Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis wants schools to teach social justice, not “consumerism,” she said in a video.
Lewis spoke about ways to avoid “consumerist” messages while teaching subjects typically seen as apolitical, like math, at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education, a progressive advocacy group that backs public schools.
“You want to talk about organizing? You want to talk about social justice?” the Chicago union leader asked. “People always talk about how that there’s no political and values in math, that you can teach math without a place for social justice.”
“Johnny has five pencils and if he spent two cents for the red pencils and eight cents for the green pencils, and he has 47 cents, how many pencils can he buy? We’ve all seen that, right?” Lewis said. “That’s a very political statement, because it’s all about consumerism — it’s about buying stuff, right?”
Instead, Lewis prefers the approach of one progressive teacher who uses union-approved rhetoric in math problems, instead of the damaging consumerism of two cent pencils.
“Bob Peterson tells them about Jose working in a factory making piecemeal clothes. He uses the same numbers and gets the same answer,” Lewis explained. “Math is political, too.”
As the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, Lewis is best known for leading a strike within the ailing Chicago Public Schools system. Lewis’ strike caught national attention, winning 17.6 percent pay increases for Chicago teachers, who then earned on average $71,000-$76,000 per year.
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