We Should Support SMMUSD's Attempts to Develop a Social Justice Component for its Curricula
As a former teacher, I have used these materials with great success in examining entrenched attitudes and beliefs and in generating dialogue among students from quite different backgrounds
September 1, 2020
In a front page article about the SMMUSD's attempts to develop a social justice component for its curricula, writer Corva Corax disputes the motives behind and possible efficacy of this effort. https://www.smobserved.com/story/2020/08/30/news/smmusd-in-dangerous-waters-with-social-justice-journey-lacks-any-critical-thinking-about-race-and-school-achievement/4868.html
The curriculum would closely follow 20 social justice standards developed by the well-respected Southern Poverty Law Center, through its Teaching Tolerance Program. As a former teacher, I have used these materials with great success in examining entrenched attitudes and beliefs and in generating dialogue among students from quite different backgrounds.
I was not surprised by Corax's critique of the methodology. The points raised deserve discussion. What was stunning to me were Corax's comments about George Floyd, especially the use of the term. "alleged murder" and the comment relating Floyd's death and "an achievement gap" to being "not as disconnected as one would imagine given the level of fentanyl in Floyd's body."
Let's just recall that the Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner ruled George Floyd's death a homicide, despite the fact that he had fentanyl in his body at the time. How many people, Corax included, would survive being chocked by the full weight of a man, six feet tall weighing 167 lbs., knee on neck? The medical officer states that fentanyl could be fatal "under normal circumstances." What's "normal" about being chocked for nearly nine minutes with the force of 167 pounds behind it?
Corax cites Thomas Sowell, a notable conservative-libertarian economist (who also calls for the legalization of all drugs), to bolster the article's claim that minority disparities in educational achievement have nothing to do with whether schools are well-funded or not. This assertion, which presents no logical support for the avowed purpose of the article, to critique SMMUSD's social justice curriculum, is flat out wrong. While school funding can be misspent, when spent on class size, hiring the best teachers and training/mentoring the others, acquiring the best texts and technology, etc. the results produce well-educated students, whatever their backgrounds.
Finally, Corax asserts in the last paragraph that "the students themselves are the only possible agents of their own improvement". This leaves by the roadside all other variables that affect educational outcomes, school resources and quality of instruction, parenting, community cohesion, students' safety and nutrition, among others.
Corax heads this parade of soft-headed claims as "A Logical Opinion." If logic has anything to do with correct, reliable inferences, then that heading is pure comic irony.
Bruce Lebedoff Anders, Culver City CA