Many voters didn't think it important when it surfaced during the presidential campaign that Barack Obama's friend, the 1960s radical William Ayers, is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Ayers' preoccupation with inserting his ideas of "social justice" into public school curriculum didn't seem an issue to make tracks in a national election.
Now we find that in the election week, the most respected education journal, Education Week, featured a front-page article on "social-justice teaching." This confirms that accusations about "social-justice teaching" are not inventions of John McCain's partisan consultants, but are matters that vitally concern everyone who cares what the next generation is taught with taxpayers' money.
"Social-justice teaching" is defined in Education Week as "teaching kids to question whoever happens to hold the reins of power at a particular moment. It's about seeing yourself not just as a consumer (of information), but as an actor-critic" in the world around you. This revealing explanation comes from Bill Bigelow, the curriculum editor of a Milwaukee-based organization called Rethinking Schools, which publishes instructional materials relating to issues of race and equity.
Bigelow admits that this is "a subversive act in some respects because it is not always encouraged by the curriculum." Apparently, he intends to provide the encouragement.
In Bigelow's book "Rethinking Columbus," he wrote that he encourages his students to walk in the shoes of groups that have been oppressed or disenfranchised. He assigns students to role-play various oppressed groups in the United States and foreign countries.
"Social-justice" lessons highlight past mistakes in U.S. history rather than our accomplishments and opportunities. Emphasizing problems and injustices rather than achievements is given the highfalutin label "critical pedagogy."
David Horowitz of the California-based David Horowitz Freedom Center says that social-justice teaching is "shorthand for opposition to American traditions of individual justice and free-market economics." He says it teaches students that "American society is an inherently 'oppressive' society that is 'systemically' racist, 'sexist' and 'classist' and thus discriminates institutionally against women, nonwhites, working Americans and the poor."
Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute describes Ayers as one of the leaders in "bringing radical social-justice teaching into our public school classrooms." Ayers argues in his books and articles that "social-justice teaching" should be injected into various curriculum subjects.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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