The Black Panthers of the 1960s and 1970s and the New Black Panther Party today are known for employing violence, intimidation and radicalism to get their way. The Black Panthers were founded in 1966 on Marxist principles, advocating socialism as a solution for the grievances of African-Americans.
Its "Honorary Prime Minister," Stokley Carmichael, said in a speech that year:
"This country is a nation of thieves. It stole everything it has, beginning with black people. The U.S. cannot justify its existence as the policeman of the world any longer. I do not want to be a part of the American pie. The American pie means raping South Africa, beating Vietnam, beating South America, raping the Philippines, raping every country you've been in. I don't want any of your blood money. I don't want to be part of that system. We must question whether or not we want this country to continue being the wealthiest country in the world at the price of raping everybody else."
The far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, which also has curricula that will be featured in this series, has labeled the New Black Panthers a "hate group." That's saying something.
But that's of little relevance to Wayne Au.
The Seattle high school teacher-turned-professor taught his students to apply the principles of the Black Panthers to their own problems. Seriously.
"I taught about the Panthers in the context of a high school African Studies class in Seattle that focused on African history and the experience of Diaspora. Of the 30 working- and middle-class students, most of them 10th graders, 25 were African American, four were white, and one was Chicana. When I teach about the Black Power Movement, I try to connect the movement to today's issues. One way is by having students review the Black Panther's Ten Point Program and develop their own personal versions of the program."
Just to appreciate how far on the fringe Au is, consider what he told SocialistWorker.org about standardized testing:
"Wayne Au, professor of education at the University of Washington in Bothell and an editor of Rethinking Schools, noted that 'test makers purposefully choose to use questions on tests that rich kids will usually answer more correctly than poor kids' so that the results fall into a bell-curve spread."
So perhaps the way to get back at the test makers is to employ Black Panthers' principles.
But back to Au's practical application of the Black Panthers Ten Point Program. He highlighted several student's Panther-inspired Ten Point Programs for their own lives. One student offered more general demands, such as "free housing for the homeless people in the United States" and "non-racist presidents." Another student developed a list for the "Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered/and Questioning Community."
Another student, "Marcus," goes straight for the jugular and "challenges capitalism and corporate control of the United States." Some that he offered:
1. We want the mask of capitalism lifted and economic classes disbanded.
2. We want an end to the solitary control of mass media by corporations.
5. We want an end to the health insurance system in America. It is time to end corporate control of Americans' health.
6. We want fair treatment of all criminals. Rich money launderers and tax fraud offenders should receive the same punishment as armed robbers and drug dealers.
9. We want an end to all corporate funding of education. The public education system is being used by corporations as a training ground for future employees.
10. We demand an end to the growing separation of the economic classes of America. The enslavement of the middle and lower classes by the bourgeoisie must be put to a stop.
Au found this "piece notable for its relentless attack on corporate America; it demonstrates a growing consciousness among students about issues such as sweatshops, media bias, campaign financing, and the encroachment of private industry on public education."
There are many more incredible comments in Au's lesson plan, but perhaps the most revealing is when Au laments that more students didn't strike a more radical pose:
"The Panthers were also struggling against cynicism, powerlessness, and resignation. My hope is that the lesson laid a groundwork, so that in the future the students will have some tools with which they can assess issues they see in their own communities and their lives and perhaps develop Ten Point Programs of their own. The Ten Point Program may be a place where students are able to find their voice and speak out about the problems they see in this world – and, more difficult, begin to organize to put their program into practice." (emphasis added)
Incredible. A more fitting title for Au's lesson plan would be "What Would the Black Panthers Do?" because apparently in Au's eyes, they are to be held up as freedom fighters and not the violent thugs they were and continue to be.