Issues such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, multiculturalism, feminism, indigenous culture, identity politics and environmental stewardship have gained places in our public schools. But where does such activism fit in classrooms and government-mandated curriculums?
One of the more contentious discussions among students training to be teachers at Canadian universities is whether to include social justice issues in the classroom. There’s an enthusiasm among some prospective teachers to make politics part of the public school day. Encouraged by university faculty, subtexts of anti-pipeline activism, anti-Israeli “apartheid,” anti-homophobia and other pet issues are finding their way into students’ practicum assignments.
Several recent lawsuits have been filed by teachers in the U.S. who claim to have been fired because they introduced social justice teaching into their classrooms. Children as young as eight are being taught “the truth” about Christopher Columbus discovering the New World, and are writing letters to inmates on death row. When school administration steps in to question a deviation from the approved curriculum, they’re challenged with lawsuits and public recrimination over curbs to free speech. In one case last year, a transgender Oregon teacher was awarded $60,000 because colleagues didn’t address the teacher with the proper gender pronouns.
Many parents wonder why schools don’t simply focus on learning the fundamental course material. This is especially frustrating when a child struggles with the basics of math but is exceptionally well versed on the politics surrounding the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
What isn’t discussed are the potential effects on the mental health of children in school as the result of social progressivism. Students from a very early age are being fed a steady stream of environmental disaster information . Some struggle from anxiety associated with an irrational fear of impending catastrophe. Recently, the Ontario government launched doomsday-style TV ads featuring children facing the slow destruction of the Earth if they don’t act on climate change now.
In fact, children today have much less to worry about than their parents did. On average, today’s Canadian children will live longer than their parents; and with crime rates dropping, better food production and advances in health care, they’ll not endure the hardships their grandparents did.
Nevertheless, many children believe they live in very dangerous times.
Government agendas have huge impact on public school curriculums. Environmental activism and climate change have been given elevated places. The topics are covered throughout all the grade levels and many subjects. For example, climate change forms part of the Grade 9 Geography course material and is included as a unit in Grade 10 Science, where it receives equal billing with chemistry, physics and biology.
Similarly, in an ever-changing curriculum, many Ontario school boards have chosen to replace Grade 11 Shakespeare with indigenous literature to reflect a more “modern curriculum.”
Assignments focus on defending progressive issues of social justice promoted by the media and government.
And in a time when feverish news on American President Donald Trump fills almost every hour, it’s not uncommon for teachers to show their political leanings and vent their frustrations in class.
Learning once emphasized the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – for a reason. They’re the fundamentals of a good education. The public school system’s mandate is to provide children with the tools needed to think.
But it seems taxpayers are funding schools that are moving away from teaching children how to think, instead teaching them what to think.
Is that what we want for our children?
Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun. Often appearing on talk radio and TV, she focuses on educational and political reform.
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