Several months ago, the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative announced $600,000 in grant money to five organizations for K-5 Pilot Projects in civics education. EAD is a national civics advocacy project that has lots of money and prestige. When it went public in 2021, six former U.S. secretaries of education, three of them appointed by Republicans, signed a letter of endorsement in The Wall Street Journal.
One of the recipients of this hefty grant was the Georgia Council for the Social Studies in partnership with the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement and the state Department of Education. The grant, it was said, will help Georgia “better equip our K-5 teaching corps with the pedagogical skills and content knowledge” to send kids to higher grades with “grounding and an inquisitive mindset towards civics and history.”
You should pause over the term “inquisitive mindset.” It’s a bright red flag — not because of the words themselves, but because of the people who will activate them. Where do social studies teachers stand on civics?
That’s not a hard question. A Rand Corp. survey found that the No. 1 outcome of social studies instruction in their eyes was not knowledge of government, law, or U.S. history, but “To be tolerant of people and groups who are different from themselves.” Persuading students to see themselves as “global citizens” slightly beat instruction in the Bill of Rights. Facts and dates came in last, with only one-third calling them essential.
The National Council of the Social Studies echoes the attitude. Its website is a showcase of leftist fervor, pounding the beat of anti-racism, casting parents at school board meetings as agents of disinformation, etc. The advocacy positions of the group aim to produce Democrat voters. One position statement regrets the influence of “white, financially secure, Christian, heterosexual [cisgender] males” on U.S. history. Another pushes “racial literacy,” and another the “Intersectional Valuing of Women.” Clearly, Democrat politics lies at the very heart of the discipline.
The Georgia Council for Social Studies, one of the beneficiaries of the EAD award, signaled its agreement with leftist activism when it gave its 2023 Program of Excellence Award to “Team Social Studies,” a group of Georgia Southern University professors. The team has a biannual journal, Teaching Social Studies in the Peach State, and the first volume of it had an essay by one of the GSU team members with the title “The Urgent Need for Preparing Anti-Oppressive Citizens in Elementary Social Studies: A Conceptual and Pragmatic Framework for Educators.” It underscores “systemic injustices” such as “police brutality disproportionately experienced by Black and Brown citizens, the assault on women’s reproductive rights, the dehumanization of and violence against LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), the grave mistreatment of refugees seeking asylum at the southern border, as well as many, many others.”
The purpose of social studies instruction is to stop those injustices. That’s the philosophy of civic education that is being funded in the conservative state of Georgia. Kids from Savannah to Sparta must be primed for social change before they leave elementary school.
Advocates don’t speak this way in the open. They know their plans are not popular, so they use politically neutral language during times of persuasion, then go full partisan afterward. Get people on board with pleasing rhetoric of “diversity,” “progress,” and “inquisitive mindset,” and after approval comes, money flows, and programs commence, “transformative education” can happen.
This is the danger in Georgia. EAD is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yes, it contains a few traditionalist elements that deflect the charge of anti-conservatism. Overall, however, the EAD Roadmap circumscribes those elements with identity politics that left-wing teachers can plunder all year long. Here is what EAD really means by “inquisitive mindset”: a takedown of heroes, emphasis on victims (women and racial minorities), denial of American exceptionalism, and a focus on the failings of the founding.
The Roadmap includes “Guiding Questions” that teachers are advised to raise in the classroom. Here is one recommended for K-2 teachers: “What constitutes a family?” This question has no place in the classroom. Given the biases of social studies teachers, we know what would happen if a 6-year-old were to give a biblical answer to that question.
Here is a Guiding Question for grades three to five: “How does the U.S. Constitution include all races, gender identities, and marginalized groups?” If the ensuing discussion were led by a conservative teacher, learning could proceed in a balanced, educational way. Critique would not be the end of it either. Patriotism would follow.
But that’s not what social studies teachers want. They would take the question about the Constitution as a chance to rehearse the drawbacks of the founding (from a leftist standpoint). On the family question, class discussion would emphasize that mother-father-children families are only one of many alternatives, no better (and maybe worse) than more “modern” family structures.
Teachers who emerge from “oppression studies” programs have an agenda, and it doesn’t jibe with Republican governance in Georgia. That prominent organizations have received grants that encourage lessons aligned with the Roadmap should raise the antennae of leaders in the state. Gov. Kemp and Superintendent Woods have shown themselves nobly willing to resist leftist visions of the classroom. Last year I worked with their team on English Language Arts standards, and we came up with an excellent model with a solidly conservative thrust. It includes lots of literary history and memorization and recitation of classic poems and speeches.
The same thing should happen with civics. We need Georgia officials to monitor the implementation: curricula adopted, lesson plans created, and assessments that reward leftist outcomes. Guardrails against leftists’ hijacking must be erected. Given the left-wing dominance of social studies fields, skepticism is healthy, and vigilance is necessary. Do not assume that neutral language proves unbiased intent. It’s not enough to listen to what progressives say. We must watch what they do.