Ray Carter | September 25, 2021
Left-wing student activism touted for Oklahoma civics?
Oklahoma should incorporate “project-based civics” into public-school courses, according to the state leader of a national organization whose efforts have been criticized for injecting left-wing activism into classrooms under the guise of civics education.
Amy Curran, Oklahoma executive director of Generation Citizen and a member of the Civic Learning Coalition, said state officials should “emphasize the importance of project-based civics and civic challenges” in public education through “project-based learning.”
“Learning by doing is all the rage across other academic subjects,” Curran said. “Why not civics?”
Curran made those comments to members of the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee, which was conducting a study on civics education in Oklahoma schools that was requested by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton. Pae was responsible for the meeting agenda and featured speakers.
The “project-based learning” associated with Generation Citizen has been criticized as de facto indoctrination in public schools.
David Randall, the research director of the National Association of Scholars, has written that Generation Citizen “smuggles propaganda and vocational training for progressive activism into K-12 schools and calls it ‘action civics.’”
Randall has stated, “Action Civics champion Generation Citizen touts projects such as support for the Green New Deal, climate change protests, driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, the ‘school to prison pipeline,’ feminist perspectives, and opposition to gentrification.”
In contrast, he writes that few Action Civics projects “have ever supported advocacy by, for example, pro-life organizations, pro-Second Amendment organizations, or immigration control organizations,” nor has Generation Citizen’s work prompted student “protests against teacher unions or the demand for an end to qualified immunity for school administrators.”
According to Generation Citizen’s annual report for 2018, the organization’s “focus issues” for the 2017-2018 school year included “gender inequality,” “rent stabilization,” immigration, “LGBTQ discrimination,” “police brutality,” racial profiling, discrimination, “stop and frisk” policies, “natural gas leaks,” “plastic bag pollution,” “overfishing,” “gun violence,” “low minimum wage,” and teacher pay.
Its annual reports also indicate that student projects conducted under the General Citizen banner in Oklahoma schools have tended to be in support of left-wing causes, even though the organization bills itself as nonpartisan.
In an “action civics spotlight” in 2019 annual report, Generation Citizen reported on one of its projects in Oklahoma, writing, “Del Crest Middle School students in Mr. Baker’s class wanted to focus on issues impacting the LGBTQ community.” Aaron Baker is a middle-school social studies teacher who has written that he teaches his students “that the phrase ‘law and order’ is steeped in systemic racism” and on another occasion declared, “There are seeds of an Oklahoma Socialist revival germinating in the rich soil of progressive #oklaed.”
In its 2018 annual report, Generation Citizen Founder and CEO Scott Warren wrote of the organization’s impact, including how he had “met a student in Oklahoma City, pushing forcefully for her legislators to prioritize DACA; her mother had recently been deported to Mexico.” (DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a proposed measure that would grant legal status to many individuals who entered the United States illegally.)
Generation Citizen’s leaders have taken public stances on several issues in recent years.
On March 24, 2018, in response the pro-gun-control March for our Lives, Generation Citizen issued a statement declaring the group was “inspired by this activism” and that “every single time we see real change in this country, student activism is at the forefront.”
On Nov. 8, 2018, the head of Generation Citizen’s policy and advocacy department decried a voter ID law in North Dakota.
Savannah Slayton, a student at Northwest Classen High School and member of Generation Citizen's student editorial board, was also a presenter at the legislative study.
In 2020, Slayton authored a column that ran in “The Oklahoman” declaring that state officials had “failed the education system and its students time and time again by not granting necessary funds, grooming students for prison life, recklessly endangering students’ health, and not being considerate of students' lives when creating plans for their education during a pandemic.”
The column criticized the State Board of Education for not mandating school closures when COVID-19 cases in a county reached more than 25 cases per 100,000 population, a rate so low that many rural districts would have been forced to close if only a handful of positive cases were recorded in a county. Under that plan, an overwhelming majority of schools in Oklahoma would have been forced to close through much of late 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
In its 2019 annual report, Generation Citizen officials also said the organization was involved in the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies Drafting Committee and helped “revise state standards to include civics as a core strand and recommended practices that align with key components of Action Civics.”
During the interim study, Curran told lawmakers that Generation Citizen officials are “deep partners with the Department of Education” in Oklahoma. She told lawmakers that Generation Citizen officials “hope to work together with the State Department of Education” and other education officials to “support civic projects across the state.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.