In all such campaigns, a distinction can be drawn between the galvanizing slogan, which by design is popular and difficult to oppose, and the ideological and policy goals of the people promoting it. In other words, people might believe deeply that Black lives matter while disagreeing with Black Lives Matter organizers about specific claims. But for the BLM at School movement, agreeing with the broad slogan implies a particular approach to anti-racist activism—one that draws on academic approaches such as critical race theory and intersectionality; rejects individualism and aspirational color-blindness; and acts in solidarity with projects including decoloniality, anti-capitalism, and queer liberation.
Indeed, with the educational resources it creates and curates, the national BLM at School coalition unapologetically aims to create a new generation of allied activists. And that influence shows in Evanston, where, starting in the spring of 2019, the District 65 Educators’ Council––the local teachers’ union––proposed to work with administrators to develop a local BLM at School curriculum. By autumn, the school board had approved a week of lessons. The curriculum—which district leaders say aligns with Illinois social-studies standards and guidelines—draws on the materials and guiding principles of the national initiative while also adding texts such as Not My Idea, which doesn’t appear on the national BLM at School’s current list of recommended books.
Both in the material recommended by the national movement and in uniquely local lessons, some prompts to think critically are presented alongside other material that crosses a line from education into indoctrination. Educators should inform students and teach them how to think for themselves about how to improve the world, not inculcate any particular faction’s agenda or viewpoints as if they were presumptively good and true. The flaws in BLM at School curricula in Evanston and elsewhere aren’t a failure of activism––national and local Black Lives Matter advocates have promoted their worldview quite effectively. They are failures of the public-school system—albeit failures that would require extraordinary effort and skill to avoid, given a curriculum built atop an activist movement.