With recent reports of school districts adopting “social justice” curricula, it is important to note that, since most teachers have already been teaching it on their own, the announcements are only a formality. “Social justice” curriculum materials have increasingly been promoted for years within the educational organizations teachers use to gather ideas and resources for their lessons. Dating back to, at least, 2015, according to the National Council for the Social Studies National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers, “social justice” has been part of the core competencies of social studies teacher education, and it includes guiding teachers into analyzing “equity,” “power,” and “access” within the frame of social justice.
Many people think that demanding a school to reject “social justice” curricula, including that of the 1619 Project, Black Lives Matter Curriculum, etc., will successfully root out any of the messaging that comes from these resources in their child’s education. However, it is important to recognize that these materials are not only accessible if a school district formally adopts their use; they are all available for parents and teachers to use as they wish without a school’s formal adoption.
If a school bans using any of these “social justice” curricula, then the teacher will just creatively include the messaging they want within the content they are allowed to teach. For example, instead of using a printout from Teaching Tolerance, the teacher can just take the main ideas from the Teaching Tolerance lesson and insert them into their lesson plan. The same can be said if a conservative curriculum is banned; the teacher can skip printing any materials that label the curriculum, and put the ideas of it into their lesson in other ways.
The power of the teacher to control the content and messaging in their classroom must never be underestimated. Every school administration is different, but a teacher is usually only observed for their informal/formal observations, if an administrator is invited in, and/or if they are on a teacher improvement plan. Some schools may require an administrator’s approval for photocopies, which would then also give them a glimpse into a teacher’s lessons. Still, regardless of different policies, once the teacher begins the lesson, a discussion will ensue that may not be written into the lesson plan or appear on the paper students are reading.
There is a common misconception that there is some type of script for teachers in their classrooms, and that unions and the Board of Education are the ones writing it. While curricula adopted by a school district will make it much easier for teachers to find those resources and they will be encouraged to use the materials, it does not mean that they haven’t already been teaching such a curriculum on their own. For example, the Zinn Education Project, a radical organization that has been pushing the “social justice” ideology, has over 100,000 individual teachers using their resources in their classroom. Teachers often seek their own materials for their daily lesson plans; this is why websites and resources that provide lessons for teachers do extremely well.
While we strongly encourage parents to be involved in their children’s education, we also are familiar with the conversations that take place after parents leave a meeting. What may feel or appear to be a victory, may in reality have just been deceit. Most teachers and administrators are professional enough not to engage in a political debate with a parent; instead, they will assure parents that they will strive to reflect all points of view in the classroom and make their best effort to include a parent’s recommended resource to balance out those of which a parent may have expressed opposition. Words are one thing, actions are another. Lesson plans in writing are one thing, the lesson taught in the classroom is another. Together, parents and guardians as a united front can send a strong message to the school district and may appear successful if what they are protesting is formally removed from their curriculum, but the problem is not what schools announce they are doing, the problem is what is done under the radar. Like an iceberg, what you can clearly see is not nearly as troublesome as what lies beneath the surface.
Note: This article does not apply to homeschooling.