PHILADELPHIA – When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke to a Philadelphia charter school audience on Monday, many of his comments seemed like sweet music to education reformers’ ears.
Cantor promised the GOP-led House of Representatives “will leave no stone unturned” in its fight against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is suing the state of Louisiana over its new voucher law which provides many poor, minority children with access to high-quality private schools.
The Republican leader also predicted that school choice “will be a reality for every student in America” within 10 years, according to the Washington Post.
But the pleasing high notes in Cantor’s speech risked being drowned out by one seriously sour note.
Cantor delivered his address at the Freire Charter School, and used part of his speech to honor the school’s namesake, Paulo Freire.
Cantor praised Freire as “a brilliant educator” who “earned a law degree and achieved a great deal.”
“Paulo Freire believed that everyone should have the necessary tools to succeed and he dedicated his life to providing those tools to the underserved,” Cantor gushed.
Cantor’s right, sort of. Freire did give “tools” to the “underserved,” but it wasn’t so they could land good-paying jobs and buy homes in middle-class communities, as the conservative lawmaker probably assumes.
The Brazilian educator and writer believed education should be used to equip individuals to lead a Marxist-style revolution against their capitalist “oppressors.”
Freire’s best-selling “education” book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” teaches that students must be made aware of their oppression and the ones responsible for it. When students understand how they’ve been misused and mistreated by the capitalist system, they will join the struggle for their liberation and the creation of a classless society.
We’re guessing Cantor hasn’t read the book.
America’s left-wing professors and activist K-12 educators certainly have, and they’ve made Freire’s book and philosophy a cornerstone of the nation’s teacher training programs.
As Sol Stern writes in a 2009 City Journal article, “Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ has achieved near-iconic status in America’s teacher-training programs. In 2003, David Steiner and Susan Rozen published a study examining the curricula of 16 schools of education—14 of them among the top-ranked institutions in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report—and found that ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ was one of the most frequently assigned texts in their philosophy of education courses.”
“To get an idea of the book’s priorities, take a look at its footnotes. Freire isn’t interested in the Western tradition’s leading education thinkers—not Rousseau, not Piaget, not John Dewey, not Horace Mann, not Maria Montessori. He cites a rather different set of figures: Marx, Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, as well as the radical intellectuals Frantz Fanon, Régis Debray, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, and Georg Lukács.
“And no wonder, since Freire’s main idea is that the central contradiction of every society is between the ‘oppressors’ and the ‘oppressed’ and that revolution should resolve their conflict.”
Think of it this way: It’s largely because of Freire and other radicals like him that America’s K-12 students for the past 40 years have been receiving an education that’s light on serious academics and heavy on social justice issues.
In other words, the reason Cantor feels compelled to push for more charter school and school choice options for families is largely because Freire’s philosophy has transformed and ruined the nation’s public school system.
But don’t just take our word for it.
In an email to EAGnews, professor and author Mary Grabar notes that Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” was “probably the most assigned book in Weatherman-turned-education-professor Bill Ayers’s classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”
Together, Freire and Ayers have trained virtually an entire generation of teachers in the ways of radicalism and left-wing activism.
Grabar calls Cantor’s decision to praise the Brazilian Marxist “an amazing display of ignorance.”
EAGnews contacted Cantor’s office for comment on the controversy, but did not receive a response.