Because You Get Paid Good

At Bari Weiss’ Free Press, Francesca Block reveals that the Long Beach School District pays students $1,400 to learn how to become social justice warriors.

Contracts between Long Beach Unified School District and Californians for Justice from 2019 to 2023, exclusively obtained by The Free Press, show the school district used taxpayer funds to pay the group nearly $2 million to facilitate equity and leadership development training for students and teachers. In addition to the student stipends, the contracts also allocated a total of $20,200 to 13 parents for participating in the group’s programs.

Starting from December 2019 until now, the Long Beach Unified School District south of Los Angeles has paid at least 78 students a total of nearly $100,000 for participating in a club run by the organization, also known as CFJ. The most recent contract runs until June 2024.

For students who could really use $1,400, why not? That’s a lot of money for a high school student, and for those of us who weren’t flush back then, the lure is very strong. I suspect I would have been on line for the gig as a high school student.

The money incentivizes students to participate in CFJ’s programs—which are led by CFJ staff, not the district. In a recent video posted to the group’s Instagram account, one student, who was asked “Why Should Students Join CFJ?” responded “You get paid good.” It’s unclear which students are eligible for the stipends, but the organization’s website states its “leadership development” programs operate “with a focus on low income youth, youth of color, LGBTQ youth, foster youth, and immigrant youth.”

Unfortunately, there seems to be a good chance I would not have made the cut for a piece of this fabulous loot, even though one might question the lawfulness of discriminating against me based on my race and gender. But that was not a concern shared by CFJ or the district.

But four teachers interviewed by The Free Press see the payments to students and their families as a “horrible propaganda strategy.” One told me, “I am shocked and horrified at such a fact.”

But what did the students have to do in exchange for such riches?

In 2021, for example, CFJ implemented three “student-led professional development” training sessions in the district’s high schools—which cost the district $25,000, according to the contracts. During these trainings, students were encouraged to school their own teachers on topics like implicit bias, “student voice,” and antiblack racism. These sessions also replaced traditional training for teachers that often focused on topics like lesson designs and professional development, teachers told me. The district signed CFJ on to host 15 of these trainings during the 2023–2024 school year, contracts showed.

There have long been questions about whether students are being indoctrinated in schools to an ideology rather than, you know, taught those old, boring and apparently white supremacist academic subjects like math and writing. Academics swear it’s not the case, and that students awaken on their own accord, not because of anything they’re being taught on campus.

If so, why $1,400?

A 2024 article about the group in the Stanford Social Innovation Review argues that CFJ “has helped teachers in rewiring the way they connect with students—particularly students of color. This means, for example, breaking down old stereotypes where teachers are perceived as the ones with authority and knowledge to establishing a new viewpoint that teachers are allies and catalysts of the students’ own strengths and knowledge.”

Teachers are the ones with authority. They are supposed to be. They have to be. School doesn’t work any other way. It cannot be left to students to decide whether to learn if they feel good about it, and not show up if they don’t. Teachers are the ones who, theoretically, possess the knowledge to be taught, which is pretty much the reason schools and teachers exist. Or at least used to be.

“One of the reasons that they were hired is to help our students find their voice and be able to express it,” Goldfischer said. “But in reality, CFJ is not helping students find their own voices. It’s giving them a scripted voice that’s not their own.

“They’re teaching them parroting,” he added, “which is the exact opposite of how you empower children.”

Whether there is any justification for spending money to help “students find their voice and be able to express it” is itself a question. What does this even mean? What does this have to do with the school’s mission? What does this contribute to their education? But then, this is already taken for granted as an inherent good, that it’s not even worthy of an explanation as to why students finding their voice at $1,400 a year is something schools should be doing.

Instead, the only problem is that this program isn’t “empowering” children, but teaching them to parrot. Might it not be a better use of $1,400 to pay them to “parrot” their times tables? Much of what some would consider indoctrination is already so deeply embedded in the educational establishment that it’s no longer considered controversial in the least, and so blindly accepted that it goes without saying that students need empowering and teachers need to spend their days better understanding students rather than teaching them.

Still, you get paid good, and you can’t blame the kids for wanting to get paid good.

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