Activist Teachers: the new priestly class?

A former pleads with teachers imbued with the spirit of Social Justice and Critical Pedagogy not to harm his child in the name of a new religious dogma.

Many parents will have become aware of a theory of social justice commonly known as Critical Social Justice (CSJ). However, many parents are unaware that CSJ has already taken root in their child’s school. The seeds of the worldview have been planted in official school policies and if parents do not take an active role in pushing back against it, its divisive and psychologically damaging doctrine will flourish. 

When I refer to 'activist teachers' I am referring to teachers who have been trained in 'social justice education' or 'critical pedagogy'. Teachers who believe the classroom to be a vehicle for radical social change. These teachers are usually the ones involved in writing social justice policies and who are in charge of making sure that nobody steps outside of the rules and regulations that they have written. They are in the minority but wield the majority of the influence on matters of social justice due to their credentials as ‘experts’. They are the arbiters of morality.  

To them, I write …

Dear activist teacher,

Your doctrine is sceptical of meta-narratives. Do you not see that yours is one? 

When I interact with you and hear you make the case for why your worldview should be treated as true, I can’t help but see myself in you. Your unwavering certainty was my certainty, too. Just like yours, my world was a battle between good and evil – an idea reified in an origin story carried forth in holy texts and vindicated by revelatory experiences and a profound sense of righteous purpose. Just like you, I knelt in supplication to something. I was Christian like you are woke.

Activist teacher, 

You are a member of a priestly class, tasked with spreading the Truth to those whose eyes have not been opened. I imagine that the Christian missionaries felt just as you do when they were sent forth to educate the heathens. Or is yours a nobler calling because it is right and theirs was not?

I disagree with much of your worldview, but I do not hate you. I cannot hate you. I know that you look at the world and see inequality, injustice and pain. I know that you think you have a simple explanation and a simple remedy. I know you want the best for my child and so you teach him your doctrine so that he may join your crusade.

When I was a young man, I’d meet in prayer groups and read John or the letter of Paul, or sometimes Job. I liked the simplicity of it all. I’d have my doubts but it helped that the pastor, elder or deacon understood more than I did. It helped when they assured me that the contradictions I thought I saw were, in fact, no such thing. That I just needed to understand the message and I’d see that. I never really understood the message completely. But they claimed to and I trusted them as my child trusts you. 

I wonder, do you gather with others and read what your prophets and elders have written? Does it keep your faith steadfast?  

Do you read Davis, Crenshaw, Marcuse, Gramsci, Foucault, Giroux, or sometimes even Hegel? When you have doubts do you turn to Kendi and DiAngelo?

I’ve never envied the work of apologists. It looks complicated trying to keep things simple. 

Do you feel vindicated when you hear the testimony of the lived experience of converts to your faith, like I would when the spirit healed somebody or turned a drug addict from his vice? 

I believe that you have the right to worship as you wish, to believe what you want. But, activist teacher, you do not have the right to force your worldview on our children no matter how much you believe it to be true. Maybe it is true. But let my child decide that for himself. 

My child respects you and believes what you say. Please do not betray him.

I’ve read some of your holy texts. I know some of what you believe and what you’re willing to do to reach your promised land – your Equity Utopia – and it concerns me. 

Why do you hide what your doctrine says behind nice-sounding words? I’ve read some of your anti-discrimination policies and your transformation plans. You use words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ but you fail to tell parents and governing bodies that what you mean to do is censor dissenting voices that dare blaspheme. Is it because you know that the majority of parents would push back against you indoctrinating their children? 

Why do you say that every individual is unique and should be treated as such, but then tell students that it’s racist for them to take a colour-blind view of society? Was Martin Luther King Jnr mistaken? Was his dream, in fact, your nightmare? 

You speak about ‘decolonising’ the curriculum and pretend it means including more black authors in the English reading lists. But what you mean to do, according to your doctrine, is peel away the systems that prop up oppression, imagining that some sort of liberation will follow. You’d like to get rid of ‘western’ concepts like equality of opportunity, neutral principles of constitutional law, and enlightenment rationalism. You imagine a pearl in an oyster that does not exist. 

Will telling a black child that mathematics, science, and reason are products of white supremacy, liberate him? What if he wants to be a scientist, lawyer, or engineer? 

Your policies say that students should not be burdened with any specific trait based upon the colour of their skin, and yet you teach children about ‘whiteness’ and ‘white privilege’. You say that you are teaching white children to be aware that the opportunities they have been afforded are often not afforded to black people. That they should be compassionate towards those who are less fortunate than they are. And then you turn around and teach white children that they have been born with the original sin of whiteness and that all they can do is try and be less white. To repent for their sins - to un-eat the fruit you think they have relished in digesting. 

Your doctrine says that a black child is doomed to live life as a member of an oppressed group – a perpetual victim. You give him that burden to carry. Your theory says that the white kid sitting next to him is complicit in his oppression whether he is aware of it or not. You are promoting tribalism. It will leave scars. 

Your mythology is over-simplified. History is complicated and cannot be reduced to good versus evil.

You offer no evidence for your claims but the lived experience of converts as if knowledge of this kind is epistemically sound. You rely on revelation just as I did when I had a god. 

My church thought it was teaching me the ultimate Truth, but where it faltered it was honest. It told me to have faith. That faith was part of the Truth. Your church is different. It pretends to have nothing to do with faith. 

My church taught compassion, love, and forgiveness. Yours teaches no such thing.

When I was a boy, I’d wonder fancifully whether God was as tall as that tree or as tall as that other tree. 

Must my child wonder whether that person is this amount racist or that amount racist? That doesn’t seem as fanciful.

Dear activist teacher,

Your eyes shine bright with some secret knowledge. Mine burned with it, too. I see your golden heart and hope it's not too heavy.

I had a god once. 

I felt him bubbling inside me when I joined the congregation with my hands up in the air. His love was in all of us at once. But then I went to a Metallica concert and felt Him there, too – bubbling in all of us as we held up our hands. The priest told me that this couldn’t be. But I don’t think he’d ever been to a Metallica concert.

I had a god.

One day a young church elder laid hands on my head and told me that the spirit was on its way. I waited, thinking it had someone more worthy to visit, like those around me who had fallen to their knees. I was patient, though. We were joined by more elders. They were younger than the first. They laid their hands on me – preparing the way. And then I felt it. The spirit. It felt just like hands and fingers on my shoulders and my stomach. It was heavy, getting heavier. I kept my eyes closed, wavering under the weight of it all. Unable to bear it, I fell to my knees. The elders left me there alone because I had been saved. The fingerprints have disappeared now but that night the spirit left human bruises on my shoulders.

But I was one of the lucky ones. Do not leave scars on my child that cannot be erased.

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