Battling for the Youngest Minds
One would expect that a deceptive narrative about colonial America, rebuked by a couple of dozen distinguished historians of that era, would promptly be pulled from the shelves and kicked to the curb. Not so for the 1619 Project, the New York Times Magazine magnum opus that uses slavery as the force majeure to pass an idea off as factual history.
The 1619 Project has now been integrated into the curricula of at least 4500 elementary and high schools in California, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York. The illiberal embrace of this fictional work in scholastics is emblematic of a much larger battle now underway. It is a no-holds-barred struggle to create a national education system that breeds antipathy in schoolchildren towards their identity, parents, descendants, and country.
A search of the scholarly website, academia.edu, reveals almost 10,000 contemporary paper titles aligning critical thinking to the teaching of social studies across the pre-kindergarten to university continuum. It is sad evidence that the cause of progressivism and all its patent grievances has overtaken ideas, criticism, and debate within universities and their graduates. Most of the authors are twenty-something postgrads and professors who have not ventured far from campus safe spaces to virtue signal a socialist agenda for early education.
The extent to which critical social and racial justice, white privilege, and revisionist assumptions of history has crept into the elementary school curricula in the past decade is quite remarkable. Gathering momentum during the Obama administration, individuals and organizations that make up the hard-left illuminati, to include George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, Black Lives Matter, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as a few washed-up radicals from bygone uprisings, have supported transformative learning practices in public schools that seek to snatch control from parents in the upbringing of their children.
With their opinions and actions defined by woke groups such as the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Secondary School Principals, as well as from professional publications like Education Week, elementary schoolteachers have been encouraged to bring the culture war to children barely old enough to dress themselves or write between the lines. Elite philanthropies have lined up to bankroll the effort.
Rutgers University recently landed a $15 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish an Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice across all three of their campuses. One of the objectives of the grant is to alter the landscape of K-12 education to achieve social justice goals. The dean of humanities at Rutgers who applied for the grant and will serve as the Institute’s director, is also part of the editorial collective of the Radical History Review. The May 2020 issue of the Review was wholly dedicated to an anti-police meme, with articles imagining a world without police, and referring to federal park rangers as pine pigs.
Black Lives Matter Global, a Marxist group in sheep’s clothing, established the BLM at School initiative in 2016. With a mission to teach children about structural racism, black history, gender studies, and pushing cops out of schools, it has garnered widespread support from teachers’ unions in nine major cities from New York to Seattle. The homepage for BLM at School features a quote from Joanne Chesimard under her nom de guerre, Assata Shakur. Chesimard executed a New Jersey State trooper in 1973 as a member of the Black Liberation Army and remains at large in Cuba.
Patrisse Cullors, the cofounder and prima donna of BLM Global, will soon be producing children’s programs for Warner Brothers Television. Dipping her toe into capitalism, Cullors cut a multiyear and wide-ranging deal for an undisclosed sum, facilitated by a talent agency owned by a major Clinton Foundation donor.
Sculpting young minds to question the nature of their own reflection should come easy to Cullors. Her socio-anarchism evolved from years studying political resistance at an alternative Los Angeles academy run by Eric Mann, a former Weatherman who understood the role of the university as formative to a long list of revolutionists, including Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevera.
Mann’s mentor, Bill Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground, whose botched federal prosecution for dozens of bombings saved him from decades behind bars, saw grammar school as an opportunity to build a movement. In a biography, Teaching Revolution, Mary Grabars outlines how Ayers used his emeritus status at the University of Illinois to frame a critical pedagogy now widely accepted in K-12 classrooms and curricula across the country. Grade schoolers are asked questions that probe the nature of their identity and upbringing, after which teachers inject phrases like supremacy, privilege, and racism to frame the correct answer.
At the end of September 2020, Cullors released a young adult adaption of her earlier book, When They Call You a Terrorist, promoting the book as an effort to “…inspire a new generation of activists to organize, mobilize, and fight for their future.” The foreword to the book is penned by Angela Davis, a geriatric familiar to last century’s failed insurgencies.
The political apparatchiks in progressive states are playing along. The New Jersey Civil Rights Division recently released a task force report on youth bias, suggesting classroom coaching and self-deprecating instruction is urgently needed to bring a stop to the age-old schoolyard problem of kids saying and doing bad things to other kids. In a recent newspaper opinion piece extolling the report, the state’s attorney general drew an absurd equivalency by conflating youthful misbehavior to the December 2019 terror attack in Jersey City by the Black Israelites, during which a local police officer was killed, along with three shoppers at a pre-targeted Jewish greengrocer.
The report bends over backwards to point out that young children may not realize that they’re bred to be biased, perhaps from parental and kindred role modeling. Every element of the traditional K-12 curricula -- history, language, science, and math -- are also contaminated and must be unraveled in order to better intersect with problems of race, ethnicity, gender, and a host of acronyms and pet names that highlight social injustice and systemic racism. Equity offices and officers in every school district are also recommended, installing an imperious authority to play patty fingers with racial parity in curricula, teacher and pupil diversity, and student disciplinary actions.
It may be too late to save liberal arts undergrads from the effects of an alt-humanistic education, but parents can still prevent harm to adolescent minds from critical pedagogy. Push back on lesson plans that bring about debilitating self-critiques and challenge opinions that are passed off as historical fact. If left unaddressed, your school taxes will be used to turn your children into baby Bolsheviks.
Rick Fuentes is a working-class conservative with a Ph.D. who survived four decades in law enforcement.