(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/05/school_sign.gif)In an event that illuminates the ongoing politicization of the nation’s public schools, Malcolm X Elementary school in Washington D.C. held an event called “Trayvon Martin Day” last Friday. “The children at Malcolm X know the name Trayvon Martin,” principal, J. Harrison Coleman told WJLA-TV. “They know the incident. They know it basically because of what’s in the news but because of what they experience every day.” The event was framed as part of an ongoing effort by the school called “Let’s Keep Our Children Safe.” But the slant of the agenda was clarified when Coleman announced that every adult who attended the seminar would receive an Arizona Iced Tea and each student would get a bag of Skittles, items Martin had purchased prior to his confrontation with George Zimmerman.
The day was framed as a “teachable moment” with respect to an anti-bullying campaign. Yet once again, Diane Woods, a special-education teacher and the school’s anti-bullying coordinator, framed the incident in a manner that aligns itself, either inadvertently or by design, with a version of the confrontation that remain in dispute. She believes the incident would have ended differently if Zimmerman had walked away. “A child lost his life,” Woods said. “It may not be a racial thing here…And we see so much anger and aggression here…It starts with hitting now, and it leads to more deaths when they get older. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Apparently the school is also trying to avoid dealing with the possibility that Zimmerman did indeed walk away and was pursued by Martin regardless of his retreat. On March 26, the Orlando Sentinel published an account of the story where Zimmerman claimed he was walking away when Martin approached him from behind, and the two men exchanged words. Martin then allegedly punched Zimmerman in the nose, knocking him to the ground, got on top of Zimmerman and began beating him. “That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say,” reported the Sentinel. “There have been no reports that a witness saw the initial punch Zimmerman told police about.”
An accurate account? It’s difficult to say for certain at this juncture, which is precisely the point. Thus, it is more than a little ironic that a Trayvon Martin Day to promote anti-bullying was named after the man who may turn out to have been the bully.
Such a possibility was apparently irrelevant for principal Coleman. “I wanted to do something in recognition of Trayvon Martin,” she said. “I wanted to capture this incident in order to bring about change…This wasn’t about…dealing with who’s right or who’s wrong” with regard to the incident. That’s nonsense. The implication of an “anti-bullying” event named Trayvon Martin Day is about as subtle as a sledgehammer: Martin is the victim, Zimmerman is the the bully, and his claim of self-defense is not credible.
Ms. Coleman and other school officials are certainly entitled to draw whatever conclusions they choose to draw from the incident. Yet foisting those conclusions on schools students–at the elementary level no less–constitutes nothing more than progressive activism masquerading itself as anti-bullying education.
Malcom X Elementary school is not an isolated case. March 30th was “Hoodie Day” at at Longfellow School in Berkeley, CA, and in teacher Erin Schweng’s class, students were also provided with skittles and Arizona Tea. “We talked about what happened, and how what we’re doing today is just a small thing but that it shows solidarity and support,” said Schweng. “Our middle school students are young people with heart, passion, and a budding activism all their own,” he added. Students at West Orange H.S. in New Jersey also participated in Hoodie Day, again with the blessing of Superintendent of West Orange Schools Dr. Anthony Cavanna. “It speaks to who they are, they’ve identified a social justice issue, they’ve taken it on and we want to support that to the extent that we can support that,” he said. William Penn High School in Delaware changed the school dress code for one day, allowing students to wear hoodies. Colonial School District Superintendent Dorothy Linn also used the term “teachable moment” to describe the demonstration.
What ought to be “teachable moments”? One might be the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. Another would be the media’s irresponsible rush to judgement, including ABC’s contention that Zimmerman had no marks on his body, NBC’s editing of the 911 audio designed to make Zimmerman look like a racist, and CNN’s report that Zimmerman said “coon,” not “cold,” all of which were subsequently debunked. Still another might be Al Sharpton’s dual role as racial agitator and MSNBC pundit, completely mocking anything resembling responsible journalism. And maybe students might be made aware of the complete disregard for the law demonstrated by the New Black Panthers who put a $10,000 bounty on George Zimmerman’s head.
Even more compelling, especially in Washington D.C., might be the idea of giving children an education at all. D.C. public schools have not only produced some of the worst performance results of any school system in the nation, they are also number one regarding the achievement gap between black and white students among the nation’s major urban school systems.
Trayvon Martin Day will not alter that reality by one iota.
Slowly but surely this nation has allowed its public school system to be hijacked by progressives and their union enablers. Two of the top ten all-time political donors between the years 1989-2012 are the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The NEA has spent $41,412,233 in campaign contributions, 74 percent of which went to Democrats, 5 percent to Republicans. The AFT ponied up $33,615,766 in contributions, 87 percent of which went to Democrats and nothing went to Republicans. Furthermore, 2011 financial disclosure forms filed by the NEA revealed the union spent $88 million on items the Wall Street Journal characterized as “a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.”
Thus it is no surprise, as epitomized by Trayvon Martin Day, that American’s public school students are being held hostage to the dissemination of progressive policies being promoting as education. In short, children are being taught what to think, not how to think. And while one might make a marginal case for attempting to slant the worldview of students in high school when they are old enough to defend themselves, indoctrinating elementary school children is nothing short of despicable.
That’s the real teachable moment here.
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