When I was a college student – a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – the so-called Western canon still carried cultural and intellectual weight among educators. Humanities departments still seemed populated mostly by professors who believed our civilization was a triumph worth preserving. Higher education was certainly in the process of being subverted by Marxist radicals back then, but it hadn’t yet completely succumbed to the deconstructive madness reflected in Jesse Jackson’s 1987 rallying cry at Stanford University, “Hey ho, hey ho, Western civ has got to go!”
Those halcyon days of my youthful naiveté about academia’s subversion of the West are long gone. The ranks of today’s educators are overwhelmingly dominated by race-and-gender ideologues who are passionate not about passing down to the next generation the West’s glorious legacy of “the best that has been thought and said,” but about churning out a generation of students completely disconnected from that legacy and indoctrinated into social justice activism. (And not just in university classrooms; the rot has filtered all the way down now to pre-kindergarten.)
Toward that end, educators aren’t spending their summer vacation refamiliarizing themselves with the ideas of Isaac Newton or the poetry of Chaucer or the dramatic storytelling of the ancient Greeks. Instead, they’re wading in the shallows of contemporary pop culture, soaking up the distorted worldview of critical theory, and immersing themselves in radical pedagogy that will not open young minds but shut them tight.
Case in point: the National Education Association (NEA) – the country’s largest teachers union – recommended last week that teachers dive into summer reading that will help prepare them for teaching in the fall.
The NEA’s “Great Summer Reads for Educators!” list begins with an editor’s caveat: “Educators read diverse books so that they can better understand their colleagues, students, and families they serve. The books here are not recommended for students.” They shouldn’t be recommended for educators either, because they’re worthless in terms of making teachers more authoritative guides and sources of information and inspiration.
The list showcases nearly a dozen books, among them the “anti-racism” racism of race hustler Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, a book which argues that irredeemably racist white Americans use anger, shame and guilt to avoid taking responsibility for racial inequality. As the NEA puts it, the book “explores why White [sic] people are so bad at talking about racism.” Fact check: white people aren’t bad at talking about racism; they’ve just had enough of being smeared as racists and lectured patronizingly about their supposed “privilege,” while non-whites are given a pass.
Another race-mongering title on the NEA’s list is Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho, a book which, like White Fragility and all other anti-racism diatribes, starts from the assumption that racism is only a white problem, that it is “baked into” every aspect of society, and that white people must commit to the lifelong “hard work” of overcoming their unconscious racism.
Moving on from the recommendations that do nothing but stoke racial division, we find a section of the list predictably devoted to “banned books” (“Celebrate the Freedom to Read!”). The NEA refers, for example, in glowing terms to the teen vampire romance Twilight, by Young Adult novelist Stephanie Meyer. Just to be clear: there are no banned books, except for ones that challenge today’s transgender orthodoxy (you can find Hitler’s Mein Kampf right there on Amazon, but not, for example, Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment). Twilight was never a banned book. An estimated 160 million copies have been sold in 49 languages, and it was made into a blockbuster film saga that has earned nearly $3.5 billion; that hardly qualifies as a suppressed book.
Contrary to what the hysterical leftist media and the NEA would have you believe, mobs of conservative parents are not storming school board meetings demanding that books be banned. What they are doing is issuing book challenges to school libraries, which the majority of the time means that those parents simply find certain titles to be inappropriate for young readers. Twilight, for example, which even the NEA article calls racy, is not appropriate for pre-teens and therefore should not be made available to them on school property. (If some parents are okay with their kids reading it, that’s up to them, and a copy is just a click away on Amazon).
A challenge is not a ban. It is perfectly reasonable for parents to have the authority to tell school librarians and educators what books and other materials they don’t want their children exposed to until a more appropriate age. The Left opposes parental rights, however, and so the Biden administration targets such parents as domestic terror suspects.
Another NEA-recommended title is the revolting Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. This shockingly graphic guide to sexual exploration has understandably been challenged for its explicit depictions and descriptions of oral sex as well as discussions of masturbation. Back in January, Kobabe defended the memoir’s sexually graphic images in an interview with the publicly-funded leftist propaganda outlet National Public Radio (NPR). “I honestly think the book is a lot less explicit than it could be,” Kobabe said.
Well, there’s a reassuring defense. People complain that it’s pornographic, but hey, it could have been even more pornographic. That’s not exactly a convincing argument for stocking it on school library shelves.
In a sane world that values the moral, educational, and cultural development of the next generation, Kobabe and the book’s publisher would be in prison as child pornographers. But we don’t live in a sane world anymore. We live in a postmodern landscape in which universal truths and our Judeo-Christian morality lay mortally wounded, and deceitful, amoral worldviews like gender ideology dominate our every cultural institution.
In addition to a couple of fluffy beach reads like a novel purportedly co-written by entertainer Dolly Parton and thriller writer James Patterson, the list also features, in the category of “Books That Will Make You a Better Educator,” recommended reading by radicals such as the late, Marxist anti-colonialist Paulo Freire, influential author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Lisa Delpit, author of Multiplication is for White People; and a link to Teaching to Transgress by feminist bell hooks (she refuses to capitalize her initials as a form of protest against the grammatical conventions of Western society). As John Perazzo of the Freedom Center’s Discover the Networks resource pages writes,
In her 1994 polemic, Teaching to Transgress, hooks claimed that every educator who viewed himself or herself as “a subject in resistance” against societal oppression, had a “right” to engage in “political activism,” to “define reality” in accordance with his or her worldview, and to “empower” students by converting the classroom into an incubator of “progressive” politics.
These are the kinds of works that the nation’s largest teachers union deemed most helpful to prepare educators for their classes full of impressionable young minds. There is not a single title on the recommended reading list that qualifies as a true classic or politically unbiased.
This list of summer reading comes in the wake of National Education Association president Becky Pringle declaring back in April that racial and social justice is a “pillar” of the NEA’s efforts. “For us at the NEA, education justice must be about racial justice, it must be about social justice, it must be about climate justice. It must be about all of those things,” said:
For our students to be able to come to school ready to learn every day – We can never think of education as an isolated system because everything connects to our students’ ability to learn. So, we have to necessarily talk about housing justice, food inequality, and the reality that we all just went through a global pandemic together and of course it was the most marginalized communities that were already suffering from the inequities in every single social in this country and every country.
Not a word in there about the value of imparting thousands of years of history, literature, art and architecture, philosophy and theology, science and technology into students’ eager young minds. Not a word about honing kids’ critical thinking skills. For NEA President Pringle, education is about obsessing over the inequity she believes is pervasive in every single social system in the whole world. Social injustice is everywhere.
The only reason it would ever be “necessary,” as she put it, to talk about such issues as “housing justice” and “food inequality” in the classroom is if educators view their mission to be the inculcation of Marxist revolutionary consciousness in children and the training of social justice activists, not the development of young minds and of critical thinking skills, or the passing down of our cultural legacy.
The leftist activists among today’s educators couldn’t care less about broadening young minds, for two reasons: first, they see our cultural legacy as one of Euro-centric, patriarchal, hetero-normative oppression of so-called “historically marginalized groups,” and an evil that must be overthrown; and second, it’s far easier to indoctrinate children into a radical political agenda if you disconnect them from the accumulated wisdom, expressions, and traditions of the past.
Milan Kundera, the Czech-French novelist who wrote brilliantly and extensively about totalitarianism, and who died just last week in Paris, said in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that the first step in liquidating a people “is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history.” That’s the “education justice” the NEA and its comrades in our broken educational system are striving for: generation after generation of Americans with no history, culture, or memory.