Many college professors and administrators are eager to turn their students into ideological clones of themselves in hopes of ensuring that the U.S. will have the kind of governmentally controlled, collectivistic society they desire.
Sometimes their “success” in that becomes spectacularly evident, such as the furious, vitriolic attack by the Oberlin College community against a small bakery in town over its alleged racism – for trying to prevent an underage black kid from stealing wine. That supreme exercise in “wokeness” led to a lawsuit and $33 million jury verdict against the college. (I recommend “O Oberlin, My Oberlin” by retired professor Abraham Socher for a comprehensive study in the way zealous leftists have come to dominate the school.)
Unfortunately, the job of academic leftists in training young activists is getting easier and easier. That is because public schools are doing more and more to condition students to accept a wide array of leftist notions — notions that make them highly receptive to further leftist teaching and calls for them to act against perceived enemies of the social justice agenda.
The alliance between the public education establishment and the march of “progressivism” is as natural as anything could be. Public education depends on the power of government: to tax, to build schools and hire teachers and administrators, to compel student attendance, to minimize or even prohibit competition. As the poor quality of many public schools has become increasingly evident over the last several decades, the education establishment has become an utterly slavish ally of the political left. It depends on the coercive fist of government.
At the same time, the political left has become ever more reliant on the education system (K-12 through college and beyond) to inculcate statist ideas in people. If voters were inclined and able to think through the harmful consequences of “progressive” policies such as minimum wage laws, welfare payments, the Green New Deal, government-run health care, wealth taxes, and so on, they would toss the leftists out of office. It’s far better for those politicians if as many voters as possible are conditioned to support candidates who mouth clichés about the evils of capitalism, the need for compassionate government, the imperative of transforming America, so it will be a just society, and many others.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that public schools are ratcheting up their efforts at turning students into adults who will automatically vote to keep their political allies in power. And that calls for constant adjustments to the curriculum.
For example, in Seattle, the public schools have adopted a new mathematics curriculum. Plain old math, you see, just had answers that were objectively right or wrong. Ethnicity and social justice had nothing to do with it. But the zealots of progressivism couldn’t allow a substantial element of the school day go by without any expression of the grievances certain groups have against western civilization.
Jarrett Stepman explains in this piece that in math classes, students will learn that “western” mathematics (as if, say, the formula for calculating the circumference of a circle depends on your ethnic background) has been used “to disenfranchise people and communities of color.” Therefore, Seattle will “rehumanize” math. Students who still don’t get it will have the excuse that math is somehow unfair to people of color, a notion will be useful to college faculty and administrators who want a cadre of disaffected students.
Down the coast in California, matters are even worse.
Across the Golden State, many schools have adopted an “ethnic studies” curriculum, the point of which is to indict capitalism, “whiteness,” and western civilization as forms of power, privilege, and oppression. Teachers revel in giving students assignments that are meant to turn them into social justice warriors. In this RealClearInvestigations article published in September, John Murawski provides examples of what students learn in their classes:
At Santa Monica High School, students organize and carry out “a systematized campaign” for social justice that can take the form of a protest, a leaflet, a workshop, play, or research project. They demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter by teaching about social justice to middle school students.
Students at Environmental Charter High School are assigned to write a ‘breakup letter with a form of oppression,’ such as toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, the Eurocentric curriculum, or the Dakota Access Pipeline. Students are asked to “persuade their audience of the dehumanizing and damaging effects of their chosen topic.”
Students at schools in Anaheim, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco are taught how to write a manifesto to school administrators listing “demands” for reforms.
Those “ethnic studies” classes are not about teaching facts about history. They’re about casting a certain mindset in students, one that will incline them to activism against Progressivism’s designated villains. Murawski quotes Professor Julia Jordan-Zachery of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who said, “I oftentimes think of ethnic studies as radical social action.” That’s exactly what leftist educators want.
And don’t think that this is just a phenomenon of the crazy “Left Coast.” Murawski shows that the ethnic studies mania stretches across the U.S. Why shouldn’t it? We have “woke” and politically aggressive teachers who want to shape their students in every state.
In Arizona and Texas, there have been clashes over courses teaching that the American southwest rightfully belongs to the native “bronze people.” Oregon and Vermont are both developing standards for ethnic studies classes in their public schools. Oregon’s standards (which have not yet been officially adopted) would, Murawski writes, “introduce first-graders to such concepts as racism, gender identity and systems of power.” Grade school kids have enough to learn with reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the academic left thinks it necessary to put blatantly ideological concepts into their classes.
Here’s another revealing instance. In Wake County, North Carolina, a racially mixed mother complained to school officials that her 8-year-old son had been given a handout in school purporting to explain that leftist hobgoblin “white privilege.” The child was confused and thought the message of the handout was that white people are superior. Children of that age have important things to learn, but the teacher thought that implanting the divisive “white privilege” trope couldn’t wait.
Although ethnic studies already have a large presence in California schools, that isn’t enough for some officials. Only around 20 percent of the state’s schools have an ethnic studies curriculum, and thus in 2016, the legislature passed and then-Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating that all schools adopt an ethic studies program by 2020. State Board of Education officials promptly went to work drafting it.
Their handiwork was unveiled earlier this year, and it provoked a storm of outrage.
Jewish legislators complained that it pushed the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (BDS) that has become so dear to the left, but had nothing positive to say about the contributions Jews have made to California. Senator Ben Allen stated, “The draft curriculum, as currently written, would literally institutionalize the teaching of anti-Semitic stereotypes in our public schools.”
Allen also noted that other groups in California complained to him about the selectivity of the curriculum. Why nothing about Hindus and Greeks? Why nothing about the Armenian genocide?
Those criticisms had Tony Thurmond, the Superintendent of Schools, retreating. Ethnic Studies, he explained, has traditionally focused only on blacks, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and indigenous people, but “There’s no limit on groups who have experienced oppression.”
The hostility to Jews will certainly be watered down in a future draft, and other groups may be included in the curriculum. That doesn’t sit very well with Professor Robyn Rodriguez of University of California – Davis. She is quoted in this piece as saying, “Ethnic studies as a name is kind of a misnomer. What we’re really contending with is race.” The core of ethnic studies is about “the various kinds of inequality and exploitation for non-white people of color.”
There you have it. Ethnic studies isn’t really about the struggles and successes of ethnic groups. It’s just a means of implanting in student minds leftist talking points that the government must act to protect “marginalized” groups (which is to say, everyone except whites and the super-rich). It is meant to inoculate them against even listening to anyone who advocates free enterprise and minimal government.
Another criticism of the draft curriculum came from Californians who understood that point. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Williamson Evers of the Oakland-based Independent Institute observed, “It is difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of the ideological bias and misrepresentations without reading the whole curriculum – something few will want to do.” Moreover, “Capitalism is described as ‘a form of power and oppression,’ alongside ‘patriarchy,’ ‘racism,’ ‘white supremacy,’ and ‘ableism.’ Capitalism and capitalists appear as villains several times in the document.”
How was that received? Superintendent Thurmond told KTLA that “he wasn’t offering changes to address that criticism.” Saying that more groups deserve mention as having suffered oppression is fine, but to pull the anti-capitalist indoctrination would defeat the political purpose of the “ethnic studies” curriculum.
At this point, the new curriculum has been put on hold while state education officials rewrite it to appease voting blocs the leftists can’t afford to antagonize. Of course, that does not include proponents of economic freedom and constitutional government.
I’ll close by citing another California critic, former public school teacher Larry Sand who writes about education for the California Policy Center. After surveying the shocking landscape of the abuse of schooling to indoctrinate children, he concludes that parents must get active, checking on what their kids are being taught and “deprogramming them if necessary.” Those who don’t “may wind up with a woke religious zealot you will not even recognize.”
Wait until your kids are in college to do that and it will probably be too late.