Need In Deed (NID)

Need In Deed (NID)


Founded in 1987, Need in Deed (NID) is a Philadelphia-based organization whose stated mission is “to use the classroom to prepare young people [in grades 3-8] for civic responsibility and service to others.” Toward that end, NID trains and supports teachers in its home city’s public, charter, independent, and faith-based schools, who seek to implement “a teaching and learning strategy known as service-learning,” whereby students engage in long-term “service projects” requiring them to take some type of action vis-a-vis “challenging issues of concern … in their schools and communities.” This type of “active, hands-on learning” process – which NID has dubbed the “My Voice” approach – is intended to “integrat[e] reflection on real-world problems … with the curriculum.”

In practice, NID’s objective is to: (a) inculcate its students with a mindset that views America as an oppressive wasteland where nonwhite minorities, women, homosexuals, the poor, and even the natural environment are routinely exploited and abused; and (b) turn students into budding political activists and community organizers who seek to fundamentally transform that deeply flawed society.

For example, in one NID project at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School (GWJMS) in Philadelphia, eighth-grade students “pondered the racial makeup of their school and its surrounding neighborhoods and the implications that shifting demographics had for their community.” Specifically, they explored “some of the discriminatory housing forces – practices like redlining, steering, predatory lending and ethnic intimidation – that have influenced the city’s racial and economic segregation in the past.” As part of their instruction, these students watched an ABC Nightline segment titled “Race in America,” which examined the case of a black family that had fearfully fled their new home in a mostly white section of Philadelphia after neighbors harassed them with racial epithets and threatening letters. After watching the video, the students were asked to write letters expressing their outrage over how the black family had been mistreated.

As part of that same NID project, Princeton sociologist Doug Massey, author of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of an Underclass – a book claiming that black urban poverty is largely a result of massive discrimination in U.S. cities – addressed the students at GWJMS. In a subsequent lesson, the students watched a California Newsreel documentary titled Race: The Power of an Illusion, and then completed several exercises and worksheets based on the film. In a synopsis of this production, California Newsreel says that the video “challenges our common sense assumptions that human beings can be bundled into three or four fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits”; “uncovers the roots of the race concept in North America, the 19th century science that legitimated it, and how … race served to rationalize, even justify, American social inequalities as ‘natural’”; “uncovers how race resides not in nature but in politics, economics and culture”; and “reveals how our social institutions ‘make’ race by disproportionately channeling resources, power, status and wealth to white people.”

Another NID project — designed to help young people appreciate the manner in which certain heroic women have dealt with “the issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and addiction” — required students to read the Kate Schatz book Rad American Women A-Z. The women who are profiled and lionized in Schatz’s book are almost all leftists, and in some cases Marxists or political revolutionaries. Among them are:

  • Angela Davis, a lifelong America-hating Communist, and a former member of the murderous Black Panther Party;
  • Rachel Carson, a staunch anti-capitalist and the founder of the modern radical environmental movement;
  • Sonia Sotomayor, a Supreme Court Justice whose worldview is thoroughly steeped in identity politics;
  • Wangari Maathai, a pro-socialist envirionmental activist who once charged that “some sadistic [white] scientists” created the AIDS virus “to punish blacks” and, ultimately, “to wipe out the black race”;
  • Qiu Jin, a Chinese feminist and revolutionary who believed that the traditional family structure was oppressive to women;
  • Dolores Huerta, a longtime socialist, labor leader, and advocate of mass immigration;
  • Ella Baker, an influential civil-rights leader and avowed socialist who had ties to the Communist Party USA, the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, and the Weather Underground;
  • Kate Bornstein, a transgender activist and gender theorist; and
  • Ursula Leguin, an author, a pacifist with sympathies for anarchism, and an environmentalist who has stated, as paraphrased by author Elizabeth McDowell, that America’s socio-political system is “problematic and destructive to the health and life of the natural world, humanity, and their interrelations.”

In 2011, an NID-affiliated teacher in West Philadelphia led her class in a project focusing on the correlation between gun violence and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The lessons and activities associated with this project were heavily weighted against gun-ownership rights and in favor of gun control. Most notably, the project solicited a considerable amount of input from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), an organization that has worked to: shut down gun manufacturing businesses; make gun manufacturers legally liable for crimes committed with the weapons they produce; promote legislation that would bar anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime from owning or possessing a firearm; enact bans on the types of “small, cheap handguns [that are] used in a disproportionate number of crimes”; and require mandatory trigger locks on all guns that are stored in anyone’s home. In June 2011, the students who were involved in this NID project participated in a PSR-sponsored “Legs Against Arms” walkathon designed to draw public attention to the dangers posed by firearms.

Another NID-affiliated teacher led his students in a 2009 project examining the problem of wrongful convictions in criminal court, and promoting the notion that the American criminal-justice system is replete with race-based discrimination and inequity. As part of this project, students met with a representative from Pennsylvania’s Innocence Project, whose mission – which is likewise founded on the premise of a racist justice system – is to “exonerat[e] the wrongly convicted through DNA testing,” “reform the criminal-justice system to prevent future injustice,” and “free the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated.” The pupils also met with a pair of attorneys who, by NID’s telling, had “helped free a wrongfully convicted man from death row in 2003.” Further, the students participated in a school-wide “dress down” day to raise money to underwrite the cost of a DNA test for a prisoner who the Innocence Project claimed was not guilty.

Yet another leading concern of NID is the issue of immigration policy. In one third-grade class in 2017, for instance, the teacher led her students in an NID project about “the physiological and psychological effects of stress” associated with “the current political climate around immigrants and immigration.” “Half of my students,” the teacher said, “were kept home from school to observe ‘A Day Without Immigrants’” – a reference to a May 1, 2017 action in which enormous numbers of Latino immigrants, activists, and workers took the day off from their jobs and marched in the streets of dozens of American cities, in what organizers characterized as a response to President Donald Trump’s supposedly anti-immigration agendas.

Throughout 2015, students at Philadelphia’s Grover Washington Jr. Middle School partnered with NID in a research project examining ways to avert the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, on the premise that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are a major cause of that phenomenon.

In 2016, NID-affiliated teacher Pamela Roy led her students in discussions and writing assignments about the allegedly rampant “discrimination against the LGBTQ community, ageism, and racism.” As part of the instruction, a speaker from the Attic Youth Center – whose mission is to develop “programs and services to counteract the prejudice and oppression that LGBTQ youth often face” – was invited to come and teach the students the definitions of such terms as “gender identity,” “asexaulity,” “cisexuality,” and “assigned gender,” among others. Classroom discussions centered around themes like “the ways people can create safe environments so that all feel welcome and accepted in their homes, places of work, and school.”

In 2013, another NID-affiliated teacher had her students – most of whom were black – read The Skin I’m In, a book by Sharon Flake, to help them “tackle the subject of colorism” for their “service-learning project” that year.

As of 2017, NID consisted of approximately 140 member teachers in 60 schools throughout Philadelphia. In order to become a part of NID, a teacher must first apply and be accepted into the network.[1]

Over the years, numerous teachers who have worked with Teach For America (TFA) – a program that supports the Black Lives Matter protest movement and seeks to indoctrinate students with an admixture of anti-capitalist, anti-white, and anti-American messages – have made what they describe as a seamless transition to NID programs. As one TFA teacher put it, “Need in Deed was one of the sources of fulfillment for me and for my students…. It drove me to be more creative, more engaging. I felt a sense of what was possible.”

NID is closely affiliated with the Caucus of Working Educators.

For additional information on NID, click here.


[1] This information was obtained from NID’s office, via telephone, on June 29, 2017.

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