations require school districts to incorporate multicultural education into classwork, staff development, and school climate. As a result, NAME and allied organizations are able to receive taxpayer education dollars by partnering with school districts to meet these requirements.
NAME’s president Paul Gorski, now a professor at Virginia’s George Mason University, derides the celebration of other cultures many public schools embrace as their preferred form of multiculturalism. “Too much celebrating diversity and not enough combating the evils of racism,” he scoffed at a conference in Phoenix.
Gorski makes it clear that the multiculturalism he believes in is about power politics, not taco nights. NAME workshops relentlessly pound away at so-called white privilege and Christian privilege. The organization’s 2007 teacher conferences featured workshops like the following:
• “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being: Dismantling White Privilege and Supporting Anti-Racist Education in our Classrooms.”
• “More Than Men in White Sheets: Helping White Students Understand Systemic Racism.”
• “Unpacking Religious Oppression and Christian Privilege.”
Typically, NAME panelists have regarded commitment to one’s nation more tenuous than fidelity to group. So there is, of course, little room for learning about the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence in such lessons.
Perhaps the heaviest cost, however, comes in precious time lost for learning – both for students and teachers.
Beyond the missed opportunities for learning and radical teachings lurks something just as harmful. Good teachers encourage students to think for themselves. They use classroom learning to help children become independent learners and thinkers, not to do the thinking for them. Ideological indoctrination is not what school should be about.
But for Social Justice Multiculturalists, that is exactly the goal, and it begins early. Participants at one NAME workshop in Phoenix were taught about how Project Children LEAD (Learning Early to Appreciate Diversity) trains early childhood educators to begin instilling the “correct” sociopolitical attitudes in children as young as age two and three.
Such teachers are being asked to do a lot more than teach an appreciation of America’s component cultures. They are being asked to advance a political agenda, and a radical one at that.
Robert Holland and Don Soifer are authors of a new paper, “Multiculturalism and Social Justice in American Public Education,” available at www.lexingtoninstitute.org
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