During 2020, it has become evident that the education of children is the latest target of woke culture warriors. Throughout the Anglo-American world, young children are fed propaganda that presents white privilege as a fact of life. Teaching resource websites peddle the idea that white kids suffer from unconscious bias and their black peers suffer from being victims of ‘systemic racism’.
Paradoxically, elite schools for the most privileged children are at the forefront of promoting woke pedagogy. Take the case of Dalton School, a private institution catering to the poshest of posh New York children. Recently, the faculty at Dalton issued an eight-page anti-racism manifesto.
The manifesto demands that the school employ 12 full-time diversity officers and multiple psychologists to support students “coping with race-based traumatic stress.” Presumably, the role of these diversity officers would be to police the classrooms and ensure that children are continually fed a diet of woke teaching material.
Eton College, the premier school of the British ruling class, is fast becoming a bastion of wokedom. Although it does not have 12 full-time diversity officers, it employs the services of various organizations like the School of Sexuality Education and the Good Lad Initiative to teach the boys at Eton about the dangers of heteronormativity.
Heteronormativity – which means the belief that heterosexuality is the cultural norm – is regarded by the School of Sexuality Education as akin to a cultural crime. It offers workshops that promote “intersectional, queer inclusive” ideology to children who have been misled by mainstream culture.
A handful of Eton parents have raised concerns about the fact that pupils as young as 13 are offered the opportunity to attend a ‘creative workshop’ on pornography, and that after a child attended a session on ‘toxic masculinity’ he was left asking, “is it ok to be a boy and like rugby?”
If identity culture has gained influence over Eton and Dalton, is it any surprise that it is fast becoming institutionalised throughout the school sector? Numerous schools in California have placed ‘critical ethnic studies’ on their curriculum. One of the goals of this curriculum is to encourage children to “critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression.” The curriculum self-consciously cultivates victim identity and emphasises the cultural differences between different ethnic groups.
Historically, schools aimed to forge a sense of national and community unity among younger generations. The identity-focused curriculum is devoted to a very different objective of highlighting racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Either consciously or unwittingly, the promotion of diversity has the effect of emphasising not what children have in common, but what distinguish them from each other.
Previously, schools sought to transmit the cultural values of their community and taught children to appreciate the legacy of their ancestors. In the current era, many educators believe that their task is to distance children from the values and cultural legacy of their communities.
Instead, children are educated to learn what is wrong with the culture that they were born into. Last month, a group of leading British educators reaffirmed this approach, when they rejected criticisms directed at their pedagogic doctrine. They stated that “dissent, diversity and critique” were the “lifeblood of democracy.” In other words, encouraging children to dissent and become estranged from the prevailing norms of society is the main goal of education.
As it happens, the capacity to dissent and question the status quo should be seen as an admirable accomplishment of an independent-minded young adult. But the promotion of a pedagogy of dissent is not an appropriate way of cultivating children’s capacity for independence. In a school setting, the teaching of critical theory works as a form of indoctrination.
How is a nine or a 13-year-old child supposed to respond critically to the assertion that he or she possesses white privilege? Is it likely that a 12-year-old lad will argue against his teacher’s claim that he suffers from toxic masculinity? In a recent discussion with a group of parents from south-east London, I learned that many of their children are reluctant to express views on a variety of subjects for fear of being shot down for their ‘unconscious bias’, ’microaggression’, or even their ‘insensitivity’.
One of the main aims of woke pedagogy is to portray society’s values as forms of outdated prejudice that should be combated. The American campaign group #DisruptTexts states that one of its core principles is to “interrogate our own biases,” because, “as teachers, we have been socialized in certain values, attitudes, and beliefs that inform the way we read, interpret, and teach texts, and the way we interact with our students.”
This group takes the view that once teachers distance themselves from the biases into which they were socialised, they can then go on to impose their newly-found biases on their classroom.
There is something truly insidious about the way some educators believe that they have the authority to subject not just children but even toddlers to their political dogma. Take the teaching guide, Antiracist Baby, produced by #DisruptTexts. It promotes this guide with the preposterous claim that “research has shown that babies as young as six months old show racial preferences.”
Confronted with a cohort of racist babies, a woke teacher has no choice but to cure these gurgling little monsters from their prejudices. According to #DisruptTexts, “leaning to be antiracist is work that even our youngest of children can and must do.”
No doubt the reason why Antiracist Baby is so committed to promoting its propaganda to six-month-old babies is because it believes that its indoctrination is likely to be more effective if it can grab hold of toddlers who have not yet learned to think for themselves.
It is important to understand that woke pedagogy’s commitment to political indoctrination is not just an add-on to education, it also means the degradation of schooling. Despite its rhetoric of critical thinking and dissent, its aim is to transform the curriculum into one that is simplistic and formulaic. It does this in the name of making the curriculum more relevant for children seeking their identity.
Take the approach to reading and literature adopted by #DisruptTexts. On its website, Julia Torres, who describes herself as an ‘Educator for Liberation’, advises that “something to consider is how white supremacy culture is a real thing.” She adds that in classrooms, white supremacy “shows up in one important way, the worship of the written word.”
The significance that educators have for centuries attached to the written word is condemned by Torres as a symptom of white supremacy. She complains that if “a book is not in a written format and hailed as ‘rigorous’ or labeled as ‘classic,’ then it’s unimportant and doesn’t make it onto our book lists.” Apparently, there is something ‘Western’ about the classics and the “worship of the written word.”
Regardless of their politics, when teachers criticise those who take the written word seriously, you know that education is in trouble. Just read the Twitter feed of Heather Levine, a ninth-grade English teacher. She tweeted, “Hahaha – very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!”
When an English teacher boasts that Homer’s Odyssey has been cancelled and expects her followers to give her signs of approval, it becomes evident that standards of education have become the casualty of woke indoctrination.
Throughout modern history, there has been an honourable tradition of radical teachers devoting their energy to helping children from poor families to acquire a good education. However, they were educators and not indoctrinators. And they certainly did not believe that lowering the standards of education and treating children as incapable of appreciating fine literature was the way forward.
Woke pedagogy has nothing to do with the goal of educating children to acquire intellectual independence. There is nothing ‘critical’ about it. It regards education instrumentally as a medium for achieving its political objective. And it degrades the classroom to its anti-civilisational imperative.
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