Pentagon Schools Encouraged Students To Be Left-Wing Activists, Pushed DEI On Kids And Teachers, Docs Show

Teachers at Pentagon schools promoted materials that train students to be social justice activists and pushed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) on teachers, according to a new Open The Books report shared exclusively with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools, which serve children of armed service members stationed abroad, promoted materials produced by left-of-center organizations that encouraged students to engage in activism and pushed teachers to discuss “internalized racism” among themselves, according to Open The Books’ report. Open The Books compiled information from public government repositories, documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests and video clips of the DODEA’s 2021 Equity and Access Summit submitted by a whistleblower to produce its report.

“These military service members are deployed abroad to defend and embody American ideals on the world stage,” Open The Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski told the DCNF. “Yet their children are being indoctrinated to a philosophy that places complex racial and gender identities over national pride. In fact, pushing students toward activism and teaching them that their relative privilege dictates their life experience can actually alienate them from the American dream.”

Multiple DODEA staffers speaking at the Equity and Access Summit said that materials produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are used in teacher trainings and classrooms. The SPLC is a left-of-center legal nonprofit that equates some mainstream Christian organizations with domestic terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan through its annual list of hate organizations.

One DODEA middle school teacher, while speaking at a presentation titled “Integrating Global Citizenship Education and Social Justice Standards,” said that the SPLC’s “Learning for Justice” resources aligned with the DODEA’s approach to teaching students about history and social studies, according to the report.

“I have personally completed many of these lessons,” the teacher said.

Many of the lessons offered by the SPLC encourage students to engage in community activism, often with a liberal tilt. Third, fourth or fifth-grade students in one lesson plan are tasked with creating “a large-scale artistic depiction in a community space” or a “set of informational posters” that “reflect a diversity topic or social justice theme.”

Students are also encouraged to place direct pressure on business and political stakeholders, with one SPLC lesson pushing students to write a letter to a community leader calling on them to take “action in response to a social justice issue.” The SPLC’s lessons also extend to digital activism. One lesson asks students to facilitate a live social media event “to raise awareness of an anti-bias theme or social justice issue and to encourage change related to this issue.”

A separate DODEA staffer, this time a physical education specialist, gave a similar presentation where they said the SPLC’s “Social Justice Standards” matched up closely with the educational standards at Pentagon-run schools.

“In [the National Health Education Standards] we teach students to advocate for personal, family and community health,” the physical education staffer said. “One of the Social Justice Standards teaches students that ‘it is important to stand up for myself and others’ … so the idea is that even though the wording of advocacy is different, and the word ‘stand up’ is different, the outcome is still the same … and those are the kinds of connections we need to make, or help students make.”

The SPLC’s Social Justice Standards recommend that students understand the history of the social justice movement, believe in systemic discrimination and that they “plan and carry out collective action against bias and injustice in the world and will evaluate what strategies are most effective.”

“Parents and taxpayers deserve to know what materials are being used in this and other contexts, but unfortunately, much of it comes from private vendors not beholden to the Freedom of Information Act,” Andrzejewski told the DCNF. “In the case of the Southern Poverty Law Center, outside groups simply do not get more radical.”

In addition to footing the bill for teachers to teach military children about liberal activism, taxpayers are also on the hook to fund contracts to third-party organizations conducting similar operations. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a tutoring company that Open The Books describes as “a major part of student life at DODEA” schools, is one such third-party contractor that DODEA paid roughly $2 million for services between 2019 and 2023, according to the report.

Tutors working for AVID discussed how they integrate discussions related to “power” and “privilege” in their teaching at the Equity and Access Summit. The firm itself has expressed “solidarity” with the Black Lives Matter movement and suggested that DODEA teachers use the “Let’s Talk!” handbook produced by the SPLC, which instructs teachers on how to broach issues like “intersectionality” and gender identity in their classrooms.

Pentagon schools are also intent on making teachers engage in group discussions on internalized racism and ways to better embed racial equity in their work through activities Open The Books describes as “struggle sessions.”

The DODEA, for instance, recommended that its employees embrace strategies to talk about “race, power, and systems of oppression” in ways that lead to changes in teaching behavior, as laid out in the book “Coaching for Equity,” according to documents obtained by Open The Books. “Coaching for Equity” criticizes capitalism, Thanksgiving and the “patriarchy” while claiming that America was founded on “stolen land,” according to the report. The book recommended that readers also check out works like The 1619 Project and “White Fragility.”

DODEA teachers are held to a professional development framework published by Learning Forward, an education nonprofit, according to the report. Equity is a core focus of the framework, with educators being expected to “discuss instances of privilege and bias in their day-to-day experiences and articulate their own assumptions about key concepts like equality and fairness” in order to reshape workplace norms.

Military families recently won an educational transparency victory as an amendment was included in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act that gave parents the right to inspect the curriculum and other materials utilized in Pentagon-run schools. If military parents don’t like what they see, however, their options are limited as the DOD does not provide stipend to parents seeking to enroll their children in private schools, unlike the State Department, according to the report.

“Given what we’ve seen here from the mouths of teachers and administrators, along with the clear intent to obscure this DEI content, we don’t believe the current protections go far enough,” Andrzejewski told the DCNF. “DODEA staff could easily withhold all of the controversial teacher training materials on the basis that it’s not literally handed out in classrooms,” he continued, pointing to what he calls a “loophole” that Congress should consider closing when drafting the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act.

The DOD did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

AUTHOR

ROBERT SCHMAD

Contributor.

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