A Racially “Woke” Agenda Is Now Hardwired in Public Schools

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.

[Where Does the Impulse to Vilify America and the West Come From?]

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.

[College Summer Reading: A Mandated Dive Into ‘Oppressed Minorities’]

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.

[What the New York Times Got Wrong About Slavery in America]

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.

[The Garden of College Excellence Is Growing Weeds]

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.

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George Leef

George Leef is Director of Research for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

8 thoughts on “A Racially “Woke” Agenda Is Now Hardwired in Public Schools

  1. I think my money nose is twitching enough to cut to the chase.
    Public education started out in this nation with a mandate to provide equal opportunity to all. This means including most of the children below the top quarter, or perhaps third (take your pick) of family household net income.
    So if we can safely assume that anywhere from two thirds to three quarters of the nation’s children will not be able to financially avoid the educational morass that confronts them, we must ask the obvious: just what kind of quality of education will they receive?
    The answer to that question should form our collective response, our resolve, and certainly our political will to ensure that all children actually have equal educational opportunity.
    Accepting the distinct fact that indoctrination is not education, and that the two mix together no better than oil and water, we might deduce, and not be far off the mark, that certain powers do not WANT marginalized children to succeed. In other words, they are far more valuable to those same powers as abject failures, than as successes, by any normal and standardized measure. I think of that as the “oppression” of lowered expectations.
    And in which of course, millions of children end up as pawns in the great and terrible game of Identity / race / victim / Olympic oppression “positionality.” Blah.
    I say give the kids a break.
    Not actually allowing children to have a childhood – has become a curious and insidious, ubiquitous plague upon our society.
    There was a time when we understood that childhood, in our more enlightened era, was held to be a time in life free from adult mayhem, confusion, conflict, torment and turmoil. Apparently, no longer. In this way do we now collectively fail the most vulnerable members of our free society. For of course, they are not free at all, if they are not free from adult micro-managing, meddling, misunderstanding and a complete inability to even conceive the very idea that a child can remain innocent. At least for an appropriate measure of time.
    Otherwise we have turned into a machine that just can’t leave kids alone. To be kids. To have a reasonably safe and secure start in life, before the deluge – which comes soon enough, anyway. Say…’round about puberty?
    Just as fishing boats park when the top of the food chain has been cleaned out, overfished – so do we now resemble that bottom trawler that drags along scraping up every single thing in its jaws.
    Until nothing is left.

  2. Western approaches to Mathematics marginalizes minorities? Have these ideologues looked at the demographic composition of STEM PhDs? Maybe they should watch “Hidden Figures”. Somehow in the pre-woke America, African American women contributed significantly to NASAs efforts with their mathematical talents.

  3. This is really starting to look like German Antisemitism, and that wound up with six million Jews going to the gas chamber.

    We aren’t there yet, nor anywhere close, but no one took the Nazis seriously when they were brawling in beer halls, and later it was too late. This anti-White bigotry needs to be recognized for what it is…

  4. Why would anyone with an ounce of brains send their children to a public school? They are nothing but unionized Left Wing child abuse.
    No one in my family did – not my grandparents, my parents, my siblings nor my children

  5. I have one problem with this:

    “…’marginalized’ groups (which is to say, everyone except whites and the super-rich).”

    I find this to be inaccurate. Al Sharpton, Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, and other very wealthy black leftists are still “marginalized.” On the other hand, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell and Candace Owens are not, even though I’m fairly certain none of them have the level of wealth of any of the first three.

  6. In order to fight oppression, one has to first institutionalize racism and make sure that everyone is judged first and foremost by their skin color, and any examination of an individual’s actions is overwhelmed by their responsibility for their pigmentation.

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