Sunlight thought it was important to dig into this issue because we were not aware that the NJEA was actively taking sides in the political fight over the state’s controversial learning standards, nor that it was training teachers to become activists pushing radical education policies. We don’t think that parents or most teachers or the general public were aware either. But here are the facts.
The NJEA’s ”Teaching Is Political” Summer Collaborative
This summer, the NJEA conducted a two-session 2022 Summer Collaborative run by the Radical Pedagogy Institute (see below), which provided teachers with the political organizing and advocacy tools to fight for radical education policies in their school communities. The ultimate focus was on the students: the goal for these trained teacher-activists is to “impact the educational outcomes of PK-12 [pre-kindergarten to 12th grade] students and pre-service teachers [who teach future teachers].”
The first session, “Teaching Is Political: A Convening to Enact Education Policy Change,” was dedicated to exploration of the political landscape of the New Jersey education system. Participants identified district-level and state-level action needed to create a “re/humanized” education system for New Jersey PK-12 students and educators, “especially those who are Black, Indigenous, students of color, English language learners and/or queer.” Working groups of teachers then developed plans for political action at the local and state levels to defend the state’s controversial New Jersey Student Learning Standards against “the current attacks on critical race theory, ethnic studies, and LGBTQ+ inclusive education.”
The second session, “Teaching Is Political: Advocating and Organizing for Social Change,” trained twenty selected PK-12 teachers and teacher educators, who researched the push-back by New Jersey parents and political leaders, including “critical race theory bans, teacher shortage, trans sport bans, voter suppression.” Teachers learned political organizing strategies and received feedback on their plans to take “direct action” to fight this parental pushback in their local communities.
The explicit purpose of these sessions is to train teachers to politically organize fellow teachers, find allies in the local community and help effect radical education policy change in their local school districts. While the NJEA claims it is fighting “bad actors who seek to politicize our schools,” it is the NJEA that is seeking to politicize teachers and schools.
The Radical Pedagogy Institute
The Radical Pedagogy Institute (RPI) is as radical as its name. RPI is a collective of educators from the greater New Jersey area that was founded to “take action to implement anti-racist initiatives and dismantle institutional structures upholding white supremacy.” They are political organizers who take decidedly political approach to accomplishing their mission, which is the radical indoctrination of students, including the very youngest ones.
The RPI educators believe in “the transformational power of radical pedagogy and local political organizing.” Their aim is to “Re/humanize PK-12 Education,” so what do they mean by re/humanize? Using the “tenets of critical pedagogies – queer, anti-racist, DisCrit [Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education] … and other liberatory pedagogies – to re/humanize educational experiences for all students.” And what do they mean by all students? Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, so they intend for their impact to reach all the way down to very youngest children in the pre-kindergarten and the early elementary school-level.
RPI’s Proposed Curriculum for First, Second and Third Graders
The NJEA’s Summer Collaborative does not provide a detailed description of the curriculum to be pushed by these trained teacher-activists, but we do know the details about the curriculum proposed by RPI.
Here are some examples from RPI’s Searchable Database of their proposed curriculum for “Early Elementary” (1st to 3rd) grade level focus for both classroom teachers and educators of future teachers:
For future early elementary school teachers: “Queering Mathematics: Disrupting Binary Oppositions in Mathematics Pre-Service Teacher Education” (Number 14). This course “documents the extent to which sexist and heterosexist ideologies … perpetuate borders in mathematics that marginalize women and queer people” and presents “recommendations that will be useful for teachers, teacher educators, and mathematics researchers alike about how to queer mathematics education.”
Remember that RPI deems this subject matter appropriate for early elementary school children.
The NJEA Has Some Explaining To Do
The facts show that the NJEA is training teacher-activists to advance radical education policies at the local district level.
This is precisely the nightmare scenario for many parents, who have already pushed back against the state standards in school districts across the state. Now the NJEA – the association that represents 125,000 teachers who teach their children – is training teachers on how to fight these parents and enact education policies that permit the radical indoctrination of six and seven-year-olds in New Jersey’s elementary schools. Perhaps the NJEA can explain to parents why it is doing so.
Sunlight wonders if most New Jersey teachers even know about – let alone support – these activities by their state union. We hope that knowledge of these activities is spread far and wide so teachers can consider whether they approve of their highest-in-the-nation dues being used for such purposes. Perhaps the NJEA could then explain to them why it is doing so.
The NJEA has some explaining to do.