Letter to the Western Cape Education Department on social justice

FSU SA addressed a letter to the WCED cautioning the department about the manner in which allegations at schools are being handled. FSU SA also urged the department to be critical about the appointment of consultants to help schools manage these issues.

Western Cape Minister of Educa3on Mr David Maynier

Email: david@da-mp.org.za

DATE

Dear Sir

Social Justice Initiatives in Government Schools

4 July 2022

I am writing on behalf of the Free Speech Union, South Africa (FSU SA), regarding social justice initiatives in schools and the detrimental effects they are having on social cohesion and free speech. The FSU SA is a non-profit organisation that has been launched under the aegis of the Institute of Race Relations to promote freedom of speech and opinion, and stands up for anyone who is, or risks being, penalised for exercising these rights.

The FSU SA is concerned about the increasing focus by South African schools on matters of social justice. Specifically, we are concerned that strictures on free speech are increasingly being experienced in the context of schools where critical race theory and critical gender theory are being

inserted into curricula, as well as professional development training under the guise of benign-sounding ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ (DEI) initiatives. Further, we are disturbed by the breakdown of social cohesion as a result of these initiatives.

222 Smit Street (Virtual Office), Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa. Tel: 011482 7221, Email: info@freespeech.org.za

The FSU is supportive of schools being proactive in tackling issues of discrimination. Creating environments free of discrimination and where all members of a school feel a sense of belonging should be a priority for schools.

However, after having reviewed the social justice programs adopted by a significant number of private schools, as well as having interviewed teachers and school leaders, we have discerned that schools are prioritising a particular brand of social justice while sacrificing the constitutional values of free expression and non-racialism. Rather than foster a climate of tolerance, and appreciation of different viewpoints and individual identities, DEI results in the shutting down of heterodox opinions and is detrimental to racial cohesion.

We offer the following justification for our conclusions:

  • The FSU is aware of a number of schools where saying the word ‘monkey’ in any context is banned; teachers have been told not to refer to their female students as ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ for fear of offending a student who does not identify as such; teachers and students have faced disciplinary action for pronouncing the N-word as it appears in a work of fiction; and students have been bullied for failing to pronounce their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, or for failing to pronounce names properly.

  • Some schools have even gone so far as to include speech bans in their official codes of conduct. One particularly egregious example is the prohibition on endorsing the idea of racial ‘colourblindness’. Colourblindness is the idea popularised by Martin Luther King Jnr that people should be judged on the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin.

  • The banning of colourblindness leads me to the second of our concerns: The implementation of DEI offers a view on race that is opposed to the

constitutional value of non-racialism and will have a detrimental effect on race relations.

During the course of our research, in particular the engagement with social justice literature at schools, it became clear that DEI is underpinned by an area of academic study known as critical race theory (CRT). In fact, a number of schools explicitly state that their ideas about social justice are informed by CRT.

One aspect of CRT we find troubling is the idea that white on black racism is the normal state of affairs. As such, anything to do with ‘whiteness’ should be identified and ‘dismantled’. CRT advocates allege that colourblindness and non-racialism are values designed by whites in order to oppress non- whites. Therefore, schools seeking social justice must teach students to focus on a person’s skin colour rather than on their character. The FSU has come to understand that this hyper-racialism is routinely taught to schoolchildren of all ages by external consultants and teachers, and is reflected in recommended readings.

This hyper-racialism plays out in a number of ways, which we believe, are negatively impacting on race relations. They include but are not limited to:

  • -  Black children being told that they are oppressed by white people and that the only way for them to succeed in life is to weaponise their victimhood to ‘dismantle whiteness’;

  • -  White children being told that they are necessarily racist because they have white skin;

  • -  White children being made to feel guilty for being white and in some cases having to apologise for their ‘white privilege’;

  • -  Children being taught that the colour of a person’s skin is the most important aspect of their identity and should be accounted for in every social interaction;

  • -  Teaching that any disparities in outcome between race groups is evidence of racism; and

  • -  The creation of ‘affinity groups’, membership of which is conditional upon skin colour.

    As a consequence of the above, race relations are bound to suffer. During the course of our investigations, we have often found this to be the case.

    The FSU is not calling for the banning of teaching of concepts derived from CRT, nor are we calling for a ban on schools promoting social justice. However, we believe that care should be taken when dealing with these matters. Alternative views on social justice should be permitted so that ideas based on CRT do not come to dominate the discourse to the detriment of constitutionally protected free speech and racial cohesion.

    One has to remember that CRT or derivations thereof are political philosophies aimed at, bizarrely, moving society towards a socialist Utopia. CRT should not be used as a process by which children are indoctrinated into an alienating and unhelpful set of life skills.

    Of crucial importance is the involvement of parents in the implementation or otherwise of CRT. As it promotes a single political theory, parents may disapprove of the school taking on a function that lies primarily within their domain.

    The Enlightenment philosopher, John Stuart Mill, once said: ‘He who only knows his side of the case knows little of that.’

    To that end and in light of all of the above, we appeal to the Western Cape Education Department specifically and the Democratic Alliance generally to reconsider any use of DEI to sensitise students. There are more appropriate ways to deal with incidents of racism et al when they occur. Children are remarkably able in managing their socialisation to good effect without the intrusion of well-meaning adults.

We are most willing to discuss our concerns, suggest alternative approaches to dealing with issues of race and gender. We can also offer a presentation on the issues.

We look forward to hearing from you. Yours faithfully

Sara Gon Director

CC: Mr Baxolile Nodada Shadow MEC for Educa3on

baxolilenodada@gmail.com

In association with

© Free Speech Union SA 2021