Posted on January 17, 2023

SPLC Promotes Teaching Kids About Black Lives Matter on MLK Day—in First Grade

Tyler O'Neil, Fox News, January 14, 2023

The Southern Poverty Law Center‘s education arm, Learning for Justice, promoted a former teacher’s article about using Martin Luther King Jr. Day to teach first graders about the Black Lives Matter movement and the “need for continued protest and action in the face of ongoing systemic injustice.”

Critics slammed the lesson as “child abuse” and a “shameful form of indoctrination.”

Learning for Justice shared the January 2018 article, “From MLK to #BlackLivesMatter: A Throughline for Young Students,” on Twitter on Wednesday. In the article, Bret Turner (then a first grade teacher at Head-Royce School in Oakland, California) wrote that Martin Luther King Jr. Day represents “a great opportunity” to connect King’s work with “the work of today’s civil rights activists.”

“First-graders are excited to study through a lens of fairness; it is largely what drives them in their daily interactions,” Turner wrote. “If they can understand why Dr. King marched, then they can certainly wrap their minds around the need for continued protest and action in the face of ongoing systemic injustice.”

Turner emphasized the word “continued” by placing it in italics.

Turner recalled in the article: “Last year around MLK Day, we compared the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter to our school’s mission and, even closer to home, our classroom charter. We found much in common, particularly BLM’s focus on diversity, empathy and loving engagement, and its overt ties to feminism and gender identity issues.”

The first-grade teacher added that his young students are “capable of understanding why BLM is necessary through a historical lens.”

He recounted: “In my class, we’ve made our own BLM posters, explored the Oakland roots of BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, read relevant children’s literature, and observed and discussed the related work being done by our middle and high schoolers and the Black Student Union.”

Turner didn’t mention Patrice Cullors, another founder of Black Lives Matter, who infamously cashed in on activism opposing “systemic racism.”

He recalled a student’s response to a leading question:

To the guiding question ‘Why is a movement still needed today?’ one child flatly answered: ‘Because people with black and brown skin are still treated badly.’ Another remarked that ‘things are better now, but we’ve only ever had one black president and now he’s gone.’

Turner’s article quoted questions from other students, including, “Why do the police hurt Black people?” “Why is skin color so important?” and “Who decided that white people matter more than other people?”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday celebrating the slain civil rights leader, falls on the third Monday of January, Jan. 16 this year.

Carol Swain, a retired professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University and the author of books on race in America, called this lesson a “shameful form of indoctrination.”

“My impression is that a 6-year-old is not prepared to understand anything about ‘systemic injustice’ or systemic racism,” Swain, who is black and holds a doctorate, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday.

She added that exposing young children “to controversial materials or agendas, adult agendas, it robs them of their childhood. It’s a shameful form of indoctrination of children who are too young to process the materials and information being presented to them.”

Swain also noted that the lesson would affect children differently based on the color of their skin.

“Black children will start interpreting every experience they have through the lens of racism,” she predicted. “For white children, I think that it will cause them to be embarrassed, to be ashamed, and to have feelings of guilt.”

The former professor also argued that “teaching Black Lives Matter in the same context with Dr. King is confusing” because “the parts of Dr. King that we mostly focus on have to do with the fact that he wanted to bring people together, dreaming of a time when we would get beyond race.”

Meanwhile, she argued, “Black Lives Matter is all about race,” and the movement “is rooted in Marxism, in conflict theory.” (BLM co-founder Garza has described herself as a Marxist.)

“Why would anybody teach something that is rooted in conflict theory to first graders?” Swain asked.