More on Politicians Messing Up History Education

There sure is a lot on this. We start with this article, which tells us, “Idaho’s governor last week signed into law a bill whose purpose, at face value, is noncontroversial. The law prohibits public schools and colleges from teaching that ‘any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.’ The catch? Baked into the legislation is an effort to stamp out conversations about race and equity. A dozen or so states — including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia – have introduced bills that would prohibit schools from teaching ‘divisive,’ ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ concepts. Critics warn these measures are part of a larger movement to draw America’s culture wars into classrooms. And this war centers on a once-obscure legal theory about how the legacy of slavery continues to permeate American society today. ‘Critical race theory’ goes beyond advocating for civil rights or banning discrimination. Proponents see it as a framework to examine how the taint of racism still affects Black Americans and other people of color in matters ranging from who gets bank loans and admission into elite universities to how suspects are treated by police. Detractors dismiss critical race theory as a method for ‘teaching kids to hate their country’ or to promote ‘public school wokeness.’ ” Obviously, the claim that it’s “teaching kids to hate their country” is a despicable lie. It does nothing of the kind. Additionally, “woke” is a term that refers to beingcognizant of racial oppression, so those who rail against “wokeness” are saying they want people to be racists., or at least to leave them alone while they’re being racists.

The article continues, “But while such talking points play well among conservative media circles, political and legal experts contend they obscure more meaningful discussion about the role systemic racism plays in the American experience. The bills seeking to prohibit the instruction of ‘divisive concepts’ seldom mention critical race theory directly, but in many cases legislators have cited it as a driving force behind the measures. In an April Facebook post promoting a bill in Rhode Island that has since stalled in committee, state Rep. Patricia Morgan, a co-sponsor, wrote, ‘Critical Race Theory must be stopped.’ After quoting Martin Luther King Jr., she went on to say, ‘Our state must reject the neo-racism and race-shaming of Critical Race Theory. We have no time to waste in rooting out this disturbing, divisive and false ideology.’ ” That racist ignoramus has no clue about what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. If he were alive today he’d be in the forefront of Critical Race Theory. They lie about King the way they lie about CRT.

According to the article, “While discussing a new civics education initiative in Florida’s public schools, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, ‘There’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.’ ” Here’s yet another racist liar. Continuing, the article says, “Overall, such legislation would better enable opponents to ensure that so-called ideology doesn’t fester in institutions such as schools, Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, has said in his newsletter. ‘Our movement to abolish critical race theory indoctrination in public schools,’ he wrote in one issue, ‘has caught fire.’ The bills’ language reflects many conservatives’ view that critical race theory portrays the United States as a racist country, that certain people are ‘inherently oppressive’ and that those people are accountable for the sins committed by their predecessors. In their interpretation, the theory seeks to make particular individuals – namely, white people – feel uncomfortable and guilty about their race. This was the premise of former President Donald Trump’s executive order banning diversity trainings for federal workers – a directive that garnered lawsuits, was blocked by a federal judge and was eventually rescinded by President Joe Biden. ‘They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place,’ Trump said during the first presidential debate. ‘And they were teaching people to hate our country.’ ” The failed president wasn’t called the liar-in-chief for nothing. 

 We learn, “The ideas behind critical race theory were developed in the 1970s by a group of legal scholars who became ‘interested in how anti-discrimination law wasn’t addressing the persistent inequalities they were seeing,’ said Adrienne Dixson, a professor of critical race theory and education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The recent wave of attention on critical race theory didn’t start with Trump but rather became ‘crystalized’ during his administration, Dixson said. Former President Barack Obama’s election ‘was shocking and traumatic for people who always imagined the U.S. as a white nation,’ she added, and since then, there’s been ‘a profound ignorance about what critical race theory really is.’ Interest in the topic has grown over the past year, fueled in part by Black Lives Matter activism following the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer. Google search trends show a spike this spring. In some states, political debates have erupted over the role and design of racial justice-minded education. In March, activists launched the national, largely conservative grassroots organization Parents Defending Education aimed at resisting what members believe are activists and ideologues ‘pumping divisive, polarizing ideas into classrooms,’ according to the group’s literature. Much of the group’s advocacy focuses on challenging curricula based on the 1619 Project, a series of stories by The New York Times in 2019 that frames U.S. history within the context of slavery. (A separate series of state bills have also sought to punish schools for incorporating the project into lesson plans.) A recent poll by Parents Defending Education found more than two-thirds of respondents ‘opposed schools teaching that America was founded on racism and is structurally racist.’ Close to 3 in 4 respondents said schools shouldn’t teach students that white people are inherently privileged and people of color inherently oppressed. The group has taken to filing federal civil rights complaints against districts that say structural racism plays a role in schools. The complaints in cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Hopkins, Minnesota; Webster Groves, Missouri; and Hillsborough, North Carolina, contend such admissions amount to districts violating federal anti-discrimination law, which should void their federal funding. ‘We would like the Department of Education to investigate these incidents in order to determine whether these allegations are true — and if so, how best to remedy the situation to prevent future discrimination by that district,’ Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, told USA TODAY in March.”

As the article tells us, “Educators who study critical race theory see value in teaching about America’s history with slavery and discrimination. But Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Fordham Institute, is concerned about the growing trend of ‘anti-racism’ lessons in schools. Pondiscio doesn’t oppose the founding principles of critical race theory. But he says teachers can better combat systemic racism by setting high expectations for all students, using a rigorous and rich curriculum and focusing on literacy – not ideologies. ‘Whenever you have a phenomenon like this that people don’t fully understand, it’ll be ripe for demagoguery,’ he said in an interview. Legislation targeting critical race theory isn’t the answer, he added. ‘People make the assumption that you can pass a law and it changes what gets taught,’ he said. ‘That’s not how it works.’ The legislation also raises free-speech concerns, said Emerson Sykes, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. ‘The underlying impetus for these bills is antithetical to the free-speech values that many of these legislators claim to hold dear,’ he said, adding that the ACLU is in the process of evaluating its litigation options in response to the bills. Sykes said the proposals are a form of prior restraint – “censorship before someone has even had the opportunity to speak” — and called inserting schools into controversial political debates and mandating that teachers take a side is ‘hugely problematic.’ … critical race theory has become a rallying cry to stoke conservative voters’ fears, said the University of Illinois’ Dixson — even though the theory was originally intended to advocate for the same principles the legislation attacking it purports to promote. ‘What critical race theory doesn’t do is indict entire races of people and blame the inequality on all white people,’ Dixson said. ‘I don’t know that any school teaches critical race theory in the way that these [legislators] interpret it.’ “

This article tells us, “The Texas Senate on Saturday passed legislation that would ban schools from requiring staff to discuss or teach critical race theory. … Critical race theory holds that racism is systemic and has been present in institutions, including the law, the economy and schooling, since the nation’s founding. ‘House Bill 3979 makes certain that critical race philosophies, including the 1619 founding myth, are removed from our school curriculums statewide. When parents send their children to school, they want their students to learn critical thinking without being indoctrinated with misinformation charging that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism,’ Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said about the passage of the bill. ‘Texans roundly reject the ‘woke’ philosophies that espouse that one race or sex is better than another and that someone, by virtue of their race or sex, is innately racist, oppressive or sexist,’ he added. The bill requires teachers who talk about race relations and how they shaped history to look at viewpoints ‘from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.’ However, critics, including Democrats and education advocates, say the bill is a step in the wrong direction. ‘By telling teachers what and how to teach and ordering TEA to play police, HB 3979 may be one of the most disrespectful bills to teachers I’ve seen the #txlege dignify with debate,’ Mark Wiggins, a lobbyist for The Association of Professional Educators, tweeted.”

According to this article, “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday called for all public schools in the state to stop teaching critical race theory. In a letter dated May 20, Kemp urged the Georgia State Board of Education ‘to take immediate steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum.’ ‘This divisive, anti-American agenda has no place in Georgia classrooms,’ Kemp tweeted.” More of the same racist lies.

The article also tells us, “Kemp’s letter marks the latest push by Republican lawmakers to limit the study of critical race theory in the country. Last month, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to encourage public schools to strip from their curricula projects that he claims promote ‘revisionism’ of US history. In a letter dated April 29, McConnell and 38 other Senate Republicans specifically referenced the New York Times’ 1619 Project, created to mark the date enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to American soil. The project’s goal to is place ‘the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.’ McConnell said the 1619 Project and other programs strive to ‘reorient’ US history ‘away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda.’ ‘Actual, trained, credentialed historians with diverse political views have debunked the project’s many factual and historical errors, such as the bizarre and inaccurate notion that preserving slavery was a primary driver of the American Revolution,’ the letter says.” It’s no surprise Moscow Mitch is lying. He has no clue about actual history, and while there were parts of the introductory essay that were criticized for accuracy, as I’ve done in this blog, the rest of the essays in the project have not been criticized by historians.

The article concludes, “Some states have begun to implement the project in their curriculum. But the Education Department has not directly told public schools to use or incorporate it. Usually, school curriculum falls at the discretion of state governments rather than any federal agency. But under President Joe Biden, the Education Department has floated the possibility of offering grants to schools that include the 1619 Project and similar materials in their learning plans.”

This article features another racist politician lying about CRT. “Texas could join the list of states banning the instruction of critical race theory in schools after 20 state Attorneys General called on the Biden administration to withdraw education proposals they say are meant to promote the topic. However, not all lawmakers are against teaching critical race theory. ‘A person shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, but unfortunately, that’s the plight today of African Americans and Latinos and minorities in this country,’ said Dallas Senator Royce West. ‘And yes, we should be teaching our children the history of this country, so they won’t make the same mistakes that have been made by our generations and generations before us.’ But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says that using grant programs to teach critical race theory is not what Congress intended. ‘What these states like Texas are trying to stop is this teaching of this idea that white people are all racist and children’s behavior is sort of systematically racist,’ said Paxton to The National Desk’s Jan Jeffcoat. ‘We should be teaching American history, we should be teaching about the Constitution, we should not be teaching that people are somehow unequal.’ Paxton says that parents could begin removing their children from schools over the issue. ‘Parents are not comfortable with this idea that somehow we’re all divided and we should be looking at everything through the prism of race,’ said Paxton. ‘We had certainly made mistakes in the founding of this country, including slavery, that we have eradicated and we should continue to move in that direction not towards disunity but towards unity.’ ” Parents are uncomfortable because racists like this guy have been lying to them.

This article comes to us from a veteran history teacher. She says, “A couple of years ago, as I listened to a radio report about how North Carolina’s strict voter ID law ‘targets African Americans with almost surgical precision,’ my eyes welled with tears. I wondered: Why do they hate us so much? Now the headlines in North Carolina, the state where I live and teach U.S. history, civics, and economics, read: ‘North Carolina House approves bill to limit teaching of race.’ My reaction this time is different: This cannot and will not continue. And it’s not just North Carolina. Lawmakers in states around the country are attempting to block the teaching of critical race theory, which looks at how racism continues to affect individuals and society. (One such bill was signed into law in Tennessee this week.) I am a Black woman, and teaching my history — telling the truth about it — should not be controversial. Teaching historical facts in context should not merit a parent email that turns into a parent conference with the administration. An award-winning, vetted book should not be why calls are made to the district central office. Teachers are professionals, and while every lesson is not perfect, each teaching moment has the potential to challenge students, help them grow, and inspire their love of learning. As a history teacher, a professional educator with years of experience in the classroom, my main job is to teach historical truths. Each year I attend so many professional development sessions that I sometimes don’t even turn in all of my continuing education credit certificates because I have surpassed the requirements for teacher recertification. In addition, I regularly connect with colleagues and organizations on social media to bring my students the most comprehensive and contemporary understanding of my content area. Finally, I often spend weekends at historical sites or walking trails while listening to the latest book talk on relevant topics. I do this so that I can be better, stronger, and know more for my students — and also because I have a passion for the study of history. I come to my classroom prepared to teach, with hours of planning and research under my belt. Yet, after several recent incidents, I have left the classroom deflated, accused, and filled with anxiety. For example, one of my recent lessons about how the First Amendment protects the right to protest included an article about the Black Lives Matter movement that was met with criticism from a parent. ‘They don’t do that in our home,’ the parent told me. Do what, I wondered. Learn about a current event that is gripping the country? Understand that that history is steeped in protest and civil rights are hard-won? See value in the lives of people of African descent? What do they think the American Revolution was, if not a big, old protest?”

Ms. Abbott writes, “During the 2008 presidential election, I was teaching in Virginia. Soon after the media called the state of Virginia for Barack Obama, my youngest daughter sent me a text thanking me for living in the state that would give the country its first Black president. To me, that is my most precious memory of this historical moment. During the 2020 election, I was teaching through a computer screen. I could see my students’ names, but that’s about it; their cameras were often off and their mics muted. To state the obvious, it wasn’t the ideal space to have organic political conversations with teenagers. But watching parades of trucks waving gigantic Confederate and Trump flags and seeing heinous postings on our social media platforms, I understood the polarization that continues to grip us and is making its way into my virtual and physical classroom. This is not to say all of my efforts to teach ‘controversial’ topics have been met with hostility. I had a 10th grade student tell me he was glad that I came to teach at her school because she had not learned about Black history until I got there. This student had spent over a decade in the public school system — and just now was having her first lessons that centered Black people. Not that it matters, but that student is white. Another student sent me an email full of emotion after reading the book ‘Enrique’s Journey,’ a true story about an undocumented immigrant family. It was the first time she had her culture reflected back to her in an educational setting, she wrote. I hung a poster on the classroom wall of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, on the classroom wall, alongside images of Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution that I got from James Madison’s Montpelier. I did this because intentionally choosing to incorporate those underrepresented voices in the teaching of the curriculum is what an effective teacher does. Knowing that these voices matter to all students is what a caring teacher does.”

She concludes, “The point is that none of this should be ‘controversial’ to teach. My job is to teach historical truths, to help my students become critical readers and thinkers and skillful and persuasive writers. Revealing long-ignored history gives students a more comprehensive understanding of the past, which in turn gives us a deeper understanding of ourselves. I make sure that my students’ identities are reflected in the lessons as I teach in civics and economics and American History I and II (which should be titled United States History I and II) so that my students understand the power that they hold in the world. But the classroom has become a minefield of political dos and don’ts. Some educators have told me that there are now certain topics (truths!) that they will not touch or teach out of fear that it will put their jobs in jeopardy. Legislative attempts to block the teaching of critical race theory and The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project only raise the temperature. I am tired and mad that in the 21st century, I’m still fighting for people to see humanity in our Blackness, still forced to convince people in power that our stories are worthy of being taught.” Listen to her, not to the politicians trying to ignite a culture war.


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