Right now, there’s a growing conflict between whether our schools should be focused primarily on academic instruction or social instruction.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), stated recently that teachers must assume the role of “Social Justice Warriors” in classrooms across the country. The National Education Association (NEA), another very large teachers’ union, urged the U.S. Justice Department to label concerned parents as “Domestic Terrorists” in an attempt to silence their objections. It’s clear that these teachers’ unions simply want to dismiss parents as being unworthy of advocating for their own children.
But parents need to be involved in the education of their children now more than ever.
Just look at what’s going on with Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. She was recently sued for advertising links to chat rooms where minors discuss sex and gender with adults present and without parents necessarily knowing.
Then, there’s Chandler Education Association Union President Katie Nash, who is on video at a Chandler Unified School District Board (CUSD) meeting actively promoting the teaching of White Supremacy Theory, the 1619 Project, and “Anti-Racism” programs typically derived from Critical Race Theory (CRT).
What does any of this have to do with academic instruction? Nothing.
But it’s being pushed in our schools, and while it can be tempting to blame teachers for this, we need to be careful. Most teachers should be considered as dedicated and trustworthy professionals. Instead, this is a failure of union leadership and their minions who have lost interest in academic education in favor of a growing obsession with political power. What has been the result? Declining academic scores across the country.
Of course, all of this is in direct contradiction with Arizona statute, which clearly defines these social activities as fundamental rights reserved to parents to be directed by them in the home. But these teachers’ unions don’t seem to care. They’d rather do whatever it takes to usurp these parental rights—even if it means lower academic scores.
Is Academic Proficiency Now a Secondary Consideration?
As social instruction grows, academic proficiency suffers. Consider a recent CUSD presentation of a “Portrait of a Learner” program, which described several social aspirations for students, yet somehow omitted any reference to academic proficiency. Shouldn’t we expect academics to be the primary focus of something that involves “Learning”? Either that, or you would think it would at least push students toward developing practical job skills training.
This continued lack of focus on academic proficiency is resulting in a continued decline in student test scores across the state. There does not seem to be any comprehensive plan to recover from this.
One of the unintended consequences of this movement to focus on social instruction is “Parent Flight” to other educational alternatives such as charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. The recent expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program in Arizona now allows for parents to choose from these alternatives over unsatisfactory district schools.
But as you might expect, teachers’ unions and their political arm, RedforEd, vigorously oppose this legislative expansion, claiming that it defunds schools. But what they won’t tell you is that it clearly does not defund a student’s educational opportunities. Equally important, it enhances a parent’s choice as to where they believe their children would receive the best education.
The program has been so popular that parents already overwhelmed the website in an effort to get out of undesirable district schools. Yet somehow it does not seem to occur to opponents of ESAs that, if they had district schools that were satisfactory to parents, then those parents probably would not even consider moving their kids to another competing educational alternative.
Quasi-Religious Woke Doctrine?
Perhaps what’s most frustrating about the growing social instruction in our schools is that, for years, our nation has been gradually removing religious (mostly Christian) influences from our public schools. In fact, it feels like the First Amendment right to “Freedom of Religion,” which was fundamental to the first European immigrants to this continent, has gradually been reinterpreted by the Left to mean “Freedom from Religion.”
But you can’t help but notice how certain aspects of woke doctrine seem to have become “articles of faith” that cannot be questioned by anyone without facing severe social backlash. It’s clear that Christian doctrine has been suppressed in schools and replaced by Secular Humanism, the belief that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without belief in God, and the more extreme Cultural Marxism, the Neo-Marxist movement seeking to apply critical theory to matters of family composition, gender, race, and cultural identity within Western society.
If teachers’ unions want to apply the “Freedom from Religion” doctrine in public schools, they should also apply a “Freedom from Extremist Political Doctrine” as well. It’s the only way to ensure our schools remain on neutral ground for political ideology, and it leaves social development at home with the child’s parents—where it should be.
Finally, along with our First Amendment rights comes a prohibition on “compelled speech,” which prevents a person from being forced, under threat or duress, to say things they don’t really believe in. But we hear regular reports of teachers being bullied and harassed by other “activist” colleagues to force them to go along with their extreme Leftist political doctrine. Many teachers simply comply because they are concerned about having to work in a hostile environment or having their livelihoods threatened.
This implies that there is some sort of informal “political test” for teachers in our schools. It is often enforced by aggressive colleagues who are usually associated with a teachers’ union. The apparent message is: “comply and be welcome, or dissent and be ostracized.” It is no wonder teachers are under such workplace stress because of these implied threats.
However, there is a recent report of one brave, principled teacher, who, in looking over the daily SEL lesson, simply said, “we are not going to do this today” and put the controversial assignment aside. So, if parents have the right to “opt-out” their children from the presentation of controversial subject matter, that same rule needs to be extended to teachers who do not believe in these social lessons or deem them inappropriate for the children in their class. It’s time to give these teachers an “opt-out” choice as well.
In conclusion, here are a few ways we can start to clean up our public schools:
Return the primary focus of schools to academic instruction rather than social instruction.
Reduce the influence of the politically biased teachers’ unions.
Protect parents’ rights to direct the social upbringing of their children.
Prohibit political and social ideologies from being established in schools.
Protect teachers from being compelled to present controversial materials that they do not believe in.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.
With their latest propaganda-Pulitzer as a stamp of credibility, the Times and its willing dupes have been ramming this America-hating 1619 propaganda into K-12 and college curricula. But this time the Leftists are getting some real pushback.
Kudos to parents who are speaking up at K-12 school board meetings against the one-sided Project 1619 and the odious Critical Race Theory in their children’s curricula. And kudos especially to Christopher Rufo, who has led a principled, eloquent resistance to the Left’s racialized Marxist indoctrination initiatives.
Another way to fight back against the Left’s propaganda is with an accurate counter-narrative about the Pilgrims’ experience in Massachusetts. The remainder of this article sketches such a counter-narrative.
If educators want to go back four centuries in search of our “national character,” it is the Year 1623 that they should be featuring. It was in that year that the Pilgrims, starving and dying under socialism, abruptly switched to private property and free markets. In short order, the Pilgrims moved from starvation to prosperity, paid off their debts to their English sponsors, and actually did establish a national character that survives to this day.
It is that new national character based on private property, free markets, and personal responsibility that drew a massive migration to America — not the sad introduction of the fusty 10,000-year-old institution of slavery in 1619.
It is with this thought that I write this article with hope.
I hope our American educators and media will develop an explicit, deliberate, and positive Project1623 counter-narrative to the one that the Times has been ramming into our media, schools, and our children’s minds.
If Leftist school boards manage to preserve their beloved Project 1619 narrative, then at a minimum, both narratives should be taught with equal vigor, side-by-side, in our schools. Spirited debates by the students, comparing the two narratives would be a positive step.
Prediction: In the near term, as the Democrat Party slides ever-more-leftward toward desultory socialism, racialized Marxism, and communism, the 1623 narrative will emerge as the more positive and relevant today for We the People.
Brief Summary of The Project 1623 Narrative
In November, 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. They promptly lost half their population to starvation, sickness, and exposure that first winter, and they fared little better the second winter. We were all taught that a Native American named Squanto taught the survivors to fish, plant corn, use fertilizer, and hunt deer. While mostly true, it is surely the lesser half of the story.
What most of us never learned (or glossed over) was that the original contract the Pilgrims brokered with their London sponsors required that everything the Pilgrims produced was to go into a common store, and every member was to be allotted one equal share. Further, all the land they cleared, and all the buildings they constructed, were to belong to the whole community rather than to any individual.
To those with visions of Utopia, this must have sounded like the ideal society. Free of outside evil influences from old England and Europe, private property and greed were to be banished. Everyone was to work hard for the common good. Each was to contribute all that one could and take out only what one needed. In modern terms, it was to be a kind of Bernie Sanders neo-Marxist equity-for-all paradise.
So how did it all work out for the Pilgrims?
In the two winters beginning in 1621 & 1622, a great many died from starvation, pneumonia, or both. Here are excerpts from Governor William Bradford’s own retrospective summary of the community’s experience with what we now variously call collectivism, socialism, or communism:
This community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. … Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
In other words, said the Governor, it simply didn’t work, even when their very survival depended on it. Mankind’s inherent nature simply wouldn’t accommodate it, no matter how “ideal” it may have seemed to its proponents.
Simply put, Bradford had discovered that even the most idealistic of peoples have no reason to put in any extra effort without the motivation of personal incentives to do so.
Wisely, in April, 1623, Bradford abruptly abandoned socialism. Instead, he assigned a plot of land to each family, permitting them to keep everything they produced and to market anything they didn’t consume themselves. He actually harnessed all that supposed human ”greed” and put it to work in a free-market system of the type Milton Friedman was to espouse so eloquently in the 20th-century Free to Choose series of books and videos.
So … for the Pilgrims, how did free markets and private property work out for the same people in the same place under the same circumstances?
The Pilgrims soon had more food than they could eat or trade among themselves. They set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Native Americans. They paid off their debts to their London sponsors and soon attracted a great European migration. Their new society still had its problems, but hunger was never again one of them.
As Bradford summarized the new approach:
The women now went willing into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability, and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. … This [new approach] had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.
Most importantly for us today, Bradford wrote about the bitter lessons learned from the failure of original socialistic plan:
Let none argue that this is due to human failing rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself …
Note even circa 1630, when he began writing his notes, Bradford used the term “communistic.”
The Pilgrim experience of 1623 stands as the most authentic-ever, real-life, before-and-after comparison of socialism versus private property and free markets.
Bottom Line: Socialism lost. Free markets won.
In modern times, when confronted with the undeniable historical record of socialism’s many failures, the Left usually argues that the “right people” weren’t in charge, and if only they had been, their utopian socialist vision would have succeeded. If Bradford could speak today, he would surely disagree based on the Pilgrims’ real-life experience. It wasn’t human failings that were the problem — the fault was in the communistic plan itself.
So then …
Why isn’t this 1623 lesson featured up front, in neon lights, in American history classes? Why isn’t it the lead story of the Pilgrim experience? Why has the history even been falsified and its most important lesson ignored? Why has the New York Times overlooked it and focused on the 1619 introduction of slavery instead?
Perhaps it’s because the people who write our history textbooks still don’t want to believe it. Perhaps those authors still cling to the hope that some form of their beloved faculty-lounge utopian socialism, collectivism, Marxism, communism, progressivism, or whatever-ism will one day triumph over private property and free markets.
See also this link , which provides an explicit record of three major countries that tried socialism with good intent and suffered horribly for it.
It is now 400 years since the landing at Plymouth Rock. As we cast our votes in 2022 and 2024, all Americans will do well to remember the hard-earned lessons learned by the Pilgrims about socialism versus free markets.
In March, the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) Social Studies newsletter advertised grant funds for teachers who would implement the 1619 Project. The Pulitzer Center offered a $5,000 grant to 40 educators; applications were due in March. The 1619 Project is an exercise of critical race theory, which holds that race is a socially-constructed idea created by white people to exploit and suppress anyone who isn’t white, and that all social, political, and economic institutions in this country were created by and operate on racism.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper series was debunked by historians roundly and subsequently edited significantly without any editor’s notes from its publisher, The New York Times. The initial goal of the project was to “reframe the country’s history” by establishing the year 1619 as the United States’s “true founding,” while focusing “the consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans” as the lens through which to view past and present American society.
Parent and co-founder of West Valley Parents Uniting, Heather Rooks, resurfaced ADE’s newsletter promoting 1619 Project grant funds.
“Social Studies Newsletter back from January 2021, Arizona Department of Education to the Peoria Unified School District,” wrote Rooks. “Pulitzer Center offering grants to teachers to help implement the 1619 project ? So @azedschools is clearly using incentives to push CRT is AZ schools!”
Social Studies Newsletter back from January 2021, Arizona Department of Education to the Peoria Unified School District….Pulitzer Center offering grants to teachers to help implement the 1619 project ? So @azedschools is clearly using incentives to push CRT is AZ schools! pic.twitter.com/7195dTl7lK
In February, ADE’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion also suggested that the 1619 Project podcast was an appropriate educator resource for Black History Month.
In a statement to AZ Free News, Rooks questioned how ADE could be trusted with educating Arizona’s students if they promoted such unacademic materials. She urged parents to up their vigilance.
The Arizona Department of Education sends out newsletters to school districts across the valley. You would think the Department would have resources to help students with loss of learning. But instead, there’s a newsletter from January 2021 showing a promotion from Pulitzer Center giving out grant money to teachers who implement the 1619 project in their classrooms. I am a parent who wants the best education not only for my children, but for all children in Peoria Unified School District. Finding this newsletter through public records in emails of the curriculum team with the Peoria Unified School District was incredibly sad and shocking to say the least. If we can’t trust The Arizona Department of Education, how do we trust the Districts? Parents need to be aware of these newsletters coming to school districts from the Arizona Department of Education. Offering incentives to push Critical Race Theory into schools is completely wrong. West Valley Parents Uniting stands for transparency for parents and academics for students. Apparently the Arizona Department of Education doesn’t stand for Truth.