Students at Brooklyn elementary school PS 321 were given a Black Lives Matter coloring book to learn about black history last week. (Images via Black Lives Matter at School)

Kids Get Schooled on Radical Politics

Students at a public elementary school in Brooklyn are learning revolutionary theory from a Black Lives Matter coloring book.

Children at a Brooklyn public elementary school are being taught revolutionary politics and communist terms from a Black Lives Matter coloring book, The Free Press has learned. 

Last week, teachers at PS 321—the kindergarten through fifth grade school in Park Slope—supplied students with the coloring book, What We Believe, as part of a lesson for Black History Month. The book uses drawings and worksheets to promote the 13 tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement, under titles like “Queer Affirming,” “Transgender Affirming,” and “Restorative Justice.” Principle number 2, “Empathy,” is described as “engaging comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.”

The coloring book also lists Black Lives Matter’s “national demands,” including “mandate black history & ethnic studies,” “hire more black teachers,” and “fund counselors not cops.”

One parent of a PS 321 fourth grader, whose grandparents fled Communist China before moving to the U.S., said she and her husband were “shocked” that the book used the word comrade—and that it appeared to promote political propaganda.

“Using the word comrades comes from Communist times,” said the parent, whose 10-year-old daughter attends the school, also known as William Penn. “They are using words that I don’t think are appropriate for elementary school.”

She said she first discovered the coloring book on Tuesday, February 13, when a snow day forced her daughter to learn from home.

“This is classwork, not homework,” the parent said. “If it weren’t for the snow, we wouldn’t have known.” 

Lessons in the coloring book tell children to reflect on Black Lives Matter’s 13 principles. Some of the exercises, parents said, appear innocuous; a page about “Restorative Justice,” for example, asks students: “Why is it important to offer to forgive someone?” But another, entitled “Transgender Affirming,” instructs students to read the book When Aidan Became a Brother about a girl who transitions to a boy, and then answer questions on a worksheet like, “How do you feel when someone tells you what you can or can’t do based on your gender?”

Another principle, “Black Villages,” is described as “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” Another, called “Intergenerational,” encourages a “communal network free from ageism.” 

The coloring book encourages kids to learn the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter, including “Queer Affirming,” “Transgender Affirming,” and “Restorative Justice.”

Another public school parent whose family left the Soviet Union when she was a teenager said the language in the book reminds her “of the songs we were made to sing as elementary school children. ‘Dismantling’ and ‘comrade’ and everything—it really reminds me of the word salad that was a part of those songs.”

She compared the Black Lives Matter movement to communism, saying: “same salad, different dressing.” 

Brandy Shufutinksy, the director of education at the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, who is black and holds a doctorate in international multicultural education, said she was “offended” that the curriculum “demonizes the nuclear family.” 

“They frame it as some form of white supremacy,” Shufutinksy said. “There are a number of people beside myself who are deeply offended by the idea that black Americans should not strive for something that was denied to our ancestors for so long.”

The educational materials used by PS 321 are created by Black Lives Matter at School, an organization founded in 2016 by a group of Seattle teachers to educate students from pre-K to 12th grade about BLM’s ideology. In 2018, Black Lives Matter at School launched a national Week of Action in February to teach “lessons on structural racism, Black history, intersectional Black identities, and anti-racist movements.” According to the group’s website, the curriculum is now taught at a total of 50 schools across 21 states and six countries.

When asked for comment from The Free Press, the NYC Department of Education said, “Anytime parents have a concern about resources used in school, we encourage them to share their concerns to the school principal or district superintendent.” The principal at PS 321 did not reply to an email seeking comment. Black Lives Matter at School did not respond to multiple emails asking for comment.

PS 321, also known as William Penn, educates children from kindergarten through fifth grade in Park Slope, Brooklyn. (Photo by David Grossman via Alamy Stock)

Several parents who spoke to The Free Press said they were upset that the coloring book failed to teach their children about black history.

One mother with two children at PS 321 said the coloring book doesn’t go “into enough detail and there is no mention of specific people. It just feels very vague.” 

The fourth-grade mother said her daughter’s teacher told her the coloring book was the only lesson planned for Black History Month, other than a schoolwide project to make a quilt honoring famous black figures. She added that, after the Week of Action, her daughter still had never heard of civil rights hero Rosa Parks and didn’t know what Martin Luther King Jr. had achieved to make him famous. 

Furthermore, she said, the coloring book presents controversial ideas “as fact.” But, “it’s not necessarily true. It’s not like every black person believes in these principles.” 

Shufutinsky agrees: “There is nothing in these principles that talks about honoring greats in black American history. There is nothing in here that is actual scholarship. It doesn’t speak to education. It speaks to ideology.” 

Francesca Block is a reporter for The Free Press. Read her scoop “NYC Public School Wipes Israel from the Map,” and follow her on Twitter (now X) @FrancescaABlock

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