Archives for category: Bigotry

The Brown Decision was released by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, precisely sixty-nine years ago. It was a historic decision in many ways. It was the beginning of the end of de jure segregation in every aspect of American society. Of course, de facto segregation persists in schools, housing, and in many aspects of life. It would have been impossible to imagine in 1954 that the nation would elect a Black man as President in 2008 and again in 2012.

The decision was unanimous. America could not claim to be a nation of freedom, liberty, democracy, and equality when people of color were excluded from full participation in every aspect of public life and walled off from the mainstream of American society in their private lives. Segregation and discrimination were hallmarks of the American way. Black people were not only restricted in the right to vote, were not only underrepresented in legislatures and other decision-making bodies, but were excluded from restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, public transport, public beaches, and from all other places of public accommodation, as well as private commerce. Segregation was imposed by law in the South and some border states, and by custom in northern, western, and midwestern states.

The Brown Decision struck a blow against this cruel reign of prejudice and bigotry in American life. We are far, very far, from fulfilling the promise of the Brown Decision. To make progress, we must be willing to look deeply into the roots of systemic racism and dismantle the structures that condemn disproportionate numbers of Black families to live in poverty and in segregated neighborhoods. A number of Republican-led states have made such inquiries illegal.

The present movement for vouchers, which is strongest in Republican-dominated states, will not move us closer to the egalitarian goals of the Brown Decision. Vouchers are inherently a divisive concept. They encourage people to congregate with people just like themselves. Heightened segregation along lines of race, religion, social class, and ethnicity are a predictable result of vouchers.

The voucher movement began as a hostile response to the Brown decision, led by racist governors, members of Congress, legislatures, White Citizens Councils, parents who did not want their children to attend schools with Black children, and white supremacists who wanted to protect their “way of life.” They refused to comply with the Supreme Court decision. They called Earl Warren a Communist. They engaged in “massive resistance.” They quickly figured out that they could fund private academies for whites only, and some Southern states did. And they figured out that they could offer “vouchers” or “scholarships” to white students to attend white private and religious schools.

I recommend three books about the history of the ties between segregationists, the religious right, and vouchers. I reviewed all three in an article called “The Dark History of School Choice” in The New York Review of Books. Although it is behind a paywall, you can read one article for free or subscribe for a modest fee.

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, by Katherine Stewart

Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, by Steve Suitts

Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, by Derek W. Black

In addition, I recommend Nancy MacLean’s superb Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. It links the voucher moment to the Koch brothers and other libertarians, including Milton Friedman. I reviewed it in the same journal. MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

Nancy MacLean wrote the following article for The Washington Post nearly two years ago. In the past two years, the voucher movement has gained even more ground in Republican-dominated states. If it is behind a paywall, you can read it here.

She wrote:

The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the “school choice” cause — a movement committed to the idea of providing public money for parents to use to pay for private schooling.

Republican control of a majority of state legislatures, combined with pandemic learning disruptions, set the stage for multiple victories. Seven states have created new school choice programs, and 11 others have expanded current programs through laws that offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling and authorize tax credits and educational savings accounts that incentivize parents moving their children out of public schools.

On its face, this new legislation may sound like a win for families seeking more school options. But the roots of the school choice movement are more sinister.

White Southerners first fought for “freedom of choice” in the mid-1950s as a means of defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which mandated the desegregation of public schools. Their goal was to create pathways for White families to remove their children from classrooms facing integration.

Prominent libertarians then took advantage of this idea, seeing it not only as a means of providing private options, but also as a tool in their crusade to dismantle public schools altogether. This history reveals that rather than giving families more school options, school choice became a tool intended to give most families far fewer in the end.

School choice had its roots in a crucial detail of the Brown decision: The ruling only applied to public schools. White Southerners viewed this as a loophole for evading desegregated schools.

In 1955 and 1956, conservative White leaders in Virginia devised a regionwide strategy of “massive resistance” to the high court’s desegregation mandate that hinged on state-funded school vouchers. The State Board of Education provided vouchers, then called tuition grants, of $250 ($2,514 in 2021 dollars) to parents who wanted to keep their children from attending integrated schools. The resistance leaders understood that most Southern White families could not afford private school tuition — and many who could afford it lacked the ideological commitment to segregation to justify the cost. The vouchers, combined with private donations to the new schools in counties facing desegregation mandates, would enable all but a handful of the poorest Whites to evade compliance.

Other Southern states soon adopted voucher programs like the one in Virginia to facilitate the creation of private schools called “segregation academies,” despite opposition from Black families and civil rights leaders. Oliver Hill, an NAACP attorney key to the Virginia case against “separate but equal” education that was folded into Brown, explained their position this way: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.”

Despite such objections, key conservative and libertarian thinkers and foundations, including economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, Human Events editor Felix Morley and publisher Henry Regnery, backed the White Southern cause. They recognized that White Southerners’ push for “freedom of choice” presented an opportunity to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources, starting with primary and secondary education. They barely, if ever, addressed racism and segregation; instead, they spoke of freedom (implicitly, White freedom).

Friedman began promoting “educational freedom” in 1955, just as Southern states prepared to resist Brown. And he praised the Virginia voucher plan in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” holding it up as a model for school choice everywhere. “Whether the school is integrated or not,” he wrote, should have no bearing on eligibility for the vouchers. In other words, he knew the program was designed to fund segregation academies and saw it as no barrier to receiving state financing.

Friedman was far from alone. His fellow libertarians, including those on the staff of the William Volker Fund, a leading funder on the right, saw no problem with state governments providing tax subsidies to White families who chose segregation academies, even as these states disenfranchised Black voters, blocking them from having a say in these policies.

Libertarians understood that while abolishing the social safety net and other policies constructed during the Progressive era and the New Deal was wildly unpopular, even among White Southerners, school choice could win converts.

These conservative and libertarian thinkers offered up ostensibly race-neutral arguments in favor of the tax subsidies for private schooling sought by white supremacists. In doing so, they taught defenders of segregation a crucial new tactic — abandon overtly racist rationales and instead tout liberty, competition and market choice while embracing an anti-government stance. These race-neutral rationales for private school subsidies gave segregationists a justification that could survive court review — and did, for more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.

When challenged, Friedman and his allies denied that they were motivated by racial bigotry. Yet, they had enough in common ideologically with the segregationists for the partnership to work. Both groups placed a premium on the liberty of those who had long profited from white-supremacist policies and sought to shield their freedom of action from the courts, liberal government policies and civil rights activists.

Crucially, freedom wasn’t the ultimate goal for either group of voucher supporters. White Southerners wielded colorblind language about freedom of choice to help preserve racial segregation and to keep Black children from schools with more resources.

Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

Today, the ultrawealthy backers of school choice are cagey about this long-term goal, knowing that care is required to win the support of parents who want the best for their children. Indeed, in a sad irony, decades after helping to impede Brown’s implementation, school choice advocates on the right targeted families of color for what one libertarian legal strategist called “forging nontraditional alliances.” They won over some parents of color, who came to see vouchers and charter schools as a way to escape the racial and class inequalities that stemmed from White flight out of urban centers and the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow White Americans to avoid integrating schools.

But the history behind vouchers reveals that the rhetoric of “choice” and “freedom” stands in stark contrast to the real goals sought by conservative and libertarian advocates. The system they dream of would produce staggering inequalities, far more severe than the disparities that already exist today. Wealthy and upper-middle-class families would have their pick of schools, while those with far fewer resources — disproportionately families of color — might struggle to pay to educate their children, leaving them with far fewer options or dependent on private charity. Instead of offering an improvement over underfunded schools, school choice might lead to something far worse.

As Maya Angelou wisely counseled in another context, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” If we fail to recognize the right’s true end game for public education, it could soon be too late to reverse course.

Update: According to Future-Ed, citing pro-voucher EdChoice (which used to be the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation), “Currently, 32 states provide an estimated $4 billion in subsidies to some 690,000 students through tuition vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax-credit scholarships.” Several Republican-led states are considering or have already universal vouchers, which would subsidize the tuition of all students in private schools, including the children of wealthy families. Currently, most students who use vouchers were already enrolled in private and religious schools. In one state alone, Florida, the added cost of vouchers might be as much as $4 billion a year, just for the children already in private schools.

Ron DeSantis signed three bills into law today that tighten his control over higher education and restrict the curriculum to conform to his ideology. If a professor does not agree with DeSantis’ views on race, gender, culture, and history, he or she must change what they teach or find a job in another state.

There are two major contradictions in DeSantis’ approach:

1. He claims that state control over acceptable and intolerable views equates to “freedom.” If you share his views, you are free to teach them. If you don’t, your freedom is extinguished. Freedom for some is not freedom.

2. He claims that Florida intends to focus on “the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.” But at the same time, he wants the state’s colleges and universities to become “number one for workforce education.” Is that the “classical mission” of universities? Those who know more about higher education than DeSantis would say that “the classical mission” of the university is to teach and deepen students’ knowledge of great literature, history, science, foreign languages, mathematics, philosophy, and the arts. These are not workforce studies; they do not provide “employable” skills. They are probably what DeSantis sneers at as “zombie studies.”

The Miami Herald reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law three controversial bills poised to bring major changes to Florida’s college and university systems.

In a ceremony at New College of Florida, he was flanked by a group of supporters including university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues and Christopher Rufo, an activist known for his opposition to critical race theory and one of six trustees DeSantis appointed to the New College board in January.

DeSantis signed a measure, SB 266, that restricts certain topics from being taught in general education courses, the lower-level classes that all students must take for their degrees. It also expands the hiring and firing powers of university boards and presidents, further limits tenure protections and prohibits spending related to diversity, equity and inclusion programs beyond what is required by accreditors.

Regarding the restricted topics, the measure borrows language from last year’s Individual Freedom Act, also known as the Stop Woke Act. It targets “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”

While those ideas will be kept out of general education courses on Florida campuses, they will be allowed in higher-level or elective courses, subject to review by the Board of Governors, which oversees the university system, or the State Board of Education, which sets policy for state colleges.

DeSantis also signed HB 931, intended to prohibit “woke litmus tests” or required diversity statements, and SB 240, which supports workforce education.

Standing at the New College visitors’ center, behind a lectern with the label “Florida The Education State,” he referred to a group of protesters outside the building who grew louder as he spoke. The governor joked that he was disappointed with the size of the protest and was “hoping for more.”

He spoke of the state’s increased efforts to bring more regulation to higher education.

”It’s our view that, when the taxpayers are funding these institutions, that we as Floridians and we as taxpayers have every right to insist that they are following a mission that is consistent with the best interest of our people in our state,” said the governor, who is said to be preparing a run for president in 2024. “You don’t just get to take taxpayer dollars and do whatever the heck you want to do and think that that’s somehow OK.”

Referring to the Black Lives Matter movement, DeSantis called diversity, equity and inclusion a relatively new concept that took off “Post BLM rioting” in 2020 and “a veneer to impose an ideological agenda.” It’s better described as “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” the governor said to applause.

”We’re going to treat people as individuals and not as groups,” he said.

DeSantis said he hoped the state’s higher education system will move toward more “employable majors” and away from “niche subjects” like critical race theory.

”Florida’s getting out of that game,” he said. “If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley,” he said, referring to the University of California, Berkeley. “For us with our tax dollars, we want to be focused on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.”

DeSantis said SB 266 will allow presidents to run their universities instead of “a cabal of faculty.” He said he would also allocate $30 million to the Hamilton Center, a civics institute at the University of Florida, where Ben Sasse, the school’s new president, would be able to recruit faculty to join.

The budget also allocates $8 million to the civics center at Florida State University, $5 million to another center at Florida International University and $100 million to recruit and retain faculty across the state system.

HB 931 also establishes an office of public policy events within each state university to organize events on campus representing a range of viewpoints.

”I think some of the universities around the country where orthodoxy has taken hold — a lot of these students can go through for years, get a degree and never have their assumptions challenged,” DeSantis said.

He said SB 240 will support Florida’s goal of becoming No. 1 for workforce education. The bill would expand apprenticeship programs and require districts to offer work-based learning to high school students.

He said he wanted to ensure that not all students feel pressured to go down the university path and end up in debt for a degree in “zombie studies,” a term he has used often.

Also joining DeSantis was Richard Corcoran, the interim president at New College who formerly served as the governor’s education commissioner. Corcoran spoke of the school’s transformation in the weeks since he arrived, saying he had recruited high quality faculty and planned to enroll a record incoming class this fall.

He called New College “the LeBron James” of higher education.

Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.

Parents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, complained to the district school board about its cancellation of a Mothers Day event that was intended to be inclusive. The school board reacted to a complaint by a member of the censorious rightwing Moms for Liberty.

Alternet reported:

Parents in Chattanooga, Tennessee boldly confronted the Hamilton County School Board and its Superintendent Justin Robertson “for caving to Moms (Against) Liberty-led bullying and canceling a librarian’s Mother’s Day lesson inclusive to kids without moms,” The Tennessee Holler tweeted on Sunday.

Moms for Liberty (which the paper dinged as “against”) is a right-wing organization that campaigns against social progress and civil rights. Media Matters for America pointed out in November 2021 that the non-profit has deep connections to the Republican Party and “has county-specific chapters across the country that target local school board meetings, school board members, administrators, and teachers.” Moms for Liberty also promoted “stripping districts of protective COVID-19 measures” and seeks to “modify classroom curriculum to exclude the teaching of ‘critical race theory’ (CRT) and sex education, all in the name of ‘parental rights.'”

Last Tuesday, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Alpine Crest Elementary School librarian Caroline Mickey posted a letter on Moms for Liberty’s website stating that “With Mother’s Day approaching, I’d like to highlight this special role, but I am sensitive to the fact that not all students live with a mother. As such, I am planning a lesson that celebrates those who fill the motherly roles in our lives.”

Then, on Wednesday, ABC News Channel 9 explained that Mickey’s event was “designed to include students who didn’t have what is considered a ‘traditional’ mother. But the group Hamilton County Moms for Liberty said the books promoted what they call the ‘homosexual agenda.'”

The blog of the Network for Public Education posted Justin Parmenter’s concern about the latest meddling into education by the state’s Republican-dominated General Assembly. The NPE blog is curated by the estimable Peter Greene. Justin Parmenter is an NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina.

Teacher Justin Parmenter monitors anti-public ed shenanigans in North Carolina. He explains in a recent post a bill to force adoption of Hillsdale College’s “patriotic” curriculum.

Parmenter writes:

Legislation filed in the North Carolina General Assembly last week would authorize Beaufort County Public Schools to ignore the state’s standard course of study and instead teach a controversial social studies curriculum developed by a conservative Michigan college with close ties to former President Donald Trump.

The bill was filed by Rep. Keith Kidwell, who represents Beaufort, Dare, Pamlico and Hyde counties.

The curriculum Kidwell is proposing be used in Beaufort County’s public schools was created by Michigan-based Hillsdale College after white fragility over Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project prompted former president Donald Trump to issue an executive order setting up what he called a “patriotic education” commission.

Trump said at the time that the commission was intended to counter “hateful lies” being taught to children in American schools which he said constituted “a form of child abuse.”

Trump appointed Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn to chair the 1776 Commission near the end of his presidency in 2020.

The commission’s report, published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 2021, was widely criticized by actual historians as a whitewashed take on American history for its downplaying of Founding Fathers’ support for slavery and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King out of context in order to create a falsely rosy view of race in the United States, among other reasons.

Hillsdale College released the “1776 curriculum” in July 2021. In its “Note to Teachers,” the curriculum reminds anyone who will be using the curriculum to teach children that “America is an exceptionally good country” and ends with the exhortation to “Learn it, wonder at it, love it, and teach so your students will, too.”

In North Carolina, current state law gives the State Board of Education the authority to develop a standard course of study which each school district is required to follow. The state’s current social studies standards were adopted in 2021 over objections of Republican state board members who said the standards portrayed America in a negative light and amounted to critical race theory.

Kidwell’s bill comes just days after Representative Tricia Cotham’s party switch handed North Carolina Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature. That means there’s a good chance this Trump-inspired, whitewashed version of American history will end up on desks in Beaufort County, and there’s no reason to think other counties won’t follow suit.

According to DPI’s Statistical Profile, more than half of Beaufort County’s 5,821 public school students are students of color. Those students deserve to have their stories and their ancestors’ stories told. Those students and all students deserve to learn real American history, warts and all, not a watered-down, Donald Trump-conceived version designed to make white people feel comfortable.

Read the full post here.

A nonpartisan journalism project called Wisconsin Watch released an alarming report about voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and students with disabilities. State law requires them to admit all who apply but not to enroll those from these disfavored groups.

State law for public schools prohibits discrimination on these very same grounds. In other words, public schools may not discriminate against these two groups, but publicly-funded voucher schools may and do.

Among the voucher schools, discrimination against gay students and families is usually on religious grounds. Voucher schools may exclude students with disabilities for any reason, such as lack of staff or resources.

Wisconsin has funds 52,000 students in 373 private voucher schools, or 6% of all students in publicly funded schools. This year the state spent $444 million on vouchers. “About one-fifth of voucher schools have 90% or more of their students on vouchers, what one scholar describes as “private in name only.” Republicans want to expand voucher availability by removing any limits, so that public funds underwrite tuition for rich kids.

Wisconsin is considered the birthplace of the “school choice” movement. The nation’s first publicly funded private voucher program began in Milwaukee in 1990. Initial restrictions, such as limiting vouchers to secular schools, have disappeared as the program has expanded. Today, 32 schools — including at least one with an anti-LGBTQ+ stance — have their entire student bodies on publicly funded vouchers.

Legal discrimination against students who are LGBTQ+ or have disabilities results from a lack of state-level protections; a federal exemption that allows religious entities to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and another that requires schools taking federal funds to make only minor adjustments for students with disabilities; and a state education agency constrained by punctilious rules and decades of litigation.

One of the cardinal goals of publicly-funded education is equal opportunity for all. In voucher schools, it’s equal opportunity for some. We are reminded once again that “school choice” means SCHOOLS CHOOSE.

The Orlando Sentinel reported today that the State Education Department had rejected 35% of the social studies textbooks submitted for review because of leftist content. The DeSantis administration objects to any references to “social justice” or negative references to capitalism.

Leslie Postal of the Sentinel wrote:

Florida rejected 35% of the social studies textbooks publishers hoped to sell to public schools this year and forced others to delete or change passages state leaders disliked, including references to “why some citizens are choosing to ‘Take a Knee’ to protest police brutality” and “new calls for social justice” after the death of George Floyd.

A press release from the Florida Department of Education on Tuesday said 66 of 101 textbooks submitted have been approved, many after making changes the state demanded. On April 6, the department gave approval to only 19 of the books but then worked for the past month to get publishers to update their texts.

The goal was “materials that focus on historical facts and are free from inaccuracies or ideological rhetoric,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz in a statement.

The textbooks are for elementary and middle school social studies classes as well as civics, economics, U.S. history and world history courses.

In addition to social justice topics, some of the textbooks initially rejected failed to accurately describe communism and socialism, the department said, and those passages were revamped to emphasize the negatives of both economic systems…

The process became highly political a year ago, however, when the state initially rejected 42 math textbooks, a historic number, and touted the news with a press release that said, “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration sounded a similar alarm Tuesday.

“The political indoctrination of children through the K-12 public education system is a very real and prolific problem in this country,” tweeted Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary. “Just look at some of these examples from textbooks submitted this year to @EducationFL.”

Griffin highlighted a passage from a middle school textbook that described a socialist economy as one that “keeps things nice and even and without unnecessary waste.” The passage went on to say, “These societies may promote greater equality among people while still providing a fully functioning government-supervised economy.”

The department did not indicate what textbook included that passage but shared the new version about “planned economies” that replaced the one about socialist economies. The new passage reads, “Critics say these planned economies have slow development and fewer technological advances” in part because they limit “human incentive. In other words, why do anything if the government is eventually going to do it for you?”

The other examples the department shared included two related to social justice, police brutality and racism. The elementary school textbook that mentioned people taking a knee during the National Anthem as a form of protest was deleted as “not age appropriate,” the department said. So was a passage from a middle school book that discussed “new calls for social justice, including the formation of the Black Lives Matter group and the protests after the killing of Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer.”

The department also disliked that a middle school textbook about the Holocaust asked, “What social justice issues are included in the Hebrew Bible?” The line was changed to “What are some of the key principles included in the Hebrew Bible?”

The DeSantis’ administration last year claimed the math books contained critical race theory, the idea that racism is embedded in American institutions, and other unacceptable topics such as social emotional learning and culturally responsive learning.

DeSantis and other Republicans argue CRT aims to make white children feel guilty and to teach children to hate the United States and that, while traditionally a graduate school topic, its tenets have seeped into K-12 classrooms. The Legislature last year passed what the governor dubbed his “stop woke” act that outlaws the teaching of the concept in public schools.

Opponents of DeSantis’ efforts argued the real aim was to prevent children from learning about tough topics such as slavery and racial discrimination and said they feared it would lead to a whitewashing of history.

Most of those who reviewed the math textbooks — math teachers and professors — found nothing objectionable in the texts, with only three of about 70 reviewers raising concerns about CRT. Eventually, many of the rejected books were approved after making some changes. The three reviewers who raised questions about the math textbooks were a member of the conservative Moms for Liberty group and two people affiliated with the Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan aligned with the DeSantis administration.

The math book rejections stunned school district administrators, who had already made plans to purchase the rejected textbooks — which were part of a longer list first posted to the education department’s website. As they typically do, committees of teachers and curriculum experts reviewed the books before recommending which ones should be purchased and had not found material they found objectionable.

The districts needed to buy new math textbooks last year and new social studies textbooks this year to make sure their instructional materials match with new state standards for those subjects.

Mindful of what happened last year, Orange County Public Schools decided to select both first and second-choice options for new social studies books this year. The Orange County School Board approved its list of recommended books April 25, but the district has not yet made any purchases, which could cost more than $21 million.

The social studies textbooks OCPS selected as its top choice for elementary schools is on the rejected list the education department released Tuesday. The district could go with its second-choice option, which is approved, or wait to see if the other wins approval in the coming weeks.

Hannah Natanson of the Washington Post reports that high schools are canceling productions of plays that might offend parents and members of the community. The “culture wars” have watered down which topics are permissible in 2023. Once again, we see how fear of offending anyone restricts freedom.

She writes:

The crew had built most of the set. Choreographers had blocked out almost all the dances. The students were halfway through rehearsals.

Then in late January, musical director Vanessa Allen called an emergency meeting. She told the cast and crew of 21 teens that their show — the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” — was off.

Board members in Ohio’s Cardinal Local Schools disliked some features of “Spelling Bee,” Allen explained, including a song about erections, the appearance of Jesus Christ and the fact that one character has two fathers.

Sobs broke out across the room, said Riley Matchinga, 18, who was slated to play one of the leads: Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the character whose fathers are gay. “Everyone’s faces just fell,” she said. “I could see everyone’s hearts melting, because we had worked so hard.”

Following a record-setting surge in efforts to change curriculums and ban books at schools nationwide, the education culture war has now reached the stage. The controversy in Cardinal is one of a number of recent instances in which school administrators have intervened to nix or alter school theatrical productions deemed objectionable — often because they feature LGBTQ characters or deal with issues of race and racism.

In Florida’s Duval County Public Schools this January, administrators stopped a production of the play “Indecent,” which details a love affair between two women, due to its “mature content.” In February, Indiana’s Northwest Allen County Schools pulled the plug on a production of the play “Marian” after adults raised the alarm over its depiction of a same-sex couple and a nonbinary character. And in March, Iowa’s South Tama County Community School District halted a performance of the play “August: Osage County” over fears that its treatment of suicide, addiction and racism was inappropriate for school-aged children.

Censorship of K-12 student productions has been happening for years, said Howard Sherman, managing director of the performing arts center at New York’s Baruch College. Since 2011, Sherman has tracked and fought efforts to end or edit school theater, assisting with roughly four dozen such cases, many of which never became public.

Still, this most recent wave of opposition seems more intense and organized than in past years, Sherman said, and more tightly focused on plays and musicals with LGBTQ content.

“Something that was being dealt with community by community has now, for some people, become a cause, ” he said. “You see politicians and officials enacting rules and laws which are incredibly onerous and designed to enforce a very narrow view of what students can see, read, learn or act on stage.”

The logic: if high school students see a play with gay characters, they might think being gay is normal, and they too might be gay. Counter-logic: the same students are far more likely to see movies, TV, and plays where people are not gay.

Robert Pondiscio of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, defended censorship:

“You have to be mindful of local values,” Pondiscio said. “School has always existed to signal to children what is worth knowing and valuable, what we praise and condemn, and you have to apply that to musicals as well.”

In North Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania, the school board voted down a proposed performance of “The Addams Family,” which is the most frequently performed high school musical. The board thought it was too gloomy.

In Ohio, the students won a minor victory:

In Ohio’s Cardinal schools, Matchinga and her peers were determined to put on “Spelling Bee.” They bombarded the school board with emails questioning the cancellation.

Musical director Allen began revising the script to erase lines board members dubbed inappropriate — eliminating profanity, a line about “[beating] up” kids and replacing the phrase “fake mom” with “step mom,” according to school documents obtained by The Washington Post. She was assisted by Rachel Sheinkin, one of the writers of the 2005 Broadway musical. Ultimately, after requesting more than two dozen edits and receiving 12, the school board voted to let “Spelling Bee” proceed.

Alterations to Matchinga’s lines included replacing “and I’ve heard she is pro-choice/though still a virgin” with “but she will not make her choice/til she is certain.”

“I don’t think that really made a big effect on the story, and the show was still really funny and we got a ton of laughs,” Matchinga said. “Overall, I think it was okay.”

But in the future, the school board will have veto power on which plays may be staged.

Let’s see, “Mary Poppins” should pass muster. What else?

A reader of the blog uses the sobriquet “Democracy” to protect his or her anonymity. His/her comments are always thoughtful.

The attack on public schools — in Virginia and across the country — is not some spontaneous “parent rights” outburst. It’s orchestrated. It’s being funded and set into motion by right-wing “Christians” at the Council for National Policy, a far-right group that had outsized-influence with the Trump administration.

Richard DeVos, husband of Betsy, has been president of CNP twice. Ed Meese, who helped Reagan cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, has been president of CNP. So has Pat Robertson. And Tim LaHaye.

Current and former CNP members include Cleta Mitchell, the Trump lawyer who was on that call to the Georgia Secretary of State demanding that he find Trump more than 11,780 votes, and Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point USA who bragged about bussing tens of thousands of people to the January 6th ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and insurrection. Two of the top peeps at the Federalist Society, Eugene Meyer and Leonard Leo, are also CNP members. (Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were high priorities for the Federalist Society and for CNP). Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a member. So is Stephen Moore, the wack-boy “economist” that Trump wanted to appoint to the Federal Reserve but ultimately didn’t because he owed his ex-wife $300,000 in back alimony and child support, and who was an “advisor” Glenn Youngkin in his campaign for Virginia governor even though he’s been dead wrong about virtually all of his economic predictions and who helped Sam Brownback ruin the economy of Kansas.

The Council for National Policy is interconnected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network and Tea Party Patriots and a host of other right-wing groups. This is – in fact – the vast “right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton complained about. Glenn Youngkin made himself all very much a part of this.

Did this “new” Republican Southern Strategy work? Well, Youngkin won the Virginia governorship, and exit polls showed that Youngkin won 62 percent of white voters, and 76 percent of non-college graduate whites. And, Youngkin got way more of the non-college white women votes (75 percent) than his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe.

Here’s how the NY Times explained it:

“Republicans have moved to galvanize crucial groups of voters around what the party calls ‘parental rights’ issues in public schools, a hodgepodge of conservative causes ranging from eradicating mask mandates to demanding changes to the way children are taught about racism…Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate in Virginia, stoked the resentment and fear of white voters, alarmed by efforts to teach a more critical history of racism in America…he released an ad that was a throwback to the days of banning books, highlighting objections by a white mother and her high-school-age son to ‘Beloved,’ the canonical novel about slavery by the Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison…the conservative news media and Republican candidates stirred the stew of anxieties and racial resentments that animate the party’s base — thundering about equity initiatives, books with sexual content and transgender students on sports teams.”

Republicans and racism. Who knew?

Lots of people.

Yale historian David Blight put it this way:

“Changing demographics and 15 million new voters drawn into the electorate by Obama in 2008 have scared Republicans—now largely the white people’s party—into fearing for their existence. With voter ID laws, reduced polling places and days, voter roll purges, restrictions on mail-in voting, an evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a constant rant about ‘voter fraud’ without evidence, Republicans have soiled our electoral system with undemocratic skullduggery…The Republican Party has become a new kind of Confederacy.”

And this Republican “Confederacy” hates public education.

Protestors calling themselves Dream Defenders occupied Governor Ron DeSantis’ office for a few hours today. They were arrested and removed by the police. Their goal was to call attention to his hateful policies.

Dream defenders Arrested Press Release

For Immediate Release

May 3, 2023

Akin Olla, (862)-202-5697‬,



Members of Dream Defenders and Allies Arrested by Police Using Rule Created to Target Them Specifically

Fourteen members of the Dream Defenders and allied organizations, including the HOPE Community Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Equality Florida, Florida Rising, and others were arrested by dozens of police from the Capitol Police and Florida Highway Patrol after occupying the office of Ron DeSantis. Police used the “Dream Defenders rule” to justify their removal from public property, which was created after their 2013 occupation of the statehouse to protest the murder of Trayvon Martin. The rule bans being in the Florida Capitol outside of operating hours. Reporters trying to capture the arrests were also removed, including one USA Today Professor who was forcibly removed by a police officer.

“Gov. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have chosen to attack many of Florida’s most vulnerable and historically marginalized communities with policies that attack who they are, who they love and how and what they learn,” said Dwight Bullard, Sr. Political Advisor at Florida Rising who was arrested during the protest.

The Dream Defenders planned the sit-in as part of a national protest called Freedom to Learn. The protest addressed the many issues facing Floridians, and called for a meeting with DeSantis to share the impact the legislative session has had on communities. Speakers used the 7-point platform, The Freedom Papers as a guide for their action, painting an alternative vision for the country to the agenda of extremist politicians like DeSantis. The Freedom Papers were created out of a process that engaged thousands of Floridians about their community’s most pressing needs.

“By virtue of being born, we are entitled to a real dignified democracy that gives us a say on our blocks, in our cities, in our schools, and the places we work,” said Nailah Summers-Polite, co-director of Dream Defenders and the first to be arrested.

“This is not a singular issue situation, this is the culmination of every repressive piece of legislation that has been passed this session. We need him to care for the people and not a cultural agenda to win his way to the presidency,” said Jamil Davis, Florida state organizing manager of Black Voters Matter.

“We need to build a national movement against Ron DeSantis, but to fight people like him all over the country. We need to unite and protect the little democracy we have left after centuries of domination by corporations and slave holders,” said Rachel Gilmer, Director of the Healing Justice Center, which works to treat the root causes of gun violence. “We will hold this space until DeSantis faces us and exposes himself as the racist neo-confederate that he is.”

Videos and Pictures here:
Livestream and images here:

Today was a big day in the Florida legislature, where GOP legislators are busy banning and defunding whatever they don’t like. DEI is the WOKE enemy of the moment. Professors who teach about racism or sexism need not apply.

TALLAHASSEE — As Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies target “woke” ideology, the Florida House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that includes preventing colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The bill (SB 266), which now will go to DeSantis, touched off a fierce debate about Florida’s higher-education system and campus speech.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion, like so many other terms adopted by the woke left, is being used as a club to silence things, to say that if you don’t agree with them, you are somehow racist or homophobic or whatever other word that you want to use to criticize people,” said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County. “The fact of the matter is these terms have been hijacked by those who want to use them to bully and use them to shut down debate, to actually do the opposite of what these words are supposed to do.”

But bill critics said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are important and that the legislation will drive away top faculty members and students.