by Laurie H. Rogers
What's the mission of any school district? Most parents seem to agree that it's academics. Schools should prepare students academically for postsecondary life – whether it's college, a trade, a career, the military or some other endeavor.
Alas, many public schools don't focus on college or career readiness, and their mission statements don't say they have to. Instead, other, more nebulous goals are their stated priorities, such as turning students into global citizens, "challenging" them, helping them develop "supportive relationships," and having them engage in "relevant, real-life applications."
"Equity" and "social justice" also are emphasized in many districts. Some districts have created new departments, applied for federal grants or hired $100,000+ personnel – supposedly to foster equity and social justice. But what's behind the terminology?
Actual equity and social justice entail providing ALL students with the academic skills they need to lead a productive postsecondary life. But in public education, the terms tend to be ambiguous and politically laden, focusing instead on perceived unfairness. In the typical social-justice curriculum, America frequently is portrayed as the bad guy.
At the Fifth Annual Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice, academics were not the theme. Instead, teachers learned how to encourage and train students to become activists. They challenged what they perceive to be America's history of power, white privilege and oppression; supported myriad alternative lifestyles; discussed issues of race, gender, class and undocumented status; challenged "ableism" (discrimination by the able-bodied and able-minded); and learned how "oppression affects the lives of students marginalized by race, class, language, gender, and sexual orientation."
There are schools purely devoted to issues of social injustice, such as the Social Justice High School in Chicago: "Project based and problem based learning that addresses real world issues through the lenses of race, gender, culture, economic equity, peace, justice, and the environment will be the catalyst for developing our curriculum."
There is the White Privilege Conference, an ironic concept considering that many dedicated education advocates are Caucasian. (Actually, what I've seen over six years of advocacy looks more like Union-Administrator-Media Privilege. Maybe we could have a conference on that.)
There is Teachers for Social Justice, where teachers learn about "adultism" (i.e. adults who "use their position of power to affect the youth"); about integrating LGBTQ content into the curriculum; and about challenging gender norms with first-graders.
There is Welcoming Schools, "an LGBT-inclusive approach to addressing family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying and name-calling in K-5 learning environments." Did you notice that it's directed at kindergartners?
Look into your district's sex-ed program. These programs used to focus on preventing teen pregnancy. Now, see what the little ones are learning about sex, abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Students aren't being taught long division, but they're learning about alternative lifestyles. Last year, one 4th grader watched a district sex-education video and subsequently made a related joke to a friend – as young boys will do. This boy was disciplined, his parents were notified, a letter was sent home, and the entire class heard about his "bullying."
Nowhere in this social-justice agenda do I see anyone standing up for the military and veterans, who have suffered much discrimination and prejudice. Or for police. Or for firefighters. Or for anyone who died in service of the country. Or for the four Americans who were murdered on Sept. 11, 2012, in Libya (although I suspect schools are OK with standing up for the Libyans).
The social-justice agenda is not about equity or justice. It's about complaining, accusing, rebelling, changing society and forcing extreme progressive viewpoints on captive children. And how tolerant is this community to dissenting viewpoints? Not very. It questions traditional American values, faults American history, paints parents as old-school and unknowledgeable and views Americans as prejudiced and selfish. Even young students are fed a diet of progressivism, weighty and depressing socio-political issues, a cynical view of their ancestors, and antagonism toward conservative thought. They're taught to reform, transform and "fundamentally change" America, with little appreciation for what America does for the world; its role in keeping the world relatively stable; its superlative generosity to other countries; the sacrifices made by its Armed Forces; and how its system of government made it rare and great.
Some programs show students how inequity and social injustice span the globe, with slavery, sex trafficking and brutality. The students – still just children – are to take ownership of this brutal, unfair world and try to change it. (No wonder so many students become anxious or depressed.)
How will districts know when they've achieved their social-justice goals? (Never.) When can the programs be disbanded? (Never.) Do the programs result in well-educated students? (Frequently not.) The programs just grow ever larger, sucking up dollars and destroying learning time.
It won't be long before children will be unable to escape this depressing, politically biased agenda. It drives the Barack Obama/Arne Duncan/United Nations education plan. This plan is ensconced in the Common Core initiatives, now federally mandated (in contravention of the U.S. Code (20 USC 3403).
The social-justice agenda apparently does not demand sufficient student academics. As the Edu Mob hustles after agenda-based grants and programs, I see no urgency regarding student academics or the truth. The Mob seems content to side-step the students' misery as it accepts promotions, takes home $100,000+ salaries, and trots out fake numbers showing imaginary improvement.
In 2012, for one example, Spokane Public Schools congratulated itself over a near-80% pass rate in math for its 10th graders. This pass rate bears no relation to what our 10th graders actually know in math. Just two years prior, our 10th graders posted a 41.7% pass rate in math on a low-level test that required just 56.9% to pass. There had been no substantial change in the district's math curriculum except to possibly become worse. Who in Spokane publicly questioned this magical improvement?
Spokane isn't alone with its implausibly high numbers. College remedial rates (such as these from Spokane) suggest that if Washington's 10th graders were given an actual "at-grade-level" math test, without calculators and controlled for those who received outside instruction, many district pass rates would be in the teens or lower.
How does one obtain equity or social justice without academic skills? Why do districts expect small children to teach math to themselves? Why do adults ignore poor academic outcomes, desperate parents and anxious students? I'm often asked: Why do schools persist in these failing approaches? Why isn't there enough math or grammar in our schools? Why do materials contain a political agenda? Why don't we have textbooks? Why can't I see my child's math work? Why can't I help out with math in the schools? Why do teachers say, "Don't help your children with math; it will only confuse them"?
Now you know why. An inadequate education system = more issues = more need for help = more need for money = more government intervention = more government intrusion = more government control. Much of public education now focuses on: 1) more tax dollars for the Edu Mob, 2) more pro-Edu Mob voters, 3) less transparency or accountability, 4) more power to squish out dissent, 5) more administrative control, 6) heavy promotion of the socio-political agenda, and 7) maintaining (already failed) teaching approaches and curricular materials.
If you read what I read every day, you'd be deeply alarmed. To have what they want, they must have it all. And they're getting it. Here's just a tiny snippet of what I've seen.
- A Spokane teacher advocating in the classroom for revolution.
- Politics permeating the math curriculum.
- A Chicago school telling parents they are not allowed to send lunches with their children.
- A Texas student being browbeaten for refusing to wear a district microchip.
Parents are purposefully kept at arm's length from the truth – about the schools, budget, curriculum, agenda, and actual outcomes – because No Truth = No Parent Dissent. Those few of us who dare to ask questions are diverted, mollified, ignored or – if we persist – attacked.
A battle is on for our children, and we have nearly lost. Public schools have been "training" people for a while. Students learn to reject their parents' influence and guidance (especially if the parents prefer less government), to question traditional American values, to fundamentally reform America in a "progressive" image, and to vote progressive. Even Republicans vote progressive on education. Pushing the social-justice agenda is as easy as stealing from a baby.
Where is all of this taking us? The only place it can. Before, parents taught morals and acceptable behavior, and schools taught academics. Now, schools push a progressive view of acceptable behavior, and parents are forced to fill in the academics. But there aren't enough of us doing that, and we aren't powerful enough to overcome the social-justice agenda.
See it for yourself. Google "social justice" and "education" together. See how little the Edu Mob cares about academics or the welfare and future of the country (especially as a democratic republic). See how mocking and antagonistic it is toward dissenters. See its determination to push a globalist agenda and an angry, antagonistic, shrill view of America and its founders and defenders. There will come a point at which a conservative-minded person will not be able to win any leadership seat.
America is a "constitution-based federal Republic, with a strong democratic tradition." It was founded on the idea of checks and balances – that no entity should have excessive power. A one-party system removes our ability to maintain balance. But many in the media, courts and other groups are politically active for the progressive cause. The U.S. Constitution and the law now are flouted regularly and without media pushback or legal consequence.
In 2010, The New York Times published an uncritical piece that advised President Obama to lead by Executive Order. And he is. What is the difference between a president who leads by Executive Order and a dictator? The Times has continued to discuss Obama's Executive Orders, but minus the outrage one should expect from the media regarding a president who abuses the administrative process. Imagine if a Republican president behaved similarly. There would be passionate editorials, a push for congressional investigations and calls for impeachment. And rightfully so. But for Obama – near silence. A casual discussion. No big deal.
We're in a dangerous place. The country now is run by government/media/corporate "partnerships" that are neither open nor accountable to the people. Instead of open government and privacy for the people, we now have secretive government and diminishing privacy for citizens. Mainstream media don't investigate the government; they investigate dissenters. Our citizen rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are being eroded. Our right to privacy is being minimized through federal "rule-making," and our personal information is being shared without our knowledge or permission. The whole package looks disturbingly Orwellian.
And yet, the people are increasingly ignorant of what it all means. Who in the next generation of voters will stand up for privacy, the individual, the Constitution, or the rule of law? Most graduates will lack the academics they need to properly run the country; the knowledge or perspective to critically assess what they're being told; and enough understanding of the U.S. Constitution to know they must stand up for it. They will have energy and motivation, however, to agitate and rebel against their oppressors. (That's us, in case you're wondering.)
Welcome to the new mission of public education: Social upheaval – an American Spring – fomented by the social-justice crew, supported by the Edu Mob, praised by those who would do America harm, and paid for with our children and our tax dollars.
This great Republic is not yet finished, but it's looking pretty grim out there.
Laurie H. Rogers has a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a master's in interpersonal communication, emphasizing the evaluation of argumentation and logic. In 2001, she founded Safer Child, Inc., a nonprofit child advocacy information resource. In 2007, she narrowed her advocacy to public education, and in 2010, she founded Focus on the Squareâ¢, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving American K-12 education.
Laurie is the author of the blog "Betrayed," located at http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/. Her book Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about It (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011) is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Besides serving on the executive committee for Where's the Math?, Laurie has a background in finance, journalism and child advocacy. She has volunteered in schools – tutoring children in literacy and math, and teaching chess, argumentation and knitting. She lives in Spokane with her husband, daughter and two cats.
Contact Laurie Rogers at [email protected].