‘All day, every day’: University professors admit on hot mic to teaching social justice
Katelynn Richardson, Campus Reform
- Two Roosevelt University professors boasted on a hot mic that they teach social justice ‘all day, every day.’
- Both scholars have ties to public unions and secondary education.
Two professors admitted on a hot mic that they teach social justice “all day, every day.”
Ralph Martire and Gina Harris — professors at Roosevelt University who also serve on the Oak Park and River Forest High School school board — were caught gloating about their teaching of social justice ideology during a Zoom meeting.
Just before their regular call started on February 25, Martire told Harris that she fits in “so well with the university’s philosophy and mission.”
“I mean, it’s all social justice. All day, every day,” responded Harris. “I get to talk about all the things I love, all the time. Really, I’m living the life over here.”
Roosevelt University considers its focus on social justice a strong selling point; indeed, the school offers a bachelor’s degree in “Social Justice Studies.”
Social change also drives Martire’s work, even when teaching subjects like fiscal policy.
“I always flip out the kids that take my Master’s class on fiscal policy and public budgets when the first three or four classes are devoted to philosophy of social justice and how you organize society,” he said to Harris during the Zoom call. “We don’t talk about one, you know, budgetary item. They’re like, ‘Oh man, Professor Martire, this is a really weird way to teach a budget.’”
“If you don’t understand your values, you can’t allocate resources among public priorities that are scarce, but all needed. Right?” Martire said.
In an interview with Campus Reform, Martire clarified that his approach to social justice in class is “data-based” and ends up being “a really far reaching inquiry that looks at the specifics of American society.”
In Martire’s classes, students often find their positions challenged as they are asked to compare their values to society’s values, or society’s ideal values. To do this, students analyze “where different people fall based on their income, based on their race, based on their social status, etc.” He hopes students will learn critical thinking skills based on data and evidence before ideology.
“You first have to understand what is actually happening. And then you have to take that data-based empirical analysis… and evaluate it with your own worldview. Sometimes you have to question your own worldview,” he said. “We try to have a very rich discussion.”
“It’s funny, people that come in with some preconceived notions that are, let’s say, more left of center, move a little right, frequently, and people that come in right of center definitely move a little left, very frequently, sometimes a lot,” he said.
Martire serves as Executive Director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a public union-funded bi-partisan think tank that works “to promote social and economic justice.” He has also served on Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s Budget and Innovation Committee, as well as President Obama’s Equity and Excellence in Education Commission.
Harris, in addition to teaching “middle school theory and practice” at Roosevelt University, is a liaison officer for the National Education Association — the nation’s largest teacher’s union — and the Illinois Education Association.
While Martire and Harris were running for their school board positions, multiple citizens warned of “a possible conflict of interest” due to their connections to unions.
When asked about these accusations, Martire told Campus Reform they were made by “right-wing bomb throwers that have absolutely no business making those claims.”
“My day job doesn’t have anything to do with my discharge of my obligations on the school board,” he said. “For a public center, I develop a lot of expertise in education policy generally, in education funding specifically, and in education policy that promotes better outcomes across races and ethnicities and eliminates gaps. I bring that knowledge to my job, which you should, right?”
Campus Reform reached out to Gina Harris and Roosevelt University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @katesrichardson