Social justice has become one of the most prevalent buzzwords in today’s environment of identity politics. This concept has been used to justify a myriad of redistribution schemes that are purported to serve allegedly disadvantaged groups.
Heather Mac Donald, a contributor at the public policy magazine City Journal, notes how pervasive social justice education has become throughout schools in America. “The cult of race and gender victimology a .k .a. ‘diversity,’” as Mac Donald puts it, is put on a pedestal, while concepts such as meritocracy and accountability are cast aside.
In many cases, students are now being required to take social justice courses that deal with gender or racial issues. These courses are sometimes even mandated as graduation requirements at certain universities. What were once venues of impartial inquiry and real education, social justice activists have co-opted many academic institutions. One of the biggest obsessions is with educational achievement gaps between students of different ethnicities. Indeed, this topic is sensitive. We can debate ad infinitum about the factors behind these gaps, but the real question is what policies will be pursued to address these concerns. Unsurprisingly, the state is the favored entity social justice advocates seek to harness as they forward their agenda.
Let’s face it, inequality is here to stay. Certain people have unique skill sets and perform better than others. That’s just a part of life. However, many people don’t recognize this and will instead conjure up the imaginary ghosts of “white supremacy” and “racism” to explain varying outcomes. This is a springboard for affirmative action policies and other forms of social engineering, such as what Richard Carranza, the New York City Schools Chancellor is promoting to supposedly correct previous injustices.
Social justice movements thrive in government-dominated education sectors. When there is no profit and loss system to signal if a school is actually providing a service that students and parents want, instructors and administrators have the ability to engage in many bizarre social experiments without facing the consequences of their actions. Once in a blue moon, you’ll see some teaching staff fired, but that tends to be under exceptional circumstances. And, when many of these schools fail, they will simply just receive more funding. This money isn’t coming out of thin air, it’s extracted from hardworking taxpayers only to be sent to institutions like public schools which are bogged down in bureaucracy.
The way we can solve many of these social issues is by actually liberating the education sector. While market forces do not necessarily produce equal outcomes, they do make people better off and give them more options. The American education sector used to have less government intrusion and it sufficiently enabled millions of Americans to receive a quality education at a reasonable cost. Ever since the New Deal, America has taken the radical path of centralization. Education has not been exempt from this trend thanks to the creation of the Department of Education in 1979, which allowed education to be politicized and exploited by nefarious actors advancing political agendas.
Before we can even entertain market reforms in education, social justice ideologies must be confronted intellectually and repudiated with strong arguments. Once the Overton window of ideas shifts regarding the education question, the marketplace of opportunities will expand significantly.
The seeping of identity politics into education should serve as a reminder to many conservatives and libertarians alike why they must get more serious about keeping the government out of education. By allowing the education sector to function like any other market, parents can send their kids to school in venues that are free from toxic identity politics, allowing them to actually pursue educational ends. Educational institutions that propagate social justice may still exist, but they’re likely to be relegated to the fringes, where this kind of ideology rightfully belongs.