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Last Saturday, teachers, students and the public were invited to attend the 5th Annual Conference for Social Justice in Education, held at and sponsored by California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI). This year’s full-day event was themed “Organizing for Sustainable Change.” It featured 1) a keynote address by the executive director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) – “a community-based social movement organization serving the California central coast,” 2) ten presentations (breakout sessions) dealing with specific issues in public education and 3) a panel discussion with representatives from five community organizing groups in Ventura County.
Before revealing what is meant by the term “social justice” and exposing the designs by which advocates in the “movement” hope to achieve it, one thing must be said: Those in the Social Justice movement are, no doubt, well-meaning, caring and passionate people who want to see other good people treated fairly, achieve their potentials, have financial stability and enjoy their lives. Nothing written here is meant to disparage their intentions, but rather bring to light a libertarian perspective that values freedom and justice for all.
Per the Conference sponsors:
People who work for social justice recognize that not everyone has equal access to excellent educational resources, facilities, and experiences. People devoted to promoting social justice seek to interrupt schools’ tendency to reproduce social inequity. The goal of this work is to make our communities better for all—specifically those who may be minoritized based on special needs, ethnicity, language, gender, socioeconomic status, and/or sexual identity (among others).
“Social justice” advocates such as CAUSE Executive Director Dr. Marcos Vargas and representatives of the various community organizing associations and nonprofits participating in the conference expressed their concerns that the needs of specific groups of people are not being met in society in general and education in particular. These groups were said to include people of color, immigrants, women, the impoverished, non-English speakers, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) community and others.
Throughout the day, proponents and activists in the “social justice” movement spoke of the inequities that required “social change,” including racial, ethnic, language, gender and sexual discrimination; bullying; income disparity; academic achievement gaps and access to information and services. They also made a number of proposals with regard to “changing the balance of power” and achieving “equality.”
Unfortunately, this is where the Social Justice Movement has taken a dangerous position.
When they say they want “social change,” they don’t mean voluntary service and charitable giving. They don’t mean allocating existing resources more efficiently. What they are working toward is BIGGER GOVERNMENT, MORE LEGISLATION, HIGHER TAXES and LESS FREEDOM.
According to CAUSE, “State tax reform” is needed to fund the “public policy changes” that will work to achieve “social justice.” These would include new parcel taxes and oil industry taxes, and changing California’s legislative voting requirement from a super- to a simple-majority, making it easier to approve new local and state taxes.
Other suggestions heard throughout the day were for the public to provide “universal college” (college for everyone) and universal healthcare, oppose competition in public education, control wages and transfer tax burdens (instead of reducing them).
The Libertarian way
- All individuals possess the same human rights regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, financial status, language or sexual orientation.
- There are indeed social and economic disparities among people and these sometimes act as barriers to opportunities. However, one person’s need does not constitute a rightful claim to another person’s property.
- In a society that respects human rights, all people are considered to be equal under the law. This means that the government has no greater right than does the individual to seize the fruits of others’ labor without their consent.
- Where human rights/civil liberties are protected, charitable giving and community service are voluntary. Private individuals and groups, secular and religious, exist today as always, to give generously to help those in need.
Will the real Social Justice please stand up
Issue by issue, the contrast between solutions that preserve liberty and those that take it away is stark.
The Social Justice (SJ) movement says: Schools are “dramatically underfunded.” The passage of California’s Prop. 30 (increased taxes) and additional “State tax reform” are necessary to correct the inequities in public education. (CAUSE)
Libertarianism (L) says: Public schools are not meeting the needs of students for many reasons, including top-heavy administrative costs; federal government mandates such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and Common Core Standards; excessive standardized testing and union demands/rules related to pensions and tenure.
SJ: The privatization of charter schools is “insidious,” especially corporate-backed schools. (CAUSE)
L: The lack of competition in public education is a contributing cause of higher costs and fewer choices for parents and students (in curriculum, faculty, administration and teaching methods). No system is perfect, but the private marketplace brings competition and choice to education.
SJ: The “achievement gap” in education is due to poverty and racism. (Communidades Justas/Just Communities)
L: It’s time for School Choice vs. Zip Code Servitude, and School Vouchers vs. School Victims. Competition and paying with one’s feet encourages quality, options and access to opportunities in education, the best ways to bridge achievement gaps.
SJ: Scholastic awards and programs such as Honors and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) promote social inequities. A proposal to replace these with an “Honors for All” system in the Santa Barbara area met with defeat when “rich, white Montecito parents complained” that their kids had worked hard and earned those academic distinctions. (Communidades Justas/Just Communities)
L: Hard work and success are to be valued and lauded, not covered up in shame in a misguided attempt to avoid offending others. Academic accomplishments might also serve as motivation to other students.
SJ: Every worker has the right to be paid a “living wage” to support his or her family. Despite “conservative Ventura County” with the “Reagan Library and the Rodney King trial,” five living wage ordinances were passed here. (CAUSE)
L: Living Wage ordinances are arbitrary price controls that keep teenagers and other inexperienced/low-skilled workers from entering the job market. They also prevent small businesses, who can’t afford to pay the wage, from contracting for work with municipalities. Wage/price controls result in increased costs for everyone: government, private industry and taxpayers.
SJ: CAUSE, with funding from the Social Justice Fund, has forged a project to “impact land-use decisions” and “shape the future of the Westside of Ventura for the next 30 years.”
L: This central-planning agenda is part of the so-called Sustainability movement that has swept across Ventura County and regions throughout the United States. It is sold to environmental groups and the citizenry on the premise that government control of housing, transportation, private property use and commerce can reduce mankind’s carbon footprint and create better communities. Its actual effect will be to diminish property rights, raise housing costs, limit choices and increase public debt.
SJ: Every Californian is entitled to receive official documents printed in his or her native language. (Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project)
L: Yes—provided it is at the expense of the individual or group requesting the service. This is also a perfect opportunity for community service.
Real social justice requires respect for the rights of all people. It does not tolerate theft, either at the hands of the individual or by government force. Therefore, lobbying the government to take from one group to give to another is to commit the same injustice.
Fortunately, the practice is wholly unnecessary:
In Ventura County there is an abundance of compassionate and generous people, eager to volunteer their efforts and resources to help others overcome their obstacles, achieve their potentials, secure financial stability and be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.
No doubt many of those same people filled the seats at CSUCI last Saturday.