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March 19, 2007

Radical Indoctrination In NYC Schools

Could you ever imagine the right-wing counterparts of these teachers being permitted to teach in such a manner in a public school setting?

Among those scheduled to speak at the conference is Eric Gutstein, a mathematics education professor at the University of Illinois and a former Chicago public school math teacher. Gutstein’s book, Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice, combines Marxist teaching methods with examples of math lessons for seventh-graders. One of these lessons is “The Cost of the B-2 Bomber—Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?” Its purpose, Gutstein writes, “was to use U.S. Department of Defense data and find the cost for one B-2 bomber, then compare it to a four-year, full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a prestigious out-of-state university. The students had to answer whether the whole graduating class of the neighborhood high school (about 250 students) could receive the full, four-year scholarships for the whole graduating class for (assuming constant size and costs) the next 79 years!”

Gutstein also recounts how, on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he was able to convince his seventh-grade math class that the U.S. was wrong to go to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. “I told students that none of the hijackers were thought to be Afghan,” Gutstein writes. He also told them that he would not “fight against Iraq or Afghanistan . . . because I did not believe in going to war for oil, power, and control.”

On the other hand, if I were to try to teach a class pointing out how privatization of Social Security or Individual Medical Savings Accounts would be better for the American people, how long would it be until I was removed from my classroom? Or how about convincing my students of the need to carpet bomb Iran as a means to ensuring world security?

Another of the math conference’s “experts“ is Cathy Wilkerson, an adjunct professor at the Bank Street College of Education. Wilkerson’s only other credential of note (as listed by the conference’s organizers) is that she was a “member of the Weather Underground of the 60s.” Some credential. On March 6, 1970, Wilkerson was in a Manhattan townhouse, helping to construct a powerful bomb to detonate at a dance attended by civilians on the Fort Dix, New Jersey army base. The bomb exploded prematurely, destroying the townhouse and instantly killing three of the bomb makers. Wilkerson escaped unharmed. After resurfacing years later and serving a brief prison term, she became a high school math teacher and, presumably, developed expertise on how to bring the revolution into the classroom.

I wonder -- will any known associates of Eric Rudolph, the abortion clinic bomber, be permitted to teach in mainstream academia, preparing the teachers of the future?

The meeting’s chairs were Edwin Mayorga, a twentysomething fourth-grade teacher at the highly acclaimed P.S. 87 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and NYU education professor Bree Pickower. Mayorga urged his fellow teachers to “be political inside the classroom, just as we are outside the classroom. The issues we are up against as we teach for social justice are the mandates of [Mayor] Bloomberg, Klein, and No Child Left Behind.”

Pickower then reminded attendees of the group’s “Katrina curriculum,” which teachers could use to convince elementary school students that the hurricane was, not a natural disaster, but an example of endemic American racism. And Mayorga, describing how he had piloted the Katrina curriculum with his fourth-graders, pronounced it a big success. The curriculum leaves nothing to chance, providing teachers with classroom prompts designed to illustrate the evils of American capitalism and imperialism. One section, called “Two Gulf Wars,” suggests posing such questions as: “Was the government unable to respond quickly to the crisis on the Gulf Coast because the money and personnel were all being used in Iraq?”

I'll say nothing here while I recover from the cerebral hemorrhage that occurred even considering this sort of political abuse of students in a public school classroom.

Frankly, it is time for those of us in education -- and taxpayers in general, to stand up and denounce this sort of inappropriate, unprofessional activity whenever we find it going on in the classrooms of our schools. It is time to take back our educational establishments for EDUCATION, not indoctrination.





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