(See also: Education and Multiculturalism; Indoctrination in K-12; and Radical Environmentalism in the Classroom)
The leftist tenets of "social justice," founded on the notion that capitalism and economic inequality are evils that must be replaced by a socialist system wherein all differences in wealth have been eliminated, have infiltrated the teacher-training programs in American universities and made their way into a large number of the nation's K-12 classrooms.
Teachers College professor Angela Calabrese Barton, who authored a widely acclaimed book titled Teaching Science for Social Justice, shows how this approach attempts to use classroom techniques as revolution:
“Science pedagogy framed around social justice concerns can become a medium to transform individuals, schools, communities, the environment, and science itself, in ways that promote equity and social justice. Creating a science education that is transformative implies not only how science is a political activity but also the ways in which students might see and use science and science education in ways transformative of the institutional and interpersonal power structures that play a role in their lives.”
In short, “social justice theory” envisions using science instruction to indoctrinate students on the evils of capitalism as an alleged despoiler of the natural environment and thus a threat to all forms of life on earth.
Teaching social justice through mathematics is an even more fully developed discipline. Eric Gutstein, a Marxist education professor at the University of Illinois and also a full-time Chicago public-school math teacher, is the author of Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice. This work combines critical pedagogy theory (which depicts the United States as an evil nation rife with injustice) and real-life math lessons that Gutstein piloted with his predominantly minority seventh-grade students.
One lesson, for example, presents charts showing the U.S. income distribution, aiming to teach the concept of percentages and fractions while simultaneously showing students how much wealth is concentrated at the top in an economic system that mainly benefits the super-rich. After the students perform the mathematical calculations, Gutstein asks: “How does all this make you feel?” He has triumphantly reported that in one particular class, 19 of 21 pupils replied that wealth distribution in America was “bad,” “unfair,” or “shocking.” Gutstein’s social justice/math lessons also explore statistical proofs showing how military budgets for the Iraq War deny poor Americans their fair share of resources.
Gutstein’s book and his classroom approach is endorsed by two of the nation’s most influential education professors, Gloria Ladson-Billings of the University of Wisconsin and William F. Tate of Washington University in St. Louis—the outgoing and incoming presidents of the American Education Research Association (AERA). The 25,000-member AERA has moved steadily to the ideological left in recent decades, becoming more multicultural, postmodernist, feminist, and enamored of critical race theory and queer theory. In 2004 the AERA hired its first national Director of Social Justice. In addition, Ladson-Billings and Tate co-edited their own volume of essays on educational research and social justice, wherein they argue for a critical-race-theory approach, advocating that students be taught that institutionalized “white supremacy” remains pervasive in American public education.
An increasing number of the 1,500+ education schools across the United States are embracing the concept of social justice teaching and are requiring their students to do the same—especially since they expect aspiring teachers to possess the approved leftist “dispositions,” or individual character traits, that will qualify them to teach in the public schools. For example:
Brooklyn College has declared: “Because democracy requires a substantive concern for equity, the faculty of the School of Education is committed, in theory and practice, to social justice. . . . Our teacher candidates and other school personnel are prepared to demonstrate a knowledge of, language for, and the ability to create educational environments based on various theories of social justice.”
The teacher-education program at Marquette University in Milwaukee proclaims that it “has a commitment to social justice in schools and society,” and to using education “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture.” The program requires that all education degree candidates demonstrate a “desire to work for social justice, particularly in an urban environment.”
The University of Kansas teacher-education school states that “addressing issues of diversity includes being more global than national and concerned with ideals such as world peace, social justice, respect for diversity and preservation of the environment.”
Claremont Graduate University (CGU) in California not only requires teacher candidates to commit to social justice teaching, but screens applicants to make sure they have that essential “disposition.” According to a university publication, “CGU’s recruitment efforts focus upon individuals who have an understanding of societal inequities. . . . By reflecting the cultures and languages of the student populations in area K–12 schools and by caring about issues of social justice, CGU’s teachers are role models to their students in a variety of ways.”
At Humboldt State University in northern California, the social studies methods class required for prospective high-school history and social studies teachers best demonstrates the school’s commitment to social justice teaching. The professor, Gayle Olson-Raymer, states in her syllabus: “It is not an option for history teachers to teach social justice and social responsibility; it is a mandate. History teachers do their best work when they use their knowledge, their commitment, and their courage to help the students grapple with the important issues of social responsibility and when they encourage them to direct their lives towards creating a just society.
The National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the chief accreditor of teacher-education schools, now monitors how well the schools comply with social justice requirements. According to published reports, Brooklyn College and Washington State University denied some students the right to become teachers after they had run afoul of their education schools’ social justice dispositions requirements.
In 2004, education researchers David Steiner and Susan Rozen conducted a study on the syllabi of the basic “foundations of education” and “methods” courses in 16 of the nation’s most prestigious teacher-education schools. The mainstays of the foundations classes were works by Paolo Freire, the Brazilian education theorist who is considered the “father” of the "teaching for social justice" movement, and the radical education writer Jonathan Kozol. For the methods courses, the leading text was To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, authored by the former Weather Underground terrorist and lifelong Marxist, Bill Ayers, Professor of Education at the University of Illinois and perhaps the most influential promoter of "social justice" education in American schools today.
When Ayers himself was a student at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the 1980s, after coming up from the underground, he was deeply influenced by Professor Maxine Greene, a leading light of the “critical pedagogy” movement. Greene told Ayers and his fellow classmates that they could help change this bleak landscape by developing a “transformative” vision of social justice and democracy in their classrooms. Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. She said they should portray homelessness, for instance, “as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, [and] racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.”
This message resonated strongly with Ayers, who had already failed in his effort to transform America through violent revolution. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in education and became a Distinguished Professor of Education and a Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In March 2008 Ayers was
(by a large majority of his peers) as Vice
President for Curriculum Studies at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the largest organization of education-school professors and researchers in the United States. From this position, he can greatly influence the content that is taught in the public schools. Specifically, Ayers seeks to inculcate teachers-in-training with
a “social commitment” to the values of “Marx” and a desire to become
social change in K-12 classrooms. Whereas “capitalism promotes racism
militarism,” Ayers explains, “teaching invites transformations” and is “the
motor-force of revolution.” According
to a former AERA employee, “Ayers'
radical worldview, which depicts America as “the main source of the
world's racism and oppression,” thoroughly “permeates” AERA.
Anti-Americanism is further conveyed to young students via history texts authored by the late Howard Zinn. As English professor Mary Grabar writes:
"Healthy sales can be attributed in large part to the use of [Zinn's] book as a textbook in high school and college.... Students now have eNotes to explain Zinn. There is a teaching edition geared for college teachers, and at least one for high school teachers ... Students who complete their college history requirements in high school do not escape Zinn. Furthermore, an entire spin-off industry has developed for adapting Zinn's version of history for the lower grades. Publisher Seven Stories claims that Zinn's A Young People's History, for ages 10 and up, is their best-selling backlist title. A plethora of lesson materials is offered to teachers through the Zinn Education Project. At a Georgia State University College of Education-sponsored "teach-in" [in February 2012] ... students from area colleges of education learned strategies from teachers and education professors for using the Zinn version of history to teach elementary school students about Christopher Columbus's 'real' accomplishment -- namely genocide."
Adapted mostly from "The Ed Schools' Latest - and Worst - Humbug," by Sol Stern (July 24, 2006).