Social Justice or
By Laurie Higgins, DSA
Director - Illinois Family
November 15, 2008
Emphasis added in
bold letters below
should teach their subjects. They should not teach peace
or war or freedom or obedience or diversity or
uniformity or nationalism or antinationalism or any
other agenda that might properly be taught by a
political leader or a talk-show host."
I sincerely hope that the
notoriety of former Weather Underground terrorist
Bill Ayers that has been
resurrected as a result of his affiliation with Barack
Obama will result in a more critical look at the content
of his "social justice" theories that undermine the
legitimacy of public education.
Up until this past August, I worked at Deerfield High School
(DHS) which is located in a suburb north of Chicago. For too
many years the public has been unwittingly subsidizing
the efforts of a small group of academic activists who
arrogantly believe that their job description includes
transforming the culture.
What is even more troubling is the direction in which they
seek to transform the culture. Their socio-political
vision comes straight out of Bill Ayers' playbook. In
fact, one of the preeminent social justice activists at
Deerfield High School has signed the "Support Bill Ayers"
Unfortunately, the presence of social justice advocacy is
not a problem at just Deerfield High School. This cancer
has metastasized throughout our nation's public schools
via our teacher-education programs, like the one at
University of Illinois (Chicago) where Bill Ayers teaches.
If the innocuous term "social justice" referred to helping
those in need who are incapable of helping themselves, then
we should support it in both theory and practice. The
problem is that the "social justice" movement in public
education refers to a very particular set of beliefs that
are anything but innocuous.
In regard to economics, it's essentially repackaged
socialism with its focus on income redistribution. Its
other dominant features pertain to race, gender, class, and
sexual orientation/sexual identity/ or sexual expression.
Social justice theory encourages students to view the
world through the divisive lens of identity politics
that demarcates groups according to who are the "oppressors"
and who are the "oppressed." It has nothing to do
with individual acts of actual persecution or oppression.
For example, as one of the social justice proponents at DHS
has said nauseum, "If you're white, male, and
heterosexual, you are automatically an oppressor."
Apparently, he doesn't notice that this is a prejudiced,
racist, sexist, heterophobic stereotype.
Social justice theory robs minorities of a sense of agency
in and responsibility for their own lives, telling them that
their lot in life cannot improve through their own efforts
but only through an appropriate degree of guilt on the parts
of the purported oppressors. It cultivates a sense of
perpetual victimization and powerlessness on the parts
of minorities and an irrational and illegitimate sense of
guilt on the parts of the "oppressors."
There are a number of influential social justice "educators"
(or grievance-mongers) whose names taxpayers would be wise
to know: Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Marxist whose
book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been hugely
influential; Bill Ayers (Teaching for Social
Justice); Asa Hilliard, Bell Hooks, Jane Elliot, Peggy
McIntosh (SEED), and Glenn Singleton (Courageous
In an Oct. 28, 2008 online Education Week article, "Election
Renews Controversy Over Social-Justice Teaching,"
writer Kathleen Kennedy Manzo writes that the fact
that social justice teaching tends "to highlight the more
unseemly details of U.S. history as well as the nation's
enduring problems, is what most disturbs critics of the
movement." One student I worked with on the writing center
at DHS told me that at the end of her first semester in an
American Studies class, she hated America and hated being
Despite claims made by Bill Ayers, social justice
"educators" do not in practice demonstrate a commitment to
intellectual inquiry. Ayers wrote on the blog "eduwonkette"
that "in a democracy one would expect . . . commitment to
free inquiry, questioning, and participation." But social
justice teachers rarely, if ever, introduce resources
that challenge their own biased view of American
history, their controversial theories on how to think about
race, or their arguable, unproven theories about the nature
and morality of homosexuality.
In a new book by well respected scholar Stanley Fish,
Save the World on Your Own Time, he chastises
educators who use the classroom for purposes for which they
were not hired:
"Teachers can also put
students in possession of the analytical tools employed
by up-to-date researchers in the field. But teachers
cannot, except for a serendipity that by definition
cannot be counted on, fashion moral character, or
inculcate respect for others, or produce citizens of a
certain temper. Or, rather, they cannot do these things
unless they abandon the responsibilities that belong to
them by contract in order to take up responsibilities
that belong properly to others. But if they do that,
they will be practicing without a license and in all
likelihood doing a bad job at a job they shouldn't be
doing at all. When that happens--and unfortunately it
does happen--everyone loses. The students lose because
they're not getting what they paid for (it will be said
that they are getting more, but in fact they are getting
less). The university loses because its resources have
been appropriated for a nonacademic purpose."
He further argues that "Higher
education loses . . . when teachers offer themselves as
moralists, therapists, political counselors, and agents of
Taxpayers should do as I did: Send an email or letter to the
superintendent, principal, assistant principal, library
staff, and all department chairs of your public schools,
urging them to purchase, read, study, and discuss this
important book during staff development time. The
exploitation of the classroom by "social justice" advocates
who use our money to effect "social change" in the direction
of their socio-political vision must stop now, and it won't
unless taxpayers speak up.
Higgins is the Director of Illinois
Family Institute's new Division of School
Advocacy. For the past eight years, she worked full-time
in the writing center of the high school from which her
four children graduated. So she is quite familiar with
the dramatic -- and, arguably, calamitous --
changes that have taken place over the last decade.
"Woe to those who
call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light,
and light for darkness.... Woe to those who are wise in their
own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!"
The International Agenda