David Randall, Ph.D. | December 26, 2019
Oklahoma education agency promotes progressive activism masquerading as civics
David Randall, Ph.D.
The nonprofit organization Generation Citizen has been busy in Oklahoma these last few years. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) blandly announced this month that Generation Citizen “offers training and support to bring action civics into the classroom” and that it “works with 25 schools in 10 cities throughout the state.” OSDE quotes a middle-school teacher who says enthusiastically, “‘It’s the future of social studies education and curriculum.’” OSDE provides a link “to find out how to bring Generation Citizen to your school.”
Generation Citizen makes the casual observer think it’s nonpartisan: “Through student-driven projects, youth learn how to effect policy change by engaging with local government and leaders to solve community problems.”
In truth, Generation Citizen smuggles propaganda and vocational training for progressive activism into K-12 schools and calls it “action civics.”
Generation Citizen is part of the larger New Civics movement, which has infiltrated both K-12 schools and our universities. New Civics in turn is one component of Social Justice Education, the larger movement to turn all American education into propaganda and vocational training for social justice activism. Social Justice Education uses “experiential learning”—time spent out of the classroom for which you get class credit—as vocational training in the nuts and bolts of left-wing activism. Experiential learning is also called “service learning” and “civic engagement.” Young students get comfortable being organized and older students learn how to organize. When you graduate, you’re ready to enlist as a professional organizer for progressive political activism.
Generation Citizen grooms students for Social Justice Education by training them in action civics and “participatory action research.” Generation Citizen trains students to use influential radical Saul Alinsky’s technique of “power mapping” to bring about revolutionary change. That’s what Generation Citizen does: “We promote political engagement, which we define as interaction with power, and specifically, governmental institutions.” And Generation Citizen specifies that political engagement is more radical than civic engagement or service-learning: “It is the difference between volunteering at a soup kitchen and promoting policy solutions.”
Generation Citizen also promotes “youth organizing”—a youth development strategy that focuses on training young people in community organizing and advocacy.”
Generation Citizen also “educates for democracy”—and that means education which assumes progressive political beliefs and works to support bring about progressive policy:
Underpinning all of these challenges is persistent and growing economic, political, social, and cultural inequality. … deepening racial inequalities, the rise of mass incarceration, over-policing, unjust disciplinary policies in schools, the resegregation of public education, and inequality of opportunity by race and gender.
Generation Citizen works by “building critical consciousness”:
Critical consciousness is an understanding of the systemic, institutional, and historical injustices that cause the pervasive inequities in resources and opportunities for certain groups. Enhancing critical consciousness among youth from underserved communities is a vital step to building efficacy as it entails understanding an individual’s relationship to a broader system. … Youth organizing and youth-led participatory action research are examples of activities that effectively build critical consciousness among young people.
Generation Citizen’s “action civics” brainwashes students into believing progressive propaganda.
Unsurprisingly, the avowedly nonpartisan Generation Citizen overwhelmingly supports progressive causes—rent subsidies (“affordable housing”) rather than taxpayers’ rights, gun control rather than gun rights, restorative justice rather than stricter school discipline or prison laws. It stigmatizes civic concern with vote integrity and vote fraud as “voter suppression.”
What sort of “youth activism” does it praise? “The recent #BlackLivesMatter activism and the Movement for Black Lives, in response to the wave of police brutality cases, is an illustration of promising youth activism, as are the DREAMers, undocumented students who have positively influenced the Obama Administration on issues of immigrant rights.”
Dig into Generation Citizen’s teacher’s curriculum, and you’ll find a host of progressive distortions. The curriculum’s list of American protest movements includes Occupy (Wall Street), Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo, but it doesn’t include Phyllis Schlafly’s STOP ERA campaign, the prolife movement, or the Tea Party. It teaches that the essence of American democracy is the protest movement: “From the conflicts leading to American independence in 1776 to youth demands for climate change action today, young people have played a pivotal role in political and social change in the United States from the start.”
The entire framework of Generation Citizen works against individual self-reliance. It educates for collective activism. It educates for protest—which always demands more government spending and more exercises of coercive governmental power. Generation Citizen’s justification is “that young people are a demographic without official economic, political, or social power—they require effective proxies (e.g., government and its institutions, their families, community organizations, and/or other adult actors) to make effective decisions on their behalf.” But Generation Citizen favors policies that increase the government’s power to act “on behalf of” adults. Generation Citizen stages temper-tantrums by students to justify the extension of the nanny state.
Generation Citizen has a canny sense of how to make “action civics” required: “it must become a core element of the public school system,” both by more funding and by making action civics “a core part of mandatory student assessments.” Generation Citizen wants every school and every teacher to require left-wing activism, as part of the regulations set by the state Department of Education. In Oklahoma, “As a member of the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies Drafting Committee, we revised state standards to include civics as a core strand and recommended practices that align with key components of Action Civics.”
Generation Citizen is a social justice organization using civics education as a Trojan Horse to take over Oklahoma’s K-12 school system. It can, should, and must be banished from Oklahoma’s schools—and so should all “civic engagement,” “experiential learning,” and “social justice education.” Oklahoma policymakers and citizens should take these five concrete steps:
1. Prohibit class credit at both the K-12 and the university level for “experiential learning,” with narrowly tailored exceptions for courses such as an engineering internship.
2. Increase the factual, classroom requirements for civics and history, both to increase students’ civic knowledge and to decrease the classroom time available for progressive activism.
3. Prohibit the use of state education money for any class whose activity includes lobbying, whether to advocate for the educational activity itself or for any other public policy.
4. Require rigorous factual civics and history requirements for teacher licensure, to weed out the “action civics” cadres who know nothing but how to organize protests.
5. Encourage Oklahoma philanthropists to fund rival organizations devoted to real civics education, to give Oklahoma schools a superior alternative to Generation Citizen.
Real civic engagement by Oklahomans will drive Generation Citizen out of their schools.
David Randall, Ph.D.
David Randall is the research director of the National Association of Scholars. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Columbia University, a master’s degree in library science from the Palmer School at Long Island University, and a B.A. from Swarthmore College. Prior to working at NAS he was the sole librarian at the John McEnroe Library at New York Studio School.