Education has been under the microscope lately because of a debate surrounding the common core curriculum movement . As many teachers and parents rail against increased standardized testing and inflexible curriculum requirements, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, is taking this one step further claiming that every school should teach social justice.
From The Daily Caller:
“You want to talk about organizing? You want to talk about social justice?” the Chicago union leader asked. “People always talk about how that there’s no political and values in math, that you can teach math without a place for social justice.”
This seems straightforward, but the direction she goes is rather interesting:
“Johnny has five pencils and if he spent two cents for the red pencils and eight cents for the green pencils, and he has 47 cents, how many pencils can he buy? We’ve all seen that, right?” Lewis said. ”That’s a very political statement, because it’s all about consumerism — it’s about buying stuff, right?”
What a wonderful bit of philosophical analysis. Many aspects of society are treated as off-limits because we rarely feel the need to breakdown our use of language or the core assumptions by which we derive our cultural identity. This is especially true in schools which serve as the main gateway for the socialization of the nation’s youth, but often ignore important topics such as social justice, ethics, and philosophy because they are seen as softer forms of education. These are also the fields that challenge traditional authoritative structures including, as Mrs. Lewis points out, consumerism.
This reminds me of Einstein’s horror after he realized what the creation of the atomic bomb meant for the future of humanity. When hard science is emphasized, without any balance from the humanities, society is left with the knowledge to achieve wonders, but without the wisdom to question whether it should or whether the time is right to do so. Knowledge without wisdom is blind, it forces children to integrate into a powerful social landscape without the ability or self-awareness to think for themselves, let alone to question the basic assumptions that are the foundation of their culture.
Written by Matthew Cohen, MSW