Published October 23, 2013
A textbook company contracted to produce materials under the Common Core State Standards is trying to teach students as young as second grade about economic fairness by praising unions, protests and labor leader Cesar Chavez, according to an education watchdog group.
Zaner-Bloser, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, is distributing a lesson plan aimed at teaching second-graders about “equality” by highlighting labor issues, according to Education Action Group Foundation, a non-partisan organization that looks to promote education reform.
As part of the plan, students spend a week reading “Harvesting Hope,” a book about Chavez written by children’s author Kathleen Krull, and then discuss what the lesson plan calls “scales of fairness,” which compare the living conditions of farm workers to that of land owners.
“Fairness and equality exist when the scales are balanced,” teachers are prompted to instruct the students. They are then supposed to ask the students whether both sides, as presented in the plan, are equal, providing a correct answer of “no” in the teachers’ guides.
“Why are we teaching organized labor lessons to young children?” asked Kyle Olson, the publisher of the group’s website. “Isn’t there a simpler way to teach about fairness, like saying it’s not fair if Johnny works all day and gets one piece of candy while Jimmy plays video games all day and gets the same piece of candy?”
It was not immediately clear how many districts are using Zaner-Bloser’s materials. But the company on Wednesday evening defended the Common Core standards and said Education Action Group was targeting one lesson plan instead of viewing the program as a whole.
"Education Action Group has chosen to focus on one book out of the 174 books that accompany the program," the company said in a statement. "These books are written by independent authors and have been widely published by major children's publishing houses."
Chavez, who died in 1993, is considered an icon of the American labor movement and Latino community for his efforts to unionize field workers across the country. Last year, the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument was dedicated in Keene, California, an event at which President Obama spoke.
This isn’t the first time Olson has taken issue with Zaner-Bloser’s materials. Earlier this month, Olson ripped the company for teaching third-graders about organizing protests, a lesson plan that cited the 1985 SEIU-led janitors strike in Los Angeles.