‘Activism’ Is Not an Educational Goal

‘Activism’ Is Not an Educational Goal

The debacle in Long Beach schools shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what students are there to do.

Recently, an organization known as Call For Justice (CFJ) has come under scrutiny for its work in Long Beach Unified School District. According to a recent report by Francesca Block, CFJ “has paid nearly 100 public high schoolers $1,400 each to learn how to fight for racial and social justice….  In addition to the student stipends, the contracts also allocated a total of $20,200 to 13 parents for participating in the group’s programs.” CFJ also runs “after-school programming in four of California’s largest school districts, including Fresno, Oakland, and San José.” All of this is paid for by Californian taxpayers. 

According to Block, students at these training sessions “are encouraged to school their own teachers on topics like implicit bias, ‘student voice,’ and antiblack racism.” In practice, they are supplied with scripts to read off at various public events. Besides railing against systemic injustices of their own country, CFJ students also stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, causing Jewish residents to complain about the group’s “antisemitic messaging.”

From any angle, the problems with CFJ are legion. It’s a predatory scheme that literally pays poor kids to be brainwashed and recruited as activists. Moreover it espouses an ideology devoted to sowing chaos and resentment in the community and repudiating the American way of life. 

However, ideology isn’t even the biggest problem with CFJ’s “educational programming.” If CFJ were instead paying kids to protest Hamas, Marxism, and DEI, it would still be a harmful organization that should be defunded and dissolved. The real issue with CFJ and any group like it is that it encourages young people to become activists in the first place and uses public money to do so.

Ever since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, activism has become wrongly associated with education, leadership, and civic duty. Obama always told young people to follow his example by disrupting the status quo, spreading awareness, and protesting. In many ways, his presidency was simply a continuation of his work as a community organizer in Chicago. It didn’t matter so much what he accomplished (which was little), but more what he was and what he believed.

Except, of course, in the end it does matter. Obama’s commitment to activism resulted in two mediocre terms in office that left the country more divided, less economically dynamic, and more beholden to plutocrats and demagogues. Similarly, most activists have little to show for their “action.” They produce nothing, change nothing, and often leave the world worse off than before. 

This is due to the obvious fact that activism is counterproductive and ultimately useless. If a person is concerned with poverty, bigotry, or some other problem in their community, they should remedy this problem through actual work that produces something of value. The business owner who provides employment opportunities along with goods and services does far more for his community than angry protesters who block traffic, deface statues, or “scream helplessly at the sky.”

Booker T. Washington made this very point to his fellow emancipated slaves over a century ago during the American Reconstruction. In his famous speech at the Atlanta Exposition, he specifically discouraged activism and encouraged industry instead: “Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the production of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life.” This philosophy made Washington one of the greatest benefactors to black Americans, both in what he produced and in the example he set. 

By contrast, his counterpart W.E.B. Dubois espoused the opposite view, organizing Marxist-inspired movements and pushing grievances at the forefront. While enormously influential, his arguments did little to help the black community. Rather, he inspired others (like BLM, Ibram X. Kendi, or Nikole Hannah-Jones) to use the same playbook, becoming personally rich off of activism while doing nothing to fix the social injustice they loudly decried.

Additionally, the life of an activist is a parasitic one, and the host on which it feeds is often the government. Over the past four years, CFJ collected nearly $2 million from Long Beach USD. That money could have been paid to teachers, better facilities, or educational programs to remediate students who were negatively impacted by California’s ridiculous Covid lockdowns. Better yet, the district could have joined other school districts in fixing their students’ screen addiction by purchasing Yondrs. Instead, the money is going to useless grifters who are teaching students to also become useless grifters. 

That said, there is a silver lining to this story. The fact that groups like CFJ are resorting to these tactics and depending on poor kids to mindlessly read scripts to politicians and administrators indicates how desperate they are. Nothing about their movement is persuasive or serious; it’s exploitative, wasteful, and stupid. If there were any true believers who really bought into this nonsense before, they should take a good look at the clueless teenager telling his friends, “You get paid good. You can have a fun time, events, all of that.”

More importantly, the abuses of CFJ should drive home the essential truth that activism has no place in schools. Contrary to the leftist conceit that inclusive education involves mouthing woke platitudes and engaging in anti-social, unproductive behavior, real education is just the opposite. It truly includes young people by making them competent, informed, and independent individuals in the world. Once again, Booker T. Washington, himself an educator, put it best: “No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercises of the privileges.”

The post ‘Activism’ Is Not an Educational Goal appeared first on The American Conservative.

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