Archives for category: Racism

Paul Waldman is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. In this article, he criticizes Democrats for failing to stand up to Republican slanders and lies about public schools. He raises an important point: Why aren’t Democrats fighting Republican lies about the schools? Why aren’t the billionaires who claim to be liberal speaking out against this vicious campaign to destroy our public schools? One reason for the silence of the Democrats: Arne Duncan derided and insulted public schools and their teachers as often as Republicans.

Waldman wrote recently:

For the last year or so, Republicans have used the “issue” of education as a cudgel against Democrats, whipping up fear and anger to motivate their voters and seize power at all levels of government.

Isn’t it about time Democrats fought back?
Republicans have moved from hyping the boogeyman of critical race theory to taking practical steps to criminalize honest classroom discussions and ban books, turning their manufactured race and sex panic into profound political and educational change. Meanwhile, Democrats have done almost nothing about it, watching it all with a kind of paralyzed confusion.

Look no further than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is pushing legislation with the colorful name of the Stop Woke Act. As the Republican governor told Fox News this weekend, we need to allow people to sue schools over their curriculums, not only because of CRT but also because “there’s a lot of other inappropriate content that can be smuggled in by public schools.”

If you liked the Texas bill that effectively banned abortion in the state, you’re in luck. Republicans apparently want to use a version of that bill’s tactic — putting enforcement in the hands of private vigilantes — to make teachers and school administrators live under the same fear as abortion providers.

It’s happening elsewhere, too. A bill in Indiana allows the same kind of lawsuits. And last week, during a hearing on the bill, a GOP state senator got in trouble for saying that “I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position” on things like Nazism, because in the classroom, “we need to be impartial.” The state senator, Scott Baldwin, previously attracted attention when it was revealed that he made a contribution to the far-right Oath Keepers (though he claims he has no real connection to the extremist group).

Everywhere you look, Republicans are trying to outdo one another with state laws forcing teachers to parrot far-right propaganda to students. A Republican bill in Oklahoma would ban teachers from saying that “one race is the unique oppressor” or “victim” when teaching the history of slavery in America; its sponsor says that would bring the appropriate “balance” to the subject.

So ask yourself: What are Democrats telling the public about schools? If you vote for Democrats, what are you supposed to be achieving on this issue? If any voters know, it would be a surprise.
We’re seeing another iteration of a common Republican strategy: Wait for some liberal somewhere to voice an idea that will sound too extreme to many voters if presented without context and in the most inflammatory way possible, inflate that idea way beyond its actual importance, claim it constitutes the entirety of the Democratic agenda and play on people’s fears to gin up a backlash.

That was the model on “defund the police.” Now it’s being used on schools, which Republicans have decided is the issue that can generate sufficient rage to bring victory at the polls.
Devoted as they are to facts and rational argumentation, liberals can’t help themselves from responding to Republican attacks first and foremost with refutation, which allows Republicans to set the terms of debate. So their response to the charge that critical race theory is infecting our schools is something like this: “No, no, that has nothing to do with public education. It’s a scholarly theory taught mostly to graduate students.”

But that doesn’t allow for this response: “Republicans want to subject our kids to fascist indoctrination. Why do they want to teach our kids that slavery wasn’t bad? Why are they trying to ban books? Who’s writing their education policy, David Duke? Don’t let them destroy your schools!”

That, of course, would be an unfair exaggeration of what most Republicans actually want. Is a state senator who worries that public school teachers might be biased against Nazism really representative of the whole Republican Party? Let’s try to be reasonable here.

Or maybe being reasonable isn’t the best place to start when you’re being overrun. Maybe Democrats need to begin not with a response to Republican lies about what happens in the classroom, but an attack on what Republicans are trying to do to American education.

After Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governorship with a campaign largely focused on schools, Republicans everywhere decided that nurturing a CRT-based White backlash is the path to victory. That is their plan, whether Democrats like it or not.

This isn’t just coming from national Republicans. At the state and local level, far-right extremists are taking over education policy, leaving teachers terrified that if they communicate the wrong idea to students — like, apparently, being too critical of Nazis — they might get sued.

The implications of the GOP war on schools and teachers are horrifying, and with some exceptions, Democrats are watching it happen without anything resembling a plan to do anything about it. It might be time for all the party’s clever strategists to give it some thought.

Civil rights leader Jitu Brown wrote in an opinion article for The Chicago Tribune about the importance of using the schools to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. Brown is the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which connects youth- and parent-led organizations across the nation.

Brown points out studies showing that schools with strict disciplinary policies produce high suspension rates for students of color, which in turn affects test scores and graduation rates.

He writes that schools attended by predominantly nonwhite students have fewer curricular resources than schools where white students predominate.

These environments are punctuated by so-called school resource officers — police stationed in school buildings. More than 1.5 million Black, brown and Indigenous K-12 students are attending schools that have a resource officer but no counselor, guaranteeing that many of these students will be left behind. The violence inflicted upon Black and brown children by school resource officers nationwide must stop. They don’t make our schools safer, and their presence means schools lose precious resources that could be used for counseling and social services.

White-majority schools have always offered much more in core curricular classes, Advanced Placement opportunities, after-school programs, guidance counselors and student supports. Some examples from the Journey for Justice Alliance’s “Failing: Brown v. Board” report elucidate what equity would mean for students of color:

At Marshall High School in Milwaukee, nonwhite students make up 94% of the student body. The school has basic English courses for only freshmen and sophomores and only two other classes. Menomonee Falls High School in a nearby suburb has 21% nonwhite students. It offers 10 English classes.

In Dallas, 39% of Centennial High’s students are nonwhite, compared with 100% of the students at South Oak Cliff High. Yet Centennial offers twice as many language classes, has three times the number of Advanced Placement courses and 23 career path offerings, compared to three at South Oak Cliff.

In Denver, 96% of Manuel High students are minorities. They can choose from fiveart classes, seven AP classes and only one foreign language, Spanish. At Cherry Creek High, 33% of the students are Black or students of color. They have 27 AP classes, six foreign languages and 21 classes in the arts.

The report concludes: “This is racism in action.”

The Equity or Else campaign’s major goal is sustainable community schools. The 2022 federal budget would allocate $440 million to establish such schools, reversing the trend of privatizing public education through charter schools. The movement for equity in public education aims to make American schools more welcoming and truly safe spaces for all children where they can look forward to learning.

Culturally relevant and challenging curriculum, supports for high-quality teaching, wraparound supports for every child, a student-centered school climate, and meaningful parent and community engagement make for the types of schools all children deserve.

SB 167 in the Indiana Legislature received national attention when its chief sponsor, Republican Scott Baldwin, proclaimed that teachers must not take sides when discussing Nazism, fascism, or Marxism. He later apologized for the statement but not until after he became a subject of ridicule on national news. Now it is dead, although a similar bill is moving in the House.

The Indiana bill that sparked national outrage will not move forward, Senate leadership confirmed on Friday. 

Members of the Senate continued to work on Senate Bill 167, but have determined there is no path forward for it and it will not be considered,” Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said in a statement. 

Less clear is the fate of a similar bill moving through the Indiana House. That bill was passed out of committee, 8-5, and heads to the full House floor next. Should it pass the House, it will be sent to the Senate.

A spokesperson for Bray said Senate Republicans would review the bill, if it passes out of the House.

More on bill:Indiana Senate bill that spurred Nazism remarks stalls; similar proposal advances

Senate Bill 167 was originally scheduled for a vote in the Senate’s education committee Wednesday but was pulled from the calendar, IndyStar previously reported, signaling it faced a rocky path forward. Earlier in the week, Bray said it was so lawmakers could address concerns raised during public testimony on the bill the previous week. 

An exchange during that testimony between the bill’s author, Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, and a history teacher from Fishers set off a viral firestorm after Baldwin said it would require teachers to remain impartial, even when discussing concepts such as Marxism, Nazism and fascism. 

“Of course, we’re neutral on political issues of the day,” teacher Matt Bockenfeld said at the committee hearing Jan. 5. “We don’t stand up and say who we voted for or anything like that. But we’re not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.”

Baldwin responded that may be going too far and that teachers need to be impartial and stick to the facts. He later walked back the comments in a statement to IndyStar and condemned those ideologies.Your stories live here

More:Find out what’s in controversial 2022 education bills, read full text

A similar bill has continued to move through the House. House Bill 1134 contains the same ban on “divisive concepts,” but was amended this week to clarify that teachers may condemn Nazism and other concepts that run counter to the U.S. Constitution. 

Peter Greene describes his latest gambit. He is pressing for the adoption of his “Stop WOKE” act.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is doing his level best to wreck education in his state by politicizing every education policy. It’s a textbook illustration of fear-mongering and race-baiting. How low can he go without scraping his head on the ground?

Greene writes:

Florida owns the Number One spot on the Public Education Hostility Index, but Governor Ron DeSantis is not willing to rest on his laurels. You may have already heard about this, or you may have passed over the news because it’s Florida, but some bad news needs to be repeated, particularly when it comes from the state that launches so many of the bad trends in education.

DeSantis has borrowed from Texas, where a new abortion banhas come up with a clever way to circumvent rules about what a state can and cannot enforce. Now upheld by SCOTUS, the law makes every citizen a bounty hunter, with the right for “anyone to sue anyone” suspected of being in any way involved in an abortion (in a rare display to restraint, Texas exempts the woman getting the abortion from the civil liability). 

The idea of insulating the state is not new to education privatization efforts. Part of the reasoning behind education savings accounts is that it let’s the state say, “What? We didn’t give taxpayer dollars to a private religious institution. We just gave the money to a scholarship organization (and they gave it to the private religious school). Totally not a First Amendment violation.”

So here comes DeSantis with his “Stop WOKE Act” (as in “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”– some staffer was up late working on that one). This is legislation he’ll “push for” because of course a governor doesn’t propose legislation–he just orders it up from his party in the legislature. 

The proposal comes wrapped in lots of rhetoric about the evils of “critical race theory,” which DeSantis defines broadly and bluntly: Nobody wants this crap, OK? This is an elite-driven phenomenon being driven by bureaucratic elites, elites in universities and elites in corporate America and they’re trying to shove it down the throats of the American people. You’re not doing that in the state of Florida.

Along with vague rhetoric about learning to hate America, DeSantis brought in crt panic shill Christopher Rufo for his pep rally. And of course he trotted out some highly selective Martin Luther King Jr. quotage, because, hey, he’s totally not racist.

But the highlight here is creating a “private right of action” for parents, an actual alleged civil rights violation. Anyone who thinks their kid is being taught critical race theory can sue (and this will apply to workplace training as well). Parents who win even get to collect attorney’s fees, meaning they can float these damn lawsuits essentially for free– watch for Florida’s version of Edgar Snyder--attorneys advertising “there’s no charge unless we get money for you.”

Allowing parents to file lawsuits would have the effect of making the operating definition of crt even vaguer–it’s whatever Pat and Sam’s mom thinks it is. You can say that using a bad definition that loses the lawsuit would limit this vaguery, but that misses the point–the school would still have to defend itself in court, costing money and time…

Open the link and read the rest.

Greene predicts that teachers will not feel free to teach about America’s racist past. I agree with him.

A few nights ago, I watched a PBS documentary about the life of Marian Anderson, who was hailed in her lifetime as one of the greatest singers in the world. She toured the capitals of Europe to great acclaim. Yet for most of her life, she sang to racially segregated audiences in the United States. The documentary showed that Hitler admired America’s segregationist laws and practices and saw them as a model. Today, those who remember Anderson’s name know her as the black woman whom the DAR (Daughters of the Revolution) prohibited from performing in Constitution Hall in 1939, D.C.’s premier concert hall. D.C. was rigidly segregated. Instead she sang at the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000 people. Her opening number was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

I expect that no teacher in Florida would show that documentary in class. It may be factual, but some students’ parents would complain and sue the teacher for exposing their children to CRT.

Steve Luxenberg, an editor at The Washington Post and the author of a 2019 book on racial separation and the Plessy case, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, wrote to correct important errors in my post about Homer Plessy.

Plessy, you may recall, was arrested in New Orleans for attempting to ride in an all-white train car, thus violating state law. His was a test case of a recently enacted segregation statute. When his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the racial segregation law, the Court issued a ruling in 1896 endorsing the law and the legality of “separate but equal.” This endorsement of de jure segregation remained intact until the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954.

Now, here are the facts about Homer Plessy, as documented by Luxenberg. I am grateful to him for correcting my version (and errors in the article I quoted):

1. Plessy was not found guilty after his arrest (in 1892), and as a result, his lawyers did not appeal that conviction. The case went to the Supreme Court on entirely different grounds. Cutting to the chase for now: Judge Ferguson held off on a trial, instead issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Separate Car Act. That was a gift to Plessy’s legal team, because it meant that they could appeal Ferguson’s ruling (he said the Act was constitutional) rather than pursuing a habeas corpus strategy as planned. The Citizens Committee (the group that planned and arranged for Plessy’s arrest as a test case) did not want Plessy in jail while the appeal was wending its way through the courts.

2. Judge Ferguson never found Plessy guilty, and he wasn’t convicted in 1890. In January 1897, nearly eight months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Plessy pleaded guilty, before a different judge, to close the case. The Citizens Committee paid his $25 fine.

That ruling—Plessy vs. Ferguson— okayed racial segregation statutes that locked millions of Black Americans into second-class status, since separate was never equal in a racist society. Separate but equal remained in place until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954, a decision that was boldly resisted by the South for years.

Homer Plessy will be posthumously pardoned as a result of a sustained effort by his descendant Keith Plessy, and the descendant of Judge John Howard Ferguson.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson created a foundation to honor Homer Plessy and to advance the cause of racial reconciliation. Plessy and Ferguson and their allies worked for the past 11 years to get a pardon for Homer Plessy, and they have just succeeded.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson’s drive to right a terrible, devastating wrong came to full fruition last month, when they appeared before the Louisiana Pardon Board to ask the board to extend a pardon to Homer Plessy for his conviction in 1890 [this date is wrong]. The board swiftly agreed with the pair and voted unanimously on Nov. 12 to pardon Homer Plessy.

Keith Plessy said that his ancestor Homer was selected by a local group of activists to challenge the law.

Keith Plessy placed their crusade for justice in further historical context, pointing out that Homer Plessy was actually carefully selected by late-19th-century civil rights advocates to test the state’s segregation laws of that era.

The New Orleans organization called the Comite de Citoyens, or Committee of Citizens – a multi-ethnic group of activists dedicated to fighting the 1890 Separate Car Act – chose Plessy, a mixed-race Creole, to test the law by getting arrested and placing the matter in the courts.

Once in court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that the Separate Car Act, and as such Plessy’s arrest, violated his Constitutional rights under the 13th and 14th Amendments, an argument the court rejected with his conviction.

“I feel that working together, we have been trying to tell the whole story of the Citizens Committee and the Civil Rights Movement that continued after this case,” Keith Plessy said. “[The Plessy strategy] was the blueprint that was used over and over again [by Civil Rights advocates] in the 20th century.”

“New Orleans,” he added, “was the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Governor John Bel Edwards (a Democrat) declared that he would swiftly sign Plessy’s pardon.

I had the pleasure of meeting Phoebe Ferguson and Keith Plessy when I spoke at Dillard University, a historically Black university in New Orleans, in 2010. It was incredible to meet these two people who symbolized such an important and infamous event in American history. Thanks to these two persistent people for their fight to keep Homer Plessy’s legacy alive and to pursue Justice. We are still struggling to overcome the legacy of Jim Crow era legislation.



Teachers in New Hampshire, along with parents, sued the state to block a new law that bars teaching “divisive concepts.” This law is part of the backlash against critical race theory, which is understood by Republicans to mean anything about racism or any subject that makes students uncomfortable. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that such lawsuits should add the law’s infringement on the First Amendment rights of teachers and students to teach and learn without infringement on their speech. No doubt there may soon be state legislatures banning specific books, which is also a direct violation of theFirst Amendment.


For Immediate Release
Dec. 13, 2021  

Deb Howes

Ori Korin

AFT-NH, Teachers, Parents File Lawsuit Against ‘Divisive Concepts’ Law
Unconstitutional Law Puts Teachers in Untenable Situation and ‘Chokes off Learning’

CONCORD, N.H.In a federal lawsuit filed today, educators and parents are taking a stand against New Hampshire’s attempt to implement a vague and punishing law that makes it impossible for public school teachers to know what and how to teach, as a result of a new law commonly known as the “divisive concepts” law. By attempting to restrict the way discrimination, diversity, bias, justice and struggle is viewed or taught, the measure puts educators at the center of a nightmare scenario: They would be required to comply with a law that appears to be at odds with the state’s constitution and its law mandating a robust and well-rounded public school education—an education that includes the teaching of accurate, honest history and current events.

The federal lawsuit, brought by AFT-New Hampshire, three N.H. public school teachers and two parents, aims to protect educators from this politically motivated new state law that put teachers at risk simply for discussing accurate historical concepts in their classrooms. At last count, New Hampshire has become one of eight Republican-controlled states that have passed laws aimed at censoring discussions around race and gender in classrooms, prompted by a conservative-led and -manufactured “crisis” over critical race theory. Dozens more are considering similar legislation

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire in Concord, N.H., names the state attorney general, state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and the state Commission for Human Rights. It asks that the court rule the divisive concepts statute is unconstitutionally vague, making it impossible for educators to teach their students. 

As the suit notes, the law is so hopelessly vague and broad that the New Hampshire attorney general and state Human Rights Commission have already had to clarify it, but their clarifications have not resolved the issues and are nonbinding, putting educators in the difficult position of having to interpret several different directives to educate their students. Teachers are at risk for not knowing what they’re legally allowed to teach in their own classrooms; they fear that if they get it wrong, they run the risk of public shaming, reputational damage, or discipline, including loss of license or termination. 

In evident contrast to the divisive concept statute, New Hampshire’s uniform educational standards require that all public and private schools teach about “intolerance, antisemitism and national, ethnic, racial or religious hatred and discrimination that have evolved in the past” and that students learn about controversial events from multiple perspectives and ideologies.

The suit comes after Gov. Chris Sununu signed the New Hampshire budget bill—which included the divisive concepts provision—into law in June and the education commissioner created a webpage to facilitate third-party actions where the public could file complaints against teachers. That, in turn, led an extremist group known as Moms for Liberty to put a $500 bounty on the head of any N.H. teacher, offering cash to any informant who successfully lodges a complaint. Since then, educators report online harassment, obscenities and vicious attacks as a direct result of this political intimidation. 

Because the law is vague and ambiguous, the suit states, it is nearly impossible for teachers to follow it, making them “highly susceptible” to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes decried the law. “This law has created fear among teachers who are not actually violating any New Hampshire law, but fear they could be targeted without evidence by people with a political agenda. Educators are terrified of losing their teaching license over simply trying to teach. This is something I never thought would happen in America,” Howes said.

Ryan Richman, a high school teacher in Plaistow, N.H., teaches world history and is a named plaintiff in the suit: 

“I ask students to discuss events in the news and their connections with the past. Nine times out of 10, they want to discuss stories about oppression and how they’ve observed or experienced it—the Rohingya genocide, the Uyghur genocide, the Black Lives Matter movement. I shouldn’t lose my license for honestly discussing current events in my classroom,” Richman said. He also questions how, under the law’s prohibitions, he and his students can honestly discuss the Nazi philosophy that the Aryan race was superior to all others, the history of human chattel slavery in the American South and its impact on African Americans, or the deep-seated racial and cultural biases of the Conquistadores toward indigenous peoples.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a former civics teacher, called the law “chilling and untenable.” 

“Either teachers attempt to follow a law so defectively vague and broad that they can’t fulfill their instructional duties to adequately educate their students, or they choose to teach as they have and as the state law has long required, and risk career-ending repercussions,” Weingarten said. 

“These educators are faced with an excruciating Hobson’s choice, all at the hands of this effort to smear and shame educators, divide our communities, and deny our kids opportunities to learn and thrive. 

“Public education is the lifeblood of our democracy; its purpose is to prepare our children for life, including college, career and civic participation. The core of our job as educators is to teach critical thinking and the ability to freely evaluate ideas—that’s what helps students learn, particularly when it comes to the history of our country. We must teach both our triumphs and our mistakes, whether it’s enslavement, Japanese internment or the treatment of those with disabilities. We teach so we can help students create a better future, and that requires us to learn from the past. But this flawed law aims instead to stop that, and to politicize our schools and scapegoat the people who work in them. 

“To meet the needs of every child, educators need resources, support and clarity, not further blaming and shaming codified into law. This untenable law—and the danger it poses to educators and the kids they teach—must be struck down.” 



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Since this post was written in Texas by a Texan, you may have a clue about what these diverse phenomena have in common: They are sources of fear, anxiety, propaganda, and scare tactics used cynically to stir up the passions of voters. The article was written by Dr. Charles Luke of Pastors for Texas Children, a stalwart supporter of public schools.

Dr. Luke writes:

What do masks, library books, critical race theory (CRT), and transgender rights have in common? While this may sound like the beginning of a really bad joke, these are all issues that local school boards across the nation hear about frequently from their constituents. The concerns about these issues aren’t always expressed in the nicest ways, either. In fact, angry expressions over these issues have led to death threats and harassment, leading some school board members to request police protection or to resign their positions. Commonly dubbed “culture war issues” because they are highly politicized, school board disruption has gotten so bad that Saturday Night Live did a skit about it.

In Texas, it’s not just concerned citizens that are complaining. Politicians are cashing in on the fears of their right-wing base by issuing edicts, holding town halls, and leading charges against school districts. State Rep. Matt Krause, Chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, notified the Texas Education Agency that he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content,” according to an article and an Oct. 25 letter obtained by The Texas Tribune. Krause included a list of 850 titles that he believes some people may find objectionable. Krause was then running for Texas Attorney General in a crowded field of candidates but has since dropped out.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Greg Abbott issued his own edict about library books – but to the wrong people. In a November 1, 2021 letter to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), he reminded the organization that their members have a collective responsibility to determine if obscene materials exist in school libraries and to remove any such content. When TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell informed Governor Abbott that TASB is merely a school trustee membership organization and has no regulatory authority over schools, Abbott responded by accusing the organization of abdicating their responsibility in the matter and directed the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to address the issue by developing standards to “prevent the presence of pornography and obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries.”

A rightwing think-tank (the Texans for Public Policy Priorities) has already sent out a fundraising appeal, hoping to raise $1.2 million dollars to institute what they call “massive education freedom reforms” by mobilizing 10,000 citizens in each of 60 legislative swing districts in order to “break the indoctrination of our children from Critical Race Theory, ‘gender fluidity’, and socialism.” TPPF claims to already have one donor that has provided $600,000 (rumored to be Tim Dunn of Empower Texans fame.

Read on to learn about the latest zany tactics of Texas Republicans, who are expert at campaigning on lies and fear.

The right-wingers have a goal: power. The power to destroy public schools and replace them with private alternatives.

These efforts in Texas follow a national push by extremist politics to take over school boards based on allegations that districts are teaching critical race theory. The Center for Renewing America, run by former Trump administration official Russ Vought, distributes a toolkit that encourages conservatives to “reclaim” their schools by taking over local school boards through campaigns focused on opposition to critical race theory. The Leadership Institute offers training on how far-right candidates can take over their school board and runs a program called Campus Reform which encourages students to “expose the leftist abuses on your campus” including the teaching of CRT.

Funded by wealthy donors and far-right-wing foundations, they seem to be having some success in Texas. In places like Cypress-Fairbanks ISD – the third-largest school district in the state – long-term and well-established trustees are being replaced over culture-war wedge issues like CRT. After a controversial “Resolution Condemning Racism” was approved by the board of trustees in September of 2020, Rev. John Ogletree – an African American – was defeated amidst allegations that the district was promoting CRT. Ogletree is the founder and pastor at the First Metropolitan Church in Houston, Texas, and the president of the board of Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) – a statewide public school advocacy group. Ogletree had been a member of the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Board of Trustees since 2003.

Not everyone is silent about the far-right efforts. Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director of PTC responded to the defeat of Ogletree by saying, “For Godly Christian servants like Rev. John Ogletree to be slandered with lies about his character is beyond outrageous. It is morally despicable. Rev. Ogletree is a faithful pastor who discharged his responsibility before God to call out racism. He did so with obedience and courage. It may come as a news flash to the morally confused folks at TPPF, but it is not racism to call racism for the sin it is: racism.”

According to staff writers for Reform Austin, “This appears to be a nationwide strategy by conservatives to take over school boards and cultivate a farm team of candidates for higher office.” If that’s the case, there could be plenty of opportunities for far-right candidates in 2022 to get elected. With several Texas Senators and over two-dozen House members deciding not to run again due to redistricting maps, the field could be wide open for ultra-conservative candidates launching campaigns on the back of these attacks on public schools.

What the right-wingers really want is to gin up enough anger towards public schools so that people will be willing to seek vouchers and abandon public schools. This might save money, but it would certainly be a nightmare for students and parents who want a quality education. The people stirring this pot against public schools harp on phony issues to advance privatization.

Take Governor Abbott (please). He has been Governor of Texas since 2015. Before that, he was State Attorney General from 2002 to 2015. Before that, he was on the Texas Supreme Court from 1996 to 2001. Is it credible that after 25 years in high public office, he just realized that school libraries are harboring pornography? Why didn’t he know that when he was the State Attorney General, or a member of the Supreme Court, or at some point earlier in his six years as Governor? Why, on the eve of the next gubernatorial election, did he just discover that school libraries are dangerous to young minds? Young minds are undoubtedly safer in the school library than they are at home on the Internet, where there is most certainly hardcore pornography. Will Governor Abbott tell parents to disconnect from the Internet? Of course not.

This whole propaganda campaign is a charade. It is not about making education better. It’s not about protecting youth from corrupting influences.

It is about creating a rationale to distribute public money to religious schools and private vendors.

Texans who want better education must stand up to the charlatans and drive them out of office. School boards elections are scheduled for December 13. Get out and vote for people who believe in education, reason, and thoughtfulness. Vote out the charlatans who want to destroy your schools.

A group committed to equity in schools—the Missouri Equity Education Partnership—posted a list of bills that have been filed for the 2022 session of the Legislature. The group makes no judgment about the bills. If you scan the list, you will see that the general trend is to clamp down on discussions of racism and to guarantee “parent rights.”

The first bill listed is HB 1457, which “prohibits the use of the 1619 Project in public schools.”

Several other state legislatures have already banned this book. Why should the State Legislature have the power to prohibit the use of a specific book? This is censorship. I have read The 1619 Project, and I think it is excellent course material for high school students. As I have written previously, teach the book and teach the criticism of the book, and let students debate the controversy. It will encourage them to think.

Apparently the thought of students reading about racism frightens GOP legislatures. perhaps even more frightening is the idea of students thinking for themselves. Thought control—which this is—should be banned.

The issue of parent rights has emerged as part of a larger strategy to control what topics can be taught in school and which books students can read. Teacher professionalism has been pushed aside as Republican politicians advance legislation to protect parent rights.

Jan Resseger points out that basic parent rights already exist: parents can decide whether to enroll their child in a public or private school. But the issue becomes heated when politicians seek to give parents power over curriculum, reading lists, and teaching.

The issue of parent rights is directly related to the manufactured controversy of “critical race theory” and conflicts over COVID protocols. “Parent rights” politicizes decisions about mask mandates and vaccinations. Some very noisy parents insist that they can send their children to school without masks or vaccines. Their “right” to ignore public health requirements puts other children’s safety at risk. Similarly, rightwing ideologues are using the CRT issue to claim that parents have the right to control or censor what their children are taught.

Children too have rights, she maintains, and among them are the right to learn free of outside political interference.

Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, urges parents to speak out against fake conspiracy theories that are being cynically used to undermine public schools, their teachers, and freedom to teach and learn.

Perry writes:

Power-hungry politicians and bigots have always appealed to white supremacist values to achieve their political goals. In the 1950s, politicians latched onto white resistance to desegregation by turning busing into a trigger for white aggression. Children had been bused since the 1920s. But after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent rulings to enforce it, busing became synonymous with a court-ordered invasion of white privilege. White women fought on the frontlines of the racist resistance to Black families integrating white schools. Politicians and right-wing activists amplified their fury and turned it into a movement.

School busing — not the fact that adults were attacking school buses with rocks and spitting on children — became the supposed threat to democracy. The practice of manufacturing fear around integration has been repeated ever since, with every advance in the Civil Rights Movement facing a racist backlash, including the current uproar over critical race theory, as inaccurately depicted, following the Black Lives Matter protests of the last two years.

Many of the mama bears coming out to protest now are direct political descendants of the white evangelicals who felt embittered about Supreme Court decisions and state policies around school desegregation, the teaching of evolution, the expansion of the curriculum to include multicultural voices, comprehensive sex ed, and the removal of compulsory, school sanctioned prayer. A recent article in the Christian Post lists the grievances for these parents: “We’re fed up with the pollution of our children’s minds with LGBT pedophilia and porn, racism, colorism, anti-capitalism, religious bigotry, anti-free speech, and other anti-American propaganda.”

Expanding civil rights isn’t anti-American. Discriminating against Black people, curtailing the pursuit of truth by Black students and scholars and maintaining a racial hierarchy are the actions that undermine our nation’s ideals — especially when these hateful acts are wrapped in democratic terms like “school choice” and “parent rights.”

Conservatives are currently using bans on critical race theory — a term they inaccurately define as any effort to teach about systemic racism or cultural sensitivity — as a pretext for eliminating from history lessons topics like slavery, Jim Crow racism, voter suppression, and housing and school segregation — all significant aspects of American history with long-lasting impact. In addition, conservatives are attempting to assuage or eliminate any feelings of guilt or accountability their white followers might have for this troubling past: White politicians seemingly don’t dare allow children to know that their ancestors and the U.S. government created these policies…