Chicago teachers are planning a President’s Day lesson for students they likely won’t soon forget.
The Windy City’s Teachers for Social Justice will hold a children’s rally and march on Feb. 19 as “a family action centering our powerful children as they express their solidarity with the children and families of Gaza!” according to a recent email notice.
The real fun begins after the march.
“The action will feature a children’s rally and march, after which we will flood the Chicago History Museum’s ‘Letter to the President’ event with our families to write letters demanding that President Biden and Congress stop supporting genocide and support a Free Palestine!” the notice read.
The event is sponsored by the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago, Portraits4Palestine, Chi-Nations Youth Council, Muslim Civic Coalition, American Civic and Humanitarian Coalition, and others.
Teachers for Social Justice is “an all-volunteer grassroots organization of educators in the Chicago area.” Last month, the group issued a proclamation that laid out the group’s support for Palestine and offered a glimpse of the history lessons students are learning in Chicago schools.
The group is largely aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union, and have regularly provided support for organized strikes and protests on a variety of issues since it formed 25 years ago.
“TSJ brings teachers together for political education, curriculum sharing, radical inspiration, and collective action – notably through curriculum fairs, teach-ins, inquiry-to-action groups, and active participation in the education justice movement opposing school privatization,” according to the group’s emails.
TSJ’s January email “in solidarity with Palestine against the current genocide being waged by Israel” included the focus of lessons Chicago students are receiving in members’ classrooms.
“Israel is a settler colonial state created by Zionists (with support from US and UK imperialism)” that “commits daily violence and exclusion of the … Palestinian people,” according to TSJ.
“The Israeli Zionist regime is propped up by US Military aid and political support,” the email read. “Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza and the West Bank is a continuation of these 75 years of settler colonial violence and ethnic cleansing.”
The President’s Day protest is an extension of TSJ’s efforts to “support and defend our students and other teachers against anti-Palestinian racism and to help educate ourselves and our colleagues about the roots of Israeli’s (sic) war against Palestine.”
“We need to help our students understand the history and causes of the genocide unfolding in Gaza (as well as those in Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia),” the January email read. “As educators we especially grieve and are enraged by the destruction of schools and the mass murder of children and teachers.”
TSJ claims more than 350 schools are “totally destroyed” and more than 23,000 have been killed “since the start of the US-Israeli war on Gaza,” including over 4,000 students and 200 teachers, though no source for the statistics was cited.
TSJ does not mention the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the current ongoing conflict, or the numerous Americans killed and taken hostage by the terrorist organization.
The focus on Palestine also deflects attention from the abysmal student performance in Chicago schools, where only 26% could read and only 17.5% could do basic math in 2023. Those figures are down from 27.3% and 23.6%, respectively, in 2019, according to Chalkbeat Chicago.
Instead of focusing on improving those numbers, TSJ is more concerned with US aid to Israel it claims is used to “fund horrific weapons of mass death and genocide.”
“We understand that the same imperialist system that furthers genocide in Gaza and Palestine strips our schools and school communities of resources, disinvests in our school communities, and oppresses Black and Brown students in particular,” TSJ wrote.