So, I found in my teaching mailbox a couple of weeks ago a sample teaching magazine—a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center—that I can actually get a free subscription to just because I’m an educator.  Sweet, huh?  It’s called Teaching Tolerance, and on the front cover it says things like 10 Myths About Immigration (that should be interesting) and my favorite: Turning Social Media to Social Justice–Current Social Justice Issues. 

My 15-year-old cousin, a freshman in high school, has just been assigned to write a “social justice” paper—it’s part of the freshman curriculum.  A former student of mine was just telling me a couple of weeks ago how she had to write the same paper last year.  The social justice topic she chose was affirmative action and how she didn’t necessarily agree with it.  She told me that after reading her paper, the teacher asked her if she’d be attending a clan meeting that evening.  When my jaw dropped in shock, she assured me that the teacher was only kidding.  Perhaps, but his jest was out of line and said implied quite a bit, if you ask me.

When I asked my cousin last night if she knew what social justice meant, she said kind of but also stated that half of the students in the class didn’t know what it really meant.  She had trouble explaining it to me, but was finally able to express her understanding of it: that everyone has the right to be the same. 

Ah, sameness.  Where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah, in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a novel about a society striving for utopia.  But, in achieving their perfect society where everyone is equal, they have to do away with all differences.  Color—gone.  Music—gone.  Of course, choices have to be thrown away too because, heaven forbid, people might make the wrong choices.  So, diets are controlled (did you read this, Mrs. Obama?), and everyone lives in the same style house, and people’s jobs are decided for them by a committee.  Of course, because of the human nature to be free, people wouldn’t stand for this, so their minds and emotions have to be controlled with medication to make them like robots.  Spouses are chosen for the people (by the committee, of course), and children are assigned to parents.  Spouses couldn’t dare reproduce their own biological children because something might go wrong, not to mention the fact that that would involve sexual intercourse, which might stir up some emotion, and that’s not allowed.  And what do you do with the people who are different?  They’re destroyed!  Oh and any knowledge of history must be eliminated because the society can’t have people knowing what the world used to be like, or they might want to go back to it.  I wonder if all this came about in this fictional society because of the idea of “social justice.” 

I’m sorry, but this social justice thing is just all so ridiculous.  According to National Association of Social Workers, “social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.”  Well, okay, sounds good.  I thought that was what America was all about.  Every person has the right to be free and govern him/herself and, in doing so, he/she can work hard enough to make his/her way up the ladder without bias or discrimination or oppression.  But beware!  That’s not what social justice means.  Apparently, many of those screaming social justice don’t see it that way.  To them, it shouldn’t be about having freedom and working hard to achieve your dreams and overcome your hardships.  Instead, it should be about the redistribution of wealth through government control.  The “committee” gets to decide how much of everything you get, and all you have to do is exactly what they tell you to do.  No hard work.  No innovation.  No motivation to better yourself.   

So, if that’s what we’re teaching in schools, where does that leave our children?  Is there really any motivation for them to work hard and try to better themselves if they’re just going to get the same thing as everyone else no matter what they do?  As I explained in my previous post, we have a big enough problem with that already.  And now we’re teaching that mindset.  When I taught The Giver, I stressed the importance of choice, freedom, love, differences, and diversity, and I encouraged my students to treasure these gifts and work hard to keep them.  Now I’m heartbroken to see that there are those within my own school system perverting these ideas and teaching the exact opposite.