Rep. Daniel’s ‘social justice’ comments criticized by Democrats, GOP opponents

State Rep. Martin Daniel’s complaints about the civil rights movement as a theme in a Knox County Schools fourth-grade reading exercise have ignited debate on social media and drawn criticism from Democrats and from his Republican opponents in the Aug. 4 state primary.

Further from Georgiana Vines:

“It is unbelievable that Rep. Martin Daniel wants to roll back the clock to pre-civil rights era,” Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks said… “Saying that we should not teach this historic (civil rights) movement to our children is outrageous. Tennessee Republicans once again want to force their extremist ideas on our youth by erasing our country’s rich history.”

Daniel wrote to the Knox County school board — with copies sent to state education officials and Gov. Bill Haslam — that the reading exercise in his daughter’s class at Sequoyah Elementary School deals with “social injustice.” He asked whether it was appropriate for a fourth-grader and said he was “shocked” by the content.

..Former state Rep. Steve Hall, who is running in the GOP primary to regain the 18th District House seat from Daniel, said he thought the class exercise was appropriate.

“Maybe I didn’t realize it was in a reading class, but we don’t instruct now in just reading. It’s not like back when I was a kid. As long as it’s a truthful statement or could have been, it probably was a fairly accurate statement. I think our children need to be aware of that kind of stuff,” Hall said.

Another opponent, James Corcoran, referenced Daniel’s remarks in March during a state House debate on a proposed “Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act,” in which Daniel said campuses could be used to recruit for any group — even ISIS, “so long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings on that campus.” The bill was removed from consideration for the rest of this year.

“So, the incumbent that would have protected ISIS’s ‘right’ to recruit at public universities wants to fight against fourth-graders learning about civil rights,” Corcoran wrote on Facebook.

“As Republicans we need to reject the notion that there is a conflict between racial equality and conservative values. Every Tennessean has the right to a quality public education, regardless of race. Mr. Daniel seems to have fallen for the falsehood perpetrated by the so-called ‘social justice warriors’ that conservative values are at odds with racial equality.”

Bryan Dodson, another primary opponent, said he did not know about Martin’s comments until asked about them. He said he favors vouchers in the school system, which give parents involvement in their children’s education.

Brandi Price, the only Democrat running for the 18th District seat, said she believes the class assignment is appropriate for a fourth-grader. Price is an attorney specializing in juvenile cases, representing infants and children up to age 17.

“I don’t think fourth grade is too young for that. Learning is (about) how to right those wrongs that you do,” she said.

Daniel said Tuesday he does not object to social justice lessons with historical facts — but not in a fourth-grade reading assignment.

“I have no problem whatsoever with historical facts concerning racial discrimination, oppression, civil rights, injustice, genocide, war, etc., being taught factually as a part of a social studies or history course. The proper age for children to be exposed to those kinds of facts is another matter,” he said.