This blog post is a response to the article Social Justice Miseducation In Our Schools written by J. Martin Rochester who is a professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Mr. Rochester starts out his article by stating:
As I wrote in my book, Class Warfare “there has always been the temptation to use schools for purposes other than schooling, for proselytizing and other ends, since children are the ultimate captive audience.”
I would argue that not only has there been the temptation it has occurred since the inception of schools. We have taught our students a false narrative about Christopher Columbus, Thanksgiving, the Civil War, patriotism, and a multitude of other subjects. We haven’t just “stuck to the facts” because history has always been told through the eyes of the victors. The facts we use to teach are biased.
Mr. Rochester goes on to state:
First, schools should mainly stick to what they are uniquely entrusted to do—teaching math, physics, English, and other subject matter and, beyond that, a love of learning. Schools should not aspire to be churches or social work agencies. In an already overcrowded school day in which our schools struggle to find the time to get students to become proficient in “the three R’s,” social justice training can be a huge distraction.
Schools are not entrusted to just teach the cognitive piece of the child nor should they be. One of the aims of schools is to produce well-rounded citizens. To ignore the affective part of the child is a mistake that far too many teachers and administrators have made. It is one of the main reasons that students hate school and don’t identify with the material that is provided for them. This idea of just the facts is why testing is out of control right now.
In addition to the social and emotional part of the child, we return to that same pesky idea that what is being taught in schools now is already highly biased toward the white majority of the country. Why else do we have arguments that the Civil War was fought over state’s rights or ignore how the War on Drugs was really a war on urban youth? The idea that teachers need to stay in their lane is how we continue to hide the troubled history of our country.
J. Martin Rochester believes, “It is sheer hubris for teachers to bring their own personal political agenda into the classroom. What happened to free inquiry?” He goes on to state that he brings in a broad range of views from right to left in his class. Teaching facts is not a political agenda. Teaching our students that the indigenous people of our country were murdered time and time again breaking numerous treaties and agreements is not a political agenda any more than stating 2 plus 2 equals 4. In a world of “alternative facts” (lies) we can no longer allow school systems to lie to our students. This is not a right or left issue. It’s a lie vs truth issue. We need to stop lying to our students.
I am all about the students finding their own path toward truth but only providing the whitewashed information that our public schools currently do is a travesty of education for our Students of Color.
Here is where things get really interesting.
Educators for Social Justice talk a lot about diversity, but do they promote the most important type of diversity—diversity of ideas? Contrary to their claim that they celebrate “disagreement,” they seem to promote only a politically correct, left-leaning perspective. What are the chances they would have their students read analyses about poverty and race written by conservative writers such as Charles Murray (Coming Apart), Thomas Sowell (Wealth, Poverty, and Politics), and Walter Williams (Race and Economics) or—relating to the Stockley verdict and policing—the scholarly work of Heather MacDonald (The War on Cops), which shows “systemic police brutality” to be a false narrative?
I agree with the author here. We should always present multiple sides to an argument. This is where critical thinking has to be taught. Students need to see what the counter-arguments to their thoughts are. Some may have validity others may not. Either way, you need to know all the facts before you make up your mind. Right now the facts presented to us are not diverse nor do they encourage critically viewing the actions of our country in the past.
This brings up the point of how we present all the sides of a discussion now in schools. The author must think we do this well because he writes this:
Educators for Social Justice are disingenuous in posing as facilitators of student-centered learning, when as teachers they have largely foreclosed the discussion or at least steered it toward a preferred outcome.
Right now I can say that 99% of teachers are doing this on the opposite end of the spectrum. How many teachers will be talking about what really happened during Thanksgiving and what happened directly after it? Where is the talk about institutional racism? We talk about the Civil War and Jim Crow laws and act like everything post-1954 was all good. These discussions aren’t being had in our classes. We have sanitized Dr. King’s work. Do we ever mention how he stated this:
“Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena,” he told the assembled crowd of mostly white doctors and academics. “They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking.” (link)
That is steering our student’s learning towards a preferred outcome.
Mr. Rochester finished his article up with the most asinine argument ever:
I would argue that, if you want to teach social justice, it should be taught not only through reading about poverty in America but also by modeling it first-hand—say, penalizing students who do not complete their homework. Aside from teaching individual responsibility, this gets classmates to understand the concept of fairness, treating all students with the same expectations rather than privileging some by cutting them slack.
How many issues are wrong with that above statement? Social justice is not simply about poverty it is, “…justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”. (link) Secondly, equality is not the same as equity so to bring up the idea of punishing students for homework equally as a way to model social justice is a horrible idea.
We have to do a better job of really understanding what our country is and is not. Our country provides massive opportunities to some but not all. Our history is one of domination and colonialism. We need to be honest with ourselves and our students. This is not about brainwashing a captive audience. It is about teaching what really happened in our order for our country to grow and flourish. It is time that we acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. We have become one of the greatest countries by exploiting groups of people. This has been done through slavery, colonialism, and systemic racism. That is what our students need to understand so we don’t repeat the same mistakes now and in the future.
In conclusion, this article reeks of privilege and elitism. When I take a look at my social media timeline it is striking how many white men cherry pick the one salient point about diversity of ideas and skip the 99% of the refuse that is the rest of this article while the Educators of Color I am connected to all feel that this article was heinous and privileged. Which side of the argument do you fall on?