Legislator protests ‘social justice’ theme in 4th grade textbook

State Rep. Martin Daniel has complained to education officials and Gov. Bill Haslam about a fourth-grade reading exercise that incorporates themes from the civil rights movement into English and language arts activities, reports Georgiana Vines.

Daniel, a Republican representing the 18th District in the West and North Knoxville areas, said the exercise deals with “social injustice” and asks whether this is appropriate for children at a young age.

The exercise describes a student whose textbook is “worn and missing a dozen pages.” The student is in a black community where schools receive old, damaged books while those in white areas get new textbooks. Through a court case, the school board agrees to revise the system for providing materials to schools.

In the exercise, the fourth-grade student is asked to explain the cause (why something happens) and effect (what happens).

Daniel has a fourth-grade daughter at Sequoyah Elementary School who brought the exercise home. He said he was “shocked” at the content. Otherwise he is “very happy” with the school, he said.

He discussed his concern with Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre, who wrote to Daniel to say the unit was part of a series, “Reading Street,” adopted by the Tennessee Board of Education upon recommendation of the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission and of the Knox County school board “through a vigorous process that includes teacher recommendations and opportunities for public review and input.”

Daniel wrote to the county school board — with copies to Haslam, the chairs of the state House and Senate education committees, the state textbook commission and the state Board of Education — that he is concerned the subject matter “subtly, but unnecessarily, injects a dose of ‘social justice’ into our impressionable youth.”

Note: The Nashville Scene’s Cari Wade Gervin offers critical commentary, more comments from Daniel and a link to the full letter.