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OPINION

Antisemitism Is a Feature, Not a Bug, of K-12 Education

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

In November, a Queens high school teacher was forced to barricade herself in a locked office as a mob of students rioted through the hallways for two hours. Her crime? Attending a pro-Israel rally.  

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This incident is just one among many examples of the escalating antisemitism seeping into our nation's K-12 schools, and the evidence should be taken as a warning.

This surge of antisemitism in schools stems from a decade-long politicization of the education system, infiltrating every aspect from educational philosophy to curriculum and classroom discussions. If we want to get serious about addressing antisemitism, we must understand its driving force: the new leftist dogma.

At its core is “critical pedagogy,” an educational philosophy that fuels resentment, victimhood, and collectivism, while promoting hatred towards certain groups. It indoctrinates students to view the world through a lens of power dynamics and oppression. Cloaked in euphemisms such as "inclusivity" and "social justice," this ideology – like all aspects of woke education – contains a destructive mind virus.

One way this infiltrates K-12 classrooms is through "ethnic studies," which appears harmless but insidiously teaches students to perceive oppression and racism everywhere in society. Through the adoption of ethnic studies, radicals holding antisemitic views have risen to positions of influence and control.

For example, Tracy Castro-Gill, an ethnic studies activist and the executive director of Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN), wields significant influence over Washington's curriculum at both state and district levels. According to her emails from 2019, she aims to analyze "how white Jewish people benefit from systems of oppression that disenfranchise all people of color,” and believes “Jewish Americans benefit from current systems of power and, for the most part, have access to and control of systemic power.”

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Instead of facing criticism for her false and hateful rhetoric, she took on a co-hosting role for a "BLM and Palestine Solidarity Teach-in" last week, in anticipation of Black Lives Matter at School Week. It's crucial to highlight that BLM at School commended the October 7th massacre of Jews, labeling it a triumph of "decolonization." Nonetheless, this event occurred in K-12 schools nationwide the week of February 5th.

Moreover, ethnic studies consultants recently released a media toolkit featuring a model lesson titled “Who are Arab Americans?: An Introduction.” In the toolkit, students are required to perform a “land acknowledgement,” which implies Jews stole Israel from Palestinians. The Middle East map in the presentation also wholly omits Israel, only intensifying the obsessive delegitimization of the Jewish state. 

Meanwhile, school administrators are losing control over their own staff as teachers take it upon themselves to bring pro-Hamas, anti-Israel lessons into their classrooms. Last December, members of the teachers union group OEA for Palestine initiated an “unauthorized” pro-Hamas teach-in. Despite public outcry and opposition from the superintendent, teachers across Oakland Unified School District proceeded to teach controversial materials such as BLM at Schools’ Teaching Palestine and the Teach Palestine Project

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These activists aggressively demonize Israel while asserting their own authority, daring anyone to challenge them.

Another vital component in critical pedagogy is student activism. Called “Youth Participatory Action Research” (YPAR), its objective is to normalize street activism for far-left causes among young students, and it has been successful in doing so. Within a week of the October 7th Hamas attack, students at several San Francisco Bay Area schools coordinated protests and walkouts, where students marched through hallways chanting, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The event was orchestrated by the school’s Arab Youth Organizing club and its parent organization Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), which has a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the San Francisco Unified School District to radicalize students and staff. 

This eagerness for controversy is a cornerstone of the leftist agenda, aimed not only at taking control of our schools but also at grooming our children into political foot soldiers who further an antisemitic narrative propagated by adult activists.

It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that the November riot at Queens high school was a result of students triggered into aggression after having been taught for years that thuggery is an appropriate response to perceived injustice. They were conditioned to view their pro-Israel teacher as a symbol of oppression. 

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But antisemitism is not the end point. It is merely the beginning. Eventually, other groups will feel the wrath too.

The roots of this destructive ideology must be dealt with if we want to preserve our society – one that is truly inclusive and tolerant. And it starts with recognizing the slogans and euphemisms of education activists for what they truly are: tools that divide us along ethnic, religious, and economic lines.

Rhyen Staley is a researcher for Parents Defending Education. He holds a master's degree in elementary education and has over a decade of classroom experience in both public and private schools.

 

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