Politicizing Education in Fairfax Schools

Student protesters. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

If you doubt that progressive public school systems are politicizing education, consider this: Beginning next year, Fairfax County Public Schools will allow 7th- to 12th-grade students to take off one day per year to participate in “civic engagement activities” — including marches, sit-ins, protests, or trips to lobby legislators.

“I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” Ryan McElveen, the Fairfax County School Board member who introduced the measure, told the Washington Post.  “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”

No, Mr. McElveen, school systems have no obligation to be “responsive” to left-wing activism. They have an obligation to be “responsive” to students who go to school to get an education. Students should be free to discuss liberal-left preoccupations such as social justice and climate change in class or debate clubs. But schools have no business sanctioning the skipping of class in furtherance of political action.

It goes without saying that Fairfax schools would not be granting the day off droves of students were skipping school to attend gun-sanctuary rallies or anti-abortion protests. The measure is designed to empower the Liberal/Left.

As Thai Jones, a Columbia University lecturer, tells the WaPo, most major student-led movements today promote left-leaning causes. “People who call themselves conservatives probably do still count respecting authority — staying in school — as a crucial and central tenet of the social order.”

“Kids on the right who are active, they tend to be doing it by preparing to run for school board, or being aides in legislature,” said Levinson, a Harvard University professor. In researching her book on educational ethics, she added, “I kept looking for examples of students protesting on the right, and it’s very, very hard to find.”

What’s the big deal, you might ask. If this measure were the only thing happening in public schools, it might not be a big deal. But it has to be viewed in a larger context in which certain school systems are becoming politicized in ways large and small that favor the Liberal/Left. It’s one more step in the long march of transforming schools from centers of learning into political indoctrination camps.

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20 responses to “Politicizing Education in Fairfax Schools

  1. Not sure why we’d fear this. Why not have kids get more involved in the issues that affect us all?

    Some of them may actually get involved in Conservative stuff – who knows?

    They could demonstrate against Climate hoaxes and restrictive zoning and high college tuition and all that… right?

    • They could indeed. But first they will be asked to show up to demonstrate for higher teacher pay, I’m sure. Gee, Jim, this ideological takeover of the public schools is into its second generation now.

  2. It is always good to encourage students to be involved in their society and government. Participation is a learning experience. An excused absence of one day per year is hardly anything to get excited about. And there is no restriction or requirement on how they participate. They can demonstrate for higher teacher pay or go to a Trump rally.

  3. It’s utterly stupid and, given that it came from McElveen, completely understandable. Ask him how his run for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors went.

    But so long as it’s limited to one day and it is administered without regard to the issue involved, it’s not the end of the world. The big fear is that the ideologies of the teachers, principals, other students, administrators and school board members will influence decision-making about the validity of the demonstration’s cause and enforcement of the associated rules.

  4. What is so wrong with that? When you were at uva you belonged to YAF where you discussed wherever nansemond county should become the city of suffolk. How boring

  5. Curious that this starts a couple of days after the March For Life. Coincidence?

  6. Hey Peter G,

    Who was in YAF? We never had that, only Repubs and Dems. At the time, Dems were about 10 people and Repubs 1000 people.

    Vic

  7. I think this demonstrates Conservative paranoia about liberals proselytizing the young.

    We should ENCOURAGE young people to actually get involved in their communties so they can actually see and experience the realities instead of viewing from afar through some prism …

    Conservative types are all atwitter about students protesting for liberal causes… like they have no confidence at all in their own philosophies. Geeze! and these are the guys who keep talking about the “marketplace” of ideas… lord o’mighty! Do Conservatives have a self-esteem problem?

    • If students protested for conservative causes in Fairfax, those involved would be labeled all the appropriate tags from white supremacist to neo Nazi. Those involved would get a heavy dose of equity training too. Most certainly a choice story for the local six o’clock news.

      • Or supposing Catholic high school white kids from Covington, Kentucky showed up in front of the Nation’s Capital wearing red MAGA hats, what would you expect to be happening over at WaPo, and other bastions of advanced progressive thought.

        Ops, I forgot. We already know.

  8. One of my favorite books is titled: “At Dawn We Slept”. A book about Pearl Harbor and all the clues that the attack was near. Great title for what is coming to public school near you. Fairfax and Loudoun are upstream. This is all coming down stream very soon. Liberals own the public education institutions nearly from top to bottom now. This ship has sailed. Conservatives will never get it back. The classrooms are living and breathing examples of deep state liberalism that will resist any changes to the narrative. The only thing conservatives can do is to separate from public institutions such as education.

  9. johnrandolphofroanoke,

    Because of your time spent laboring in the Belly of the Beast, you known what everyone else on this blog obviously does now fully understand and appreciate, namely the sustained, highly organized and intentional brainwashing of our children’s political opinions by the nations public schools. This operation has deep pervasive operational roots going back for some 20 years now. Its leftist progressive ideology and agenda is ever more refined and tightly woven each year, and is increasingly popping up all over the nation. On its present course this will no doubt destroy our Republic that can work only with competent citizens who are educated to think for themselves, not be politicized as children into blind true believers under the boot and domination of there political leftist masters, as if China.

    This threat is extensively discussed in a 229 page study released this month by the National Association of Scholars. It’s frightening what has been going on under our noses, within Academia.

    Below I have copied in portions of the Precis, and Executive Summary of that study titled Social Justice Education in America.

    Precis

    In the last twenty years a body of “social justice educators” has come to power in American higher education. These professors and administrators are transforming higher education into advocacy for progressive politics. They also work to reserve higher education jobs for social justice advocates, and to train more social justice advocates for careers in nonprofit organizations, K–12 education, and social work.

    Social Justice Education in America draws upon a close examination of 60 colleges and universities to show how social justice educators have taken over higher education.

    The report includes recommendations on how to prevent colleges and universities from substituting activism for learning.

    Executive Summary:

    American universities have drifted from the political center for fifty years and more. By now scarcely any conservatives or moderates remain, and most of them are approaching retirement. The radical establishment triumphed on campus a generation ago.

    What they have created since is an even more disturbing successor to the progressive academy of the 1990s. In the last twenty years, a generation of academics and administrators has emerged that is no longer satisfied with using the forms of traditional scholarship to teach progressive thought.

    This new generation seeks to transform higher education itself into an engine of progressive political advocacy, subjecting students to courses that are nothing more than practical training in progressive activism. This new generation bases its teaching and research on the ideology of social justice.

    The concept of social justice originated in nineteenth-century Catholic thought, but it has become secular and progressive in Twenty-First-century America. Justice traditionally judges freely chosen individual acts, but social justice judges how far the distribution of economic and social benefits among social groups departs from how they “ought” to be distributed. Practically, social justice also justifies the exercise of the state’s coercive power to distribute “fairly” goods that include education, employment, housing, income, health care, leisure, a pleasant environment, political power, property, social recognition, and wealth.

    What we may call radical social justice theory, which dominates higher education, adds to broader social justice theory the belief that society is divided into social identity groups defined by categories such as class, race, and gender; that any “unfair distribution” of goods among these groups is oppression; and that oppression can only—and must—be removed by a coalition of “marginalized” identity groups working to radically transform politics, society, and culture to eliminate privilege.

    A rough, incomplete catalogue of the social justice movement’s political goals includes increased federal and state taxation; increased minimum wage; increased environmental regulation; increased government health care spending and regulation; restrictions on free speech; restrictions on due process protections; maximizing the number of legislative districts that will elect racial minorities; support for the Black Lives Matter movement; mass release of criminals from prison; decriminalizing drugs; ending enforcement of our immigration laws; amnesty for illegal aliens; open borders; race and sex preferences in education and employment; persecution of conscientious objectors to homosexuality; advocacy for “transgender rights”; support for the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement; avowal of a right to abortion; and mob violence to enforce the social justice policy agenda.

    Social justice advocates’ emphasis on words such as justice, equity, rights, and impact all register social justice’s fundamental goal of acquiring governmental power. Social justice advocates tend to dedicate any activity in which they engage to the effort to achieve the political ends of social justice.

    Activism is the exemplary means to forward social justice. This word signifies the collective exertion of influence via social justice nonprofit organizations. Activism may take the form of organization-building (staff work, fundraising, membership recruitment), publicity, lobbying, and actions by responsible officials in pursuit of social justice. It may also take the form of “protest”—assembling large numbers of people on the streets to “persuade” responsible officials into executing the preferred policies of social justice advocates. Social justice activism formally eschews violence, but far too many social justice advocates are willing to engage in all “necessary” violence.

    Social justice activists in the university are subordinating higher education toward the goal of achieving social justice. Social justice education takes the entire set of social justice beliefs as the predicate for education, in every discipline from accounting to zoology. Social justice education rejects the idea that classes should aim at teaching a subject matter for its own sake, or seek to foster students’ ability to think, judge, and write as independent goods. Social justice education instead aims directly at creating effective social justice activists, ideally engaged during class in such activism. Social justice education transforms the very definitions of academic disciplines – first to permit the substitution of social justice activism for intellectual endeavor, and then to require it.

    Social justice educators define education as the practice of social justice activism. Experiential learning, which is vocational training in social justice activism, is the heart of social justice education. Other prominent elements include action learning, action research, action science, advocacy-oriented research, classroom action research, collaborative inquiry, community research, critical action research, emancipation research, participatory action research, and social justice research.

    Most colleges and universities today operate under tight fiscal constraints, which lead to dwindling numbers of tenure-track faculty jobs and allow expanding numbers of administrative jobs. These constraints shape the means by which social justice educators extend their influence. They focus on four broad strategic initiatives: 1) the alteration of university and department mission statements; 2) the seizure of internal graduation requirements; 3) the capture of disciplines or creation of pseudo-disciplines; and 4) the capture of the university administration.

    The first strategic initiative, alteration of mission statements, provides a wedge by which to pursue the latter three. Social justice educators pursue these other three initiatives with the practical goal to reserve as many jobs as possible for social justice advocates, particularly in higher education, K–12 education, and social work. The capture of the university administration, above all, gives social justice advocates a career track and the expectation of lifetime employment. Social justice advocates want to reserve for themselves all of the estimated 1.5 million American jobs for postsecondary teachers and administrators.

    Social justice advocates’ first goal is to incorporate social justice, or related words, into college and university mission statements. This social justice vocabulary sometimes serves as hollow words to fob on social justice advocates. Yet it also works as a promissory note for more detailed changes to impose social justice education. A social justice mission statement generally indicates that a higher education institute no longer really aims to educate students. It really aims at social justice activism, and it will only provide education that doesn’t conflict with social justice ideology. The ideal of social justice does not complement the ideal of education. The ideal of social justice replaces the ideal of education.

    Social justice advocates’ most important curricular tactic within higher education is to insert one or more social justice requirements into the general education requirements. They give these requirements different names, including Diversity, Experiential Learning, Sustainability, Global Studies, and, forthrightly, Social Justice.

    This tactic forces all college students to take at least one social justice course, and thereby maximizes the effect of social justice propaganda. The common practice
    of double counting a social justice requirement so that it also satisfies another requirement powerfully reinforces the effect of social justice requirements. These requirements also collectively reserve a large number of teaching jobs and tenure-track lines for social justice educators. No one but a social justice advocate, after all, is really qualified to teach a course in social justice advocacy. The direct financial burden of social justice general education requirements is at least $10 billion a year nationwide, and rising fast.

    Social justice advocates also have taken over or created a substantial portion of the academic departments in our universities. The departments most likely to advertise their commitment to social justice are those most central to the social justice educators’ ideological vision, political goals, and ambition for employment.

    The heaviest concentrations of social justice departments are the Identity Group Studies, Gender Studies, Peace Studies, and Sustainability Studies pseudo-disciplines; the career track departments of Education, Social Work, and Criminology; and the departments dedicated to activism such as Civic Engagement, Leadership, and Social Justice. Social justice takes over departments by incorporating social justice into their mission statements, inserting departmental requirements for social justice education, and dedicating as many elective courses as possible to social justice education. When social justice educators control departments entirely, they rapidly shift the definition of that discipline so that it requires social justice education. These changes make it practically impossible to study that discipline without embracing social justice.

    Social justice departments denominate their vocational training in activism as experiential learning—or related terms such as civic engagement, community engagement, fieldwork, internships, practica, and service-learning. Service-learning usually refers to relatively unpoliticized experiential learning, which habituates students to the basic forms and techniques of activism, while civic engagement usually refers to more avowedly political social justice activism. The term experiential learning disguises what is essentially vocational training in progressive activism by pretending that it is no different from an internship with an engineering firm. Many supposedly academic social justice courses also focus on readying students for experiential learning courses—and for a further career in social justice activism. Experiential learning courses are what particularly distinguishes social justice education from its progressive forebears.

    Experiential learning courses, dedicated outright to progressive activism, drop all pretense that teachers and students are engaged in the search for knowledge. Experiential learning is both a camouflaging euphemism and a marker of social justice education.

    While social justice education has made great strides among university professors, its dizziest success has been its takeover of the university administration. Higher education administration is now even more liberal than the professoriate. The training of higher education administrators, especially within the labyrinth of “co-curricular” bureaucracies, increasingly makes commitment to social justice an explicit or an implicit requirement. These administrators insert themselves into all aspects of student life, both outside and inside the classroom. Overwhelmingly, they exercise their power to promote social justice. Social justice administrators catechize students in social justice propaganda; select social justice advocates as outside speakers; funnel students to on-campus social justice organizations that benefit from free student labor; and provide jobs and money for social justice cadres among the student body. The formation of social justice bureaucracies also serves as an administrative stepping stone to the creation of social justice departments. Perhaps most importantly, university administration provides a career for students specializing in social justice advocacy.

    Higher education’s administrative bloat has facilitated the growth of social justice bureaucracies—among them, Offices of Diversity and Multicultural affairs; Title IX coordinators; Offices of First-Year Experience and Community Engagement; Offices of Student Life and Residential Life; Offices of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement; Offices of Equity and Inclusion; Offices of Sustainability and Social Justice; and miscellaneous institutes and centers. These bureaucracies focus on co-curricular activities, which consist largely of social justice activities such as Intersectionality Workshops and Social Justice Weekend Retreats. Social justice administrators aim to subordinate the curriculum to the co-curriculum, as the practical way to subordinate the pursuit of truth to social justice advocacy.” End Of Quote.

    For more of this important timely study see: https://www.nas.org/reports/social-justice-education-in-america

    • This study looks like a blueprint right out of Hemingway’s novel “The Fifth Column”. What is quoted is true this is really happening. The code speak of the social justice movement include collaboration, diversity, equity, barriers to learning, and restorative justice. These are everyday words in my profession now. You would be shocked how many Fortune 500 companies have taken a tack in this direction. I do know why the Progressivism of the turn of the last century failed: Americans have a short attention span. We moved on to WW One, the Roaring Twenties, and the Depression. Once the next great unforeseen curveball arrives I do hope we move on from this business. It is counterproductive, divisive, and does not include batteries either.

    • You should not speak for other people on this blog, Reed. (“what everyone else on this blog obviously does now fully understand and appreciate”)

    • As one currently teaching at one of Virginia’s public universities, I strenuously refute this piece. Don’t accept things like this. Come to campus. Talk with students and faculty. You will not find what this writer describes.

      Certainly some individuals support this but there is no way this thinking has taken over the leadership of universities. Many of our students and younger faculty are quite conservative.

      Activism is not a dirty word. Some folks try to make it extreme and to marginalize it. That results in too many citizens feeling they should not or cannot speak up about what they believe. This suits some folks who want to control the discussion- who don’t seek to find common ground but only support scorched earth tactics to impose their perspectives on everyone.

      This document is not representative of what is going on. Yes social justice, diversity, etc. matter. Everyone deserves a chance to achieve the American Dream. No one should take someone else’s opportunity. We need to find ways to help everyone – not greedily take as much as possible for our individual use while ignoring the rights of others.

      I realize you will not believe me. I urge you to visit our universities and to talk with multiple students and faculty instead of accepting something that we could even be reading out of context as the truth.

      • As one currently teaching at one of Virginia’s public universities, I strenuously refute this piece. Don’t accept things like this. Come to campus. Talk with students and faculty. You will not find what this writer describes.

        Certainly some individuals support this but there is no way this thinking has taken over the leadership of universities. Many of our students and younger faculty are quite conservative.

        Activism is not a dirty word. Some folks try to make it extreme and to marginalize it. That results in too many citizens feeling they should not or cannot speak up about what they believe. This suits some folks who want to control the discussion- who don’t seek to find common ground but only support scorched earth tactics to impose their perspectives on everyone.

        This document is not representative of what is going on. Yes social justice, diversity, etc. matter. Social Justice Weekends may occur but no one is forced to participate and there are many different options for activities.

        Everyone deserves a chance to achieve the American Dream. No one should take someone else’s opportunity. We need to find ways to help everyone – not greedily take as much as possible for our individual use while ignoring the rights of others.

        I realize you will not believe me. I urge you to visit our universities and to talk with multiple students and faculty instead of accepting something that we could even be reading out of context as the truth.

    • For further evidence of this rising social justice plague please see the Dec. 20th commentary by Abigail Thomson found in the Wall Street Journal, titled The University’s New Loyalty Oath, including this snippet:

      “…In the past few years “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” statements, in which applicants for faculty positions profess their commitment to these social goals, have become required on eight UC campuses and at colleges across the country.”

      For more see:
      https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-universitys-new-loyalty-oath-11576799749?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=2

      • Striving for diversity, equity, and inclusion is now akin to a plague? Sorry, but the days of male, white, Protestant domination are over. The goals of diversity and equity are what have made the United States great and unique and have been the target from the beginning. See the Declaration of Independence. And we fought a Civil War over these principles. Diversity, equity, and inclusion won. See 13th and 14th Amendments.

        • Your game, Dick, is identity politics. Like, for instance, your comment in Jim’s Samirah Bill post accusing others of using “code words,” your suggesting that an entire political party was racist, in your effort to shut down further comments of others agreeing with what the “code words” really in fact meant.

          Your effort there failed, and so the conversation proceeded for many others to show that Samirah’s Bill rested on a dubious foundation that needed to be more fully explored and exposed.

          Now your comment here that “Sorry, but the days of male, white, Protestant domination are over,” is another thinly veiled charge of racism against others, myself included, that will also fail.

          What you do not understand is that “diversity, equity, and inclusion” happens when we stop judging people by the color of their skin, or their class, religion or background, a virtue your comments indicate that you have not yet mastered, and so you falsely project your own failure onto others, that of racism. You should be ashamed.

  10. Is it automatically support for left wing ideology? Seems the same rules apply for right wing ideology. Maybe what needs to happen is education to help kids understand that each of them have a responsibility to be involved in public decision making; to help them believe they can make a difference. Too many people think “others” take care of things and are afraid to speak up on any issue.

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