Make the Commies Compete

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Over at City Journal, Sol Stern discusses how Marxist radicals, including a former bomb-maker for the Weather Underground, are using their positions as teachers to indoctrinate students in the public school system of New York City. For just one example, did you know that New York City has a "social justice" high school?

New York schools chancellor Joel Klein often speaks eloquently about the harm that the education system's inability to dismiss incompetent teachers does to children. He's right about that, of course. All the more reason to wonder why Klein has been indifferent to the existence of a group of radical teachers within his own schools who advocate the use of public school classrooms to indoctrinate students in left-wing, anti-American ideology.

One place where this movement thrives is El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Brooklyn, the city's first "social justice" high school. The school's lead math teacher, Jonathan Osler, is using El Puente as a base for a three-day conference in April on "Math Education and Social Justice." Osler offers this compelling rationale for the conference: "The systemic and structural oppression of low income [people] and people of color continues to worsen. The number of people in prison continues to grow, as does our unemployment rate. . . . These problems and many others are being addressed by community organizations and activists, and often find their way into Social Studies and English classes. However, in math classes around the country, perhaps the best places to study many of these issues, we continue to use curricula and models that lack any real-world -- let alone socially relevant -- contexts." [bold added]
The only thing more horrible than the disease -- and the posting is worth a full read for that alone -- is the suggested cure!
You might think that public boasting about indoctrinating fourth-graders with canned Marxist agitprop isn't the best way for a public school teacher to advance either his career or the radical cause. Nor would a former domestic terrorist make the best poster girl for social justice teaching. Surely someone responsible for safeguarding public education in New York City has stepped forward by now, to say that the social justice curriculum violates every accepted standard of ethical and professional responsibility for public school teachers!

But no: the city's Department of Education has so far turned a blind eye to these radical teachers -- who are not only subsidized by taxpayers, but also funded by members of the very capitalist class that the social justice literature demonizes: El Puente was founded with funding from uber-capitalist Bill Gates's education foundation, and the conference on math education and social justice has won a grant from Math for America, an organization headed by billionaire hedge-fund entrepreneur James Simons. If Chancellor Klein really wants to banish bad teachers from the schools, there's an easy way for him to start building a dossier of candidates. All he has to do is attend next month's math conference at El Puente Academy. [bold added]
It is certainly bad enough that public schools have become indoctrination camps staffed by an entrenched cadre of leftist faculty, but the only thing that could be worse is this suggestion: to start using political beliefs as a basis for firing faculty members! How can students learn about open debate when their own teachers have to worry that an opinion aired in class might not be the "best way to advance ... his career"? This is a terrible idea.

Stern is correct to imply that Americans should not be forced to fund the teaching of ideologies to which they are opposed (i.e., through their tax money), but the solution is not to involve the government in selecting teachers based on ideology. It is to get the government out of the education sector, where it doesn't belong anyway. Even if teachers such as Jonathan Osler could get jobs on the free market, whichever school hired him would be financed only by those willing to do so, unable to force children to attend, and unable to compete for free against other schools.

Only with a separation of school and state can we be sure that our government is neither forcing us to fund the dissemination of Marxist propaganda nor in the business to telling ordinary citizens which ideas they may or may not teach in the classroom. And besides, the competition of the free market would do much more to address Stern's worries about the overall quality of education than a government bureaucracy ever could.

-- CAV


: Minor edits.

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