I came across the following post at Chris Wehner’s Blog4History site. We’ve had our share of run-ins in the past, but Chris is a fellow APUS History teacher and somehow he managed to write a regimental history and teach at the same time. That’s quite a feat. Chris is a public school teacher and is worried about the influence of left wing ideologues shaping our history curriculum and influencing how our children think about themselves and their relationship to government. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this.
On the other hand, Wehner’s most recent post on the push to turn classrooms into labs for the teaching of social justice seems to me to be a case of serious hyperbole. The US Social Forum sounds like a wonderful opportunity for those who are interested in bringing about a certain kind of change to American politics, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea and as far as I am concerned it has no place in the classroom. Wehner would have us believe, however, that this kind of agenda is infiltrating our public schools. Now keep in mind that I am a private school teacher so he may be in a much better position to judge this program’s popularity among teachers. In his post, Wehner claims the following:
This is called teaching for Social Justice and it is not about truth or honesty, it is about radicalism, indoctrination, and propaganda in our schools. And we wonder why our public schools are failing us? There is little learning going on and instead, lots of indoctrination.
They are teaching educators about radicalism and revolution, and they in turn will teach the children!
This is just more data that our educational system is being hijacked by a movement that seeks to do nothing more than fundamentally change this country into something it was never intended to be!
Now, perhaps I need to go back and browse the website more carefully, but where does it suggest that this conference is being marketed to history teachers or any teachers for that matter? More importantly, how many school districts actually implement programs that fall in line with this agenda? Wehner fails to provide any facts that would back up his claims. One thing that is clear is that these conferences are marketed to America’s youth, but that should come as no surprise. I suspect that I could just as easily find organizations on the conservative side that are engaged in exactly the same thing. And I have no doubt that I can find accompanying texts for their programs that are equivalent to what William Ayers does in his book on the teaching of Social Justice. In the end, however, I am still left wondering just how influential any of this is. For example, how many history teachers actually implemented the curriculum outlined in the History Channel/Howard Zinn collaboration, “The People Speak”? I’ve seen a few online clips of the show and concluded that it was a complete waste of time. If the barbarians are actually at the gates than show it.
I’ve worked as a full time history teacher for the past ten years and in that time I’ve never met a fellow teacher who has turned his or her classroom into the kind of environment that is described by this organization and conference or one that reflects the kinds of concerns that Wehner has written about of late. Again, I may be completely off base here, but if so it should be demonstrated and not just asserted.
Let me close by suggesting a different image of our most motivated and passionate teachers on their summer break. If they are already thinking about the start of a new year they are not outlining new methods to indoctrinate their students into a certain ideology or preparing to attend the US Social Forum. I suspect that most of these people will study a particular area of history that needs more attention. Perhaps they are attending one of the Gilder-Lehrman workshops or even the Civil War Preservation Trust”s 2010 Teacher Institute. They may be exploring how social media and other online tools can aid them in teaching their subject. More than likely, however, many of our teachers may simply be wondering how they are going to teach their curriculum in classrooms that are overcrowded and underfunded. Our public schools are being threatened from any number of directions. Let me suggest that the Howard Zinn/William Ayers/Social Justice front is not one of them.