As administrators foist ‘social justice’ on 4,000 suburban students, parents plead for balance.By Peter Berkowitz
What passes for education at many American public schools is too often closer to indoctrination. Consider the seminar day that New Trier High School, in Winnetka, Ill., on Chicago’s affluent North Shore, is planning for Feb. 28.
The title for the all-school seminar is “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights.” That very term, “racial civil rights,” is misleading, since civil rights protect Americans’ freedoms regardless of their race. Judging from the roster of scheduled events, the seminar might be more accurately titled “Inculcating a Progressive View of Social Justice.”
Here are a few of the offerings scheduled for presentation to New Trier’s roughly 4,000 students:
“SPENT: A Simulation to See How Long You Can Survive on Minimum Wage”—which touches on race at best tangentially.
“Developing a Positive, Accountable White Activism for Racial Civil Rights”—which promotes a divisive view of race as a primordial fact, the essence of identity, a bright line between oppressed and oppressor.
“One Person One Vote: Can the Voting Rights Act Be Saved?”—which absurdly suggests that the Voting Rights Act is at risk of being repealed.
There are plenty of sessions on the connections that music, art and culture have with civil rights. Very little programming, however, is devoted to actually explaining to students what civil rights are and what their place is in this country’s political tradition.
Yet the continuing quest to fulfill America’s founding promise is unintelligible without a grasp of how civil rights are grounded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Or without an understanding of the often-heroic struggle for civil rights over the course of American history—the abolition movement, the Civil War, the great Reconstruction constitutional amendments, the grievous setback of Jim Crow, the modern civil-rights movement, the landmark Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of Education.
Instead of teaching, the school’s aim seems to be hammering home to students that racism plagues America and will persist until white people admit their unjust privilege, renounce their unearned power, and make amends for the entrenched oppression from which they continue to profit handsomely.
This despite the school board’s written policy to provide a “balanced view” on “controversial issues,” and the seminar’s stated purpose “not to promote the philosophy of one political party or another.”
On Monday a group of concerned New Trier parents will make a final attempt to persuade the school board to alter the seminar’s programming to include a diversity of views about race and rights in America.
The parents have proposed, for example, inviting black conservative intellectuals—such as my Hoover Institution colleague Shelby Steele and this newspaper’s Jason Riley—or people like Pastor Corey Brooks, the director of Project Hood, which seeks to end violence and build communities on Chicago’s South Side.
So far, these efforts have been met with stonewalling and vitriol.
On Feb. 6, a group of recent New Trier graduates—some of whom helped plan the seminar day—published an open letter to explain why the parents’ proposals are unreasonable and immoral.
The letter opens with a long quotation from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 masterpiece, “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”
The implicit message is that the New Trier parents are comparable to the “white moderate” King reproaches for preferring order to justice.
King’s admonition to the comfortable—to imagine themselves in the place of the persecuted and downtrodden—is a timeless message, but inapt for the situation. New Trier failed to teach the letter writers the distinction between political activism and education.
The seminar day presupposes that the pervasiveness and potency of racism in America are facts beyond dispute, rather than hypotheses to be critically examined.
That’s why the letter writers dismiss the parents’ desire for a multiplicity of views as an effort “to distract the conversation.”
Let’s hope that the concerned New Trier parents succeed Monday [February 20th] in teaching the New Trier school board about education’s proper purpose.
If not, maybe the best thing might be for more families to follow the parent group’s advice: “Excuse your child for the day, and encourage him or her to volunteer”—perhaps with Corey Brooks and Project Hood.
Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
11-Year-Old Docked Points for Not Bashing Trump
By Tom Knighton
To say that some people dislike Donald Trump may well be the understatement of the year. It's hard to imagine any duly elected president seeing so many protests in his first two months in office, yet here we are.
It's so bad that now an 11-year-old in Annadale, New York, was docked 15 points on a homework assignment because she failed to answer a question demanding students bash Trump.
Vincent Ungro, a dad from Annadale, New York, has an 11-year-old daughter who attends I.S. (Intermediate School) 75. She asked him for help with her vocabulary homework last Friday night because she was trying to fill in the blanks from a word bank to complete her assignment -- and was really puzzled.
“President Trump speaks in a very superior and _________ manner insulting many people. He needs to be more __________ so that the American people respect and admire him,” read one homework sentence.
The next question was: “Barack Obama set a _________ when he became the first African-American president.”
And what were the choices for the two questions, you ask? These three words: “haughty,” “humble,” and “precedent.” You can guess which ones were meant to be the “correct” answers in this teacher’s mind.
Ungro, 46, told his daughter not to fill in those blanks -- and wrote a note to the teacher, Adria Zawatsky, on the homework sheet, as The Post noted. “Please keep your political views to yourself and do not try to influence my children on them. Thank you,” he wrote.
The teacher docked the points -- which Ungro called "vindictive."
The teacher emailed Ungro and defended her question, stating that she was addressing his personality rather than his ability to serve in the office of president. She went on to add that the media makes similar references to Trump, and that she believes she has the same right.
School District to Hold 'Black Lives Matter' Day
By PJ Media
Image by Tony Webster
The Rochester City School District will hold a "Black Lives Matters Day" following an effort to establish the special day by teachers and parents.
Friday, February 17 has been designated as a day of understanding and affirmation in city schools that while all lives matter, black lives deserve special affirmation, attention and understanding right now.
Chris Widmaier, a science teacher at World of Inquiry School is one of the organizers of the event.
He said there has been some criticism of the effort from outside the school community.
If you think this is unusual, you are not alone. The school has gotten some criticism.
"Our response to that is there's enough love to go around for everybody. We can affirm that black lives matter and that doesn't diminish other peoples' lives or identifies in any other way," said Widmaier.
So what will "Black Lives Matter Day" look like?
Widmaier said there are a number of ways teachers and students can participate in the Black Lives Matter at School day, such as inviting local activists and experts as guest speakers, initiating classroom discussions, or wearing t-shirts and stickers to show their support.
"People can come to this in a way that they're ready. So, if they're uncomfortable, the first step might just be to study more and do some reading about Black Lives Matter."
By Tyler O'Neil
Twitter video screenshot of a protester yelling at Ed Sec Betsy DeVos.Early on Thursday morning [February 9th], a group of protesters physically blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a school in Washington, D.C., yelling at her and even blocking her van when she attempted to leave.
"Keep giving money to senators and buying your way to the position -- you should be so proud of yourself," one of the protesters yelled at DeVos as she turned away from the school door. As the secretary entered the motorcade, a protester yelled, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"
Even when the van attempted to pull away, one of the protesters ran in front of it, holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign to obstruct the vehicle.
The racial message is particularly interesting, since black leaders have praised DeVos for caring about children in their community.
"She's not African American, but she's concerned about our children," Dr. Dwight Montgomery, president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organization), said of DeVos.
But the protest should not be surprising, coming as it does after months of liberal attacks on Trump's pick to head the Department of Education. Liberals branded DeVos a racist, an elitist, a foe of public education, a religious extremist, and even — in a harebrained attack — a supporter of child labor.
Much of this opposition can be explained by DeVos' championing of school choice, which terrifies teachers' unions. It is true that DeVos has no direct experience teaching children or managing school districts, but she has been deeply involved in the movement to expand educational options in her home state of Michigan and across the country.
DeVos was confirmed when Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate.