Woke K-12 ‘Action Civics’ Initiative Called ‘GOP Suicide’

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AP Photo/Ty Wright

The same Washington establishment that championed the Common Core standards and encouraged more federal involvement in education has endorsed a civics initiative that seeks to indoctrinate K-12 students into woke “action” political organizing, under the guise of restoring “unity.”

In an op-ed Monday in the Wall Street Journal, six former U.S. education secretaries, three Democrats and three Republicans, endorsed a civics initiative that, they claim, will help instill in American students an understanding of U.S. History that is “complete and honest.”

Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who extensively investigated the Common Core standards and the revised Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum, wrote at National Review, the “Educating for American Democracy” (EAD) initiative is essentially “dominated by the woke Left, with a sprinkling of conservatives designed to create the illusion of bipartisanship.”

Kurtz said the adoption of such an initiative would essentially create “GOP suicide by civics.”

Former U.S. Education Secretaries Lamar Alexander (R-G.H.W. Bush), Arne Duncan (D-Obama), John King (D-Obama), Rod Paige (R-G.W. Bush), Richard Riley (D-Clinton), and Margaret Spellings (R-G.W. Bush) signed onto the WSJ column with the assertion that the nation is in “grave danger,” citing “years of polarization and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol” as evidence.

The former secretaries explained they have taken on the task to “reinvigorate teaching and learning of American history and civics in our nation’s schools,” but added a new initiative “must also grapple with the difficult and often painful parts of our history—including enslavement, segregation and racism, indigenous removals, Japanese-American internment, denials of religious liberty and free speech, and other injustices.”

They added, “regrettably,” the intense focus on STEM education in the U.S. has led to the neglect of civics, and that the EAD, the creation of more than 300 academics and others, will “re-establish civics and American history as essential components of education.”

“There can be no better illustration of the bankruptcy of the Republican education establishment,” Kurtz wrote. “These are the folks who brought you the “bipartisan” Common Core fiasco, not to mention the collapse of American education into civic ignorance and woke nonsense. Sure, why not follow their advice?”

Kurtz explained the presence of Republicans provides “a sheen of legitimacy to ‘action civics,’ an adaptation of Alinsky-style community organizing to education”:

So-called action civics gives teachers a mandate to get their students out demonstrating and lobbying, almost invariably on behalf of leftist causes. Courses in action civics also mandate “service learning,” in which students intern with leftist community organizations, providing them with free labor while participating in their advocacy.

This is indoctrination and political activism under the name of “civics.” I doubt a single one of the GOP education secretaries who signed that op-ed has even heard of action civics. You can bet Obama’s secretary of education Arne Duncan has, though. He popularized it.

Duncan can be remembered for his attempt in 2013 to defend the Obama-era Common Core standards against parent criticism with his comment he thought it “fascinating” that opposition was coming from “white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

In 2018, following the Parkland school shooting, Duncan also did some community organizing by urging Parkland parents to keep their children home from school until Congress passed national gun control laws.

Kurtz explained at the Washington Examiner last week the EAD woke civics effort is led by a Cambridge, Massachusetts, organization called iCivics, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but now led by Louise Dubé, a native of Quebec, who has pushed it “sharply to the left.”

The Fulcrum described Dubé in July 2020 as “the reformer” who is “driving more equitable and inclusive civics learning.”

At that time, Dubé explained to the Fulcrum one of her disappointments:

Over the past three years, we have sought to stimulate a movement to prioritize and improve civic education to combat what ails our constitutional democracy. We have made a lot of progress, but so far, the field has not found a home — in other words, no set of supporters for whom this is the primary mission. While every report and every person concerned with democracy reform mentions and highlights the need for civic education, it has not gotten the investment it deserves.

Kurtz noted, however, that, with the help of academics at Harvard and Tufts, Dubé joined with another “action civics” group called Generation Citizen and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation to form the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition, “the alliance that would lead the fight for a new civics law, and for a radically redesigned history framework as well,” he reported.

“The history curriculum that emerged under Dubé’s influence in 2018 was a leftist professor’s dream,” Kurtz stated.

He illustrated how the Biden Education Department will utilize the same approach the Obama administration used to get Republican-led states to sign onto the Common Core standards:

The Massachusetts action-civics coalition is about to go national under the name “Educating for American Democracy.” Once Joe Biden’s Department of Education dangles carrots in the form of federal dollars, while brandishing regulatory sticks, red states will be alternately seduced and pressured into requiring the supposedly bipartisan and respectable practice of “action civics,” a term few people have even heard of.

“Expect more school-sponsored student demonstrations pushing for a lower voting age if action civics spreads, and Democrats see a path to national dominance,” Kurtz warned.

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