The 13th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair took place this past weekend in Chicago.
This year’s fair, titled “Democratize Education! Democratize Chicago!”, was sponsored by Teachers for Social Justice Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union, and Rethinking Schools.
According to Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ), the annual event is an opportunity for educators and organizations to exhibit curriculum, disseminate resources, and present workshops.
Workshops included “curricular innovations about social justice pedagogy,” such as “using multicultural children’s literature to organize for educational justice.”
Current and past fairs exhibit lessons and curriculum resources on various social and political issues, all of which are structured to rally students to organize and take action.
A keynote speaker to this year’s event was Kali Akuno, an organizer for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and author of Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities for Self-Defense.
Participating in the keynote program was a member of Young Chicago Authors, an organization thatshowcases the work of local authors like Eboo Patel, the former Obama faith advisor who refers to America as an imperialist nation and who co-authored a book with Bill Ayers’ son, Chesa Boudin.
According to the event flier, this year’s workshop sessions included:
* Talking With Youth About the Police: Activities & Resources;
* Equip Students with Social Justice Vocabulary: Identity Webs, The Sneetches & More!; and
* From Chicago to Ayotzinapa: Education as a Site for the Fight Against Neoliberalism and State Repression
The Chicago Teachers Union also led a session on Saturday titled Where’s the Money? Understanding CPS budgets and Fighting for Revenue. The event flier describes the session as follows:
CPS uses “budget problems” to justify closing schools, cutting programs/staff, and increasing class sizes. But does it have to be this way? How can we win the revenue our schools and students need? earn about the CPS “interest rate swap” scandal and other toxic deals from which banks and billionaires have profited, and hear efforts to win money back and make the wealthy pay their fair share to fund education.
Past curriculum fairs have addressed Chicago school closings as well. In fact, TSJ provides a “School Closings” curriculum wherein students are given a list of Chicago schools slated for closure (more than 50 failing schools) and are coached by their teachers on how to organize and protest.
As a result of such curriculum, and as boasted about on TSJ’s website, dozens of high school students participated in a march last year to protest the school closings.
According to DNAinf0.com, the student protesters marched “from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanding a moratorium on school closings and a publicly elected Board of Education.” The oversized letter presented to the Mayor referred to the school closings as “racist” and said they would lead to “more violence and more children dying.”
Two days later, a follow-up rally was held and attended by student protesters, teachers, parents, and community members. The photos below from the 2013 rally show that Bill Ayers and Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis were in attendance.
The Chicago Teachers Union has partnered with Teachers for Social Justice on various initiatives for many years. CTU has co-hosted other TSJ curriculum fairs and Karen Lewis was keynote speaker of the event in 2010.
Examples of TSJ lessons showcased at prior curriculum fairs include “Teaching Trayvon Martin” and “What Young People Should Know Before Joining the Military.”
The Teaching Trayvon Martin curriculum, created by the New York Collective of Radical Educators, involves engaging “teachers in rigorous examinations of white supremacy as a systemic arrangement of power that has privileged the lives and interests of white Americans from this nation’s inception, and that continues to do so despite social and political struggles for racial equality.”
The curriculum includes an MSNBC video of Al Sharpton, Tim Wise and others discussing whether racism was an issue in Trayvon Martin’s death.
Tim Wise is a self proclaimed anti-racism expert. In a fit of anger over the results of the 2010 mid-term elections, Wise wrote a letter that, in part, said this:
In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around who actually remember that Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Opie-Taylor-Down-at-the-Fishing Hole cornpone bullshit that you hold so near and dear to your heart…there won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days…so therefore, we’ll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly…
According to TSJ, What Young People Should Know Before Joining the Military is a unit “primarily designed to get students to understand imperialism by making connections between the Spanish American War and the Iraq War, culminating in a project on military recruitment among CPS students.”
The lesson repeatedly refers to the U.S. as “imperialist” and discusses the “U.S. occupation” of the Phillipines and Cuba.
Resources recommended include a video clip of Bill Moyers giving his take on the Iraq war, communist Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, and a book that refers to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as U.S. occupations.
On TSJ Chicago’s About page, under “political goals,” the organization quotes a letter written by Marxist educator Paulo Freire. A portion of that quote is below:
We are political militants because we are teachers… Neutrality is not possible. We understand that teaching is a political act.
Teaching for social justice is part of a larger struggle to transform society to make it more just. We see children and youth as critical change agents essential to the struggle for social justice.