Archives for category: Racism

We saw this coming. The GOP candidates for President have decided, for now, to focus their campaigns against “critical race theory,” Black history, the threat posed by transgender students, and any teaching about race, sex, and gender.

Juan Perez of Politico reports:

CULTURE CLASH — Once upon a time, back when people used fax machines, education policy — test scores, spending, school choice and the like — were a notable feature of Republican presidential campaigns.

Former President George W. Bush’s support for education spending and the transformative No Child Left Behind Act was enshrined in the party’s 2004 platform. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee railed that a general lack of concern about education in the 2008 presidential field “frustrates the fire out of me.” Bush’s brother, Jeb, invoked Martin Luther King 2016 when he proposed a detailed education platform before his campaign fizzled.

This year, education is re-emerging as a prominent issue for the budding 2024 GOP field. But America is poised to witness a presidential contest where the debate over school policy sounds dramatically different — with discussions over academic standards and the stunning, once-in-a-generation hitto test scores taking a back seat to issues with a more distinct culture war bent.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is salting a back-to-basics education mantra with brimstone, targeting school lessons on race and sexuality. Former Vice President Mike Pence has put a small Iowa school system’s gender identity policy in the national spotlight. And Former President Donald Trump is stirring up concerns about “pink-haired communists teaching our kids.”

Haley’s campaign launch last week offered a sign of the heightened role the education wars are about to play in the GOP primary.

“They’re talking about critical race theory, where if you send a five year old kindergartner into school — if she’s white, you’re telling her she’s bad, and if she’s brown or Black you’re telling her she’s never going to be good enough and she’s always going to be a victim,” Haley said of the academic practice to a New Hampshire crowd last week. “That’s abusive.”

She added that a Florida ban on sexual orientation and gender identity lessons for young students — championed by rival Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — “didn’t go far enough.”

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have sex ed until seventh grade,” Haley said to applause in New Hampshire. “That’s the kind of stuff you do at home, you don’t do that at school. That’s the kind of thing parents do.”

For his part, Pence has focused attention on an Iowa dispute, in which the conservative Parents Defending Education organization is suing the Linn-Mar Community School District to stop it from enforcing a policy that directs educators to protect their students’ gender identities on campus.

The court case has garnered supportive briefs from the Pence-backed Advancing American Freedom organization plus a coalition of Christian groups and Republican state attorneys general. The legal battle is also the focus of a Pence political initiative— funded with an initial budget of $1 million — that will advocate for “parental rights” policies embraced by conservatives.

“We’re told that we must not only tolerate the left’s obsessions with race and sex and gender but we must earnestly and enthusiastically participate or face severe consequences,” Pence told supporters last week. “Nowhere is the problem more severe, or the need for leadership more urgent, than in our public school classrooms,” he said.

Trump’s education plan, unveiled last month, calls for cutting federal funding for any school or program that includes “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.”

Trump would also open civil rights investigations into any school district that has engaged in race-based discrimination, particularly against Asian American students. He also called to “keep men out of women’s sports,” make significant cuts to school administrative personnel, elect school principals and end teacher tenure.

“As the saying goes, personnel is policy and at the end of the day if we have pink-haired communists teaching our kids we have a major problem,” Trump said.

Sen. Tim Scott, who is testing the waters on a potential presidential bid, is taking a less combative approach. Speaking at a GOP Black History Month event in Charleston last week, the South Carolina senator said “the story of America is not defined by our original sin, the story of America is defined by our redemption” and urged Republicans to “be the party of parents.”

Scott and others are responding to the GOP grassroots energy surrounding issues at the intersection of race, gender, culture and education — which Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin successfully harnessed in his 2021 blue-state victory.

The sharp-edged rhetoric might get sanded down for the general election. But for now, not getting outflanked on education controversies that currently animate the right appears to be the first order of business for the 2024 field.


Tomorrow, on Saturday, parents and community members from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and HEAL Together, alongside organizations from Florida and Pennslyvania, will hold a press conference opposing Governor Ron DeSantis’ harmful policies attacking our children’s freedom to learn. The press conference will take place opposite the site of DeSantis’ keynote speech at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. Florida advocates will speak at the press conference to warn that DeSantis’ policies are bringing chaos to Florida families.

The full media advisory is below. Feel free to reach out to the media contact: Moira Kaleida | 412-760-0030 |



Harrisburg, PA – Saturday, April 1, 2023, parents and community members from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and HEAL Together, alongside Moms Rising, Red Wine & Blue, 412 Justice and Common Purpose (West Palm Beach, FL), and parents and community members from Florida to Pennsylvania will hold a press conference opposing Governor DeSantis’ harmful policies attacking our children’s freedom to learn.

The press conference will take place opposite the site of DeSantis’ keynote speech at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.

Concerned parents and community members will speak in response to the attacks on public education, including the passage of classroom censorship laws, the voucher bill which is a $5 billion giveaway to rich families, and the ban on life-saving education and healthcare for LGBTQIA+ youth.

Florida advocates will speak at the press conference to warn that these policies are bringing chaos to Florida families.

Education justice groups will be holding rallies also on April 1 in Miami, Orlando, Pinellas County and other sites throughout Florida to protest DeSantis’ anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ policies that have had a devastating impact on Florida’s children.

Pennsylvanians have voted against these policies in the past, and through solidarity with Floridians, Pennsylvanians have an opportunity to oppose DeSantis’ divisive tactics in order to ensure that all children have the freedom to learn and build a better future.

WHAT: Press conference with Pennsylvanians and Floridians to oppose Governor Ron DeSantis’ harmful policies attacking our children, our schools and our educational freedom after DeSantis’ keynote speech at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.

WHEN: April 1, 2023. Press Conference begins at 1 PM EST.

WHERE: In front of Harrisburg Academy (10 Erford Rd, Wormleysburg, PA 17043). The press conference location is across the street from Penn Harris Hotel (1150 Camp Hill Bypass, Camp Hill, PA 17011) where the Pennsylvania Leadership conference takes place.

WHO: Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), with HEAL Together, Moms Rising, Red Wine & Blue, Common Purpose, 412 Justice, and parents, educators, and community members.

For on-site interviews, contact: Moira Kaleida | 412-760-0030 |


The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is a coalition of parent, youth, community and labor organizations fighting to reclaim the promise of public education as our nation’s gateway to a strong democracy and racial and economic justice. AROS is uniting parents, youth, teachers and unions to drive the transformation of public education, shift the public debate and build a national movement for equity and opportunity for all.

HEAL (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together is building a movement of students, educators, and parents in school districts across the United States who believe that an honest, accurate and fully funded public education is the foundation for a just, multiracial democracy.

Take that, DeSatanis!

USA Today conducted a poll and found that most Americans think it’s good to be “woke.”

Republican presidential hopefuls are vowing to wage a war on “woke,” but a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds a majority of Americans are inclined to see the word as a positive attribute, not a negative one.

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed say the term means “to be informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices.” That includes not only three-fourths of Democrats but also more than a third of Republicans.

Overall, 39% say instead that the word reflects what has become the GOP political definition, “to be overly politically correct and police others’ words.” That’s the view of 56% of Republicans.

So, do you want to be informed and aware?

Or do you prefer to be uninformed and asleep?

By the way, I got an email inviting me to attend a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. That means he is running. He will talk about “the Florida Vision.” I assume that means banning books, vetting Black history, banning art, crushing academic freedom, silencing all dissent.

I prefer American values, the ones in our Constitution.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, recently joined parents, students, and teachers at a rally in Austin, Texas, to protest the state’s decision to take control of the Houston Independent School District. The district is no longer “independent,” since the state asserted its control. And Republicans showed that they don’t really believe in “local control,” any more than they believe in “parents rights.”

As a graduate of HISD, I feel especially outraged by the state takeover on flimsy grounds. Governor Abbott and Commissioner Mike Morath are playing politics. These kids are the future of Texas. Why are they being used as pawns?

Burris wrote the following explanation of the state takeover. It appeared on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post website.

Strauss begins:

The administration of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced this month that the state was taking over the public school district in Houston even though the Texas Education Agency last year gave the district a “B” rating. The district, the eighth-largest in the country, has nearly 200,000 students, the overwhelming majority of them Black or Hispanic, and opposition to the move in the city, which votes Democratic, has been strong.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath said the takeover was necessary because of the poor performance of some schools in the district — even though most of the troubled schools have made significant progress recently.

Here is the real story of the takeover, written by Carol Burris, an award-winning former New York school principal who is executive director of the Network for Public Education. The nonprofit alliance of organizations advocates the improvement of public education and sees charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — as part of a movement to privatize public education.

By Carol Burris

Houston parents, teachers, and community leaders are protesting the decision by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath to take over the Houston Independent School District. Some see the takeover as grounded in racism and retribution; others as big-government intrusion.

For Houston mom Kourtney Revels, the decision represents a hypocritical dismissal of parents by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). “How can Governor Abbott pretend to support parent empowerment and rights when he has just taken away the rights of over 200,000 parents in Houston ISD against their will and has not listened to our concerns or our voice?” she asked.

The takeover is the latest move in a long list of actions by Abbott’s administration to attack public school districts and expand privatized alternatives, including poorly regulated charter schools and now a proposed voucher program that would use public money for private and religious education. And critics see them all as connected.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Houston Democrat, told the Houston Chronicle, that the takeover of the Houston district is part of Abbott’s attempt “to push” vouchers and charter schools, and to “promote and perpetuate the things that Governor Abbott believes and hears about, and that obviously isn’t diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The first takeover forum sponsored by the Texas Education Agency, which Morath leads, was described in the Houston Chronicle as “emotional and chaotic.” This week, the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice is leading a protest march before another TEA hearing. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D), who represents the city, has asked the Biden administration to open a civil rights investigation into the takeover.


The Houston Independent School District is Texas’s largest school district, with 284 schools and almost 200,000 students. It is also the eighth-largest district in the nation. Eight in 10 students come from economically disadvantaged families, and more than 1 in 3 students are not proficient in English. Fewer than 10 percent of the students are White.

The first attempted takeover of HISD by Morath was in 2019. The rationale for the takeover was school board misconduct and the seven negative ratings of Phillis Wheatley High School, one of the district’s 284 schools. Wheatley had been rated “academically acceptable” almost every other year until the YES Prep charter school opened nearby in 2011. During the 2021-2022 school year, Wheatley served 10 times as many Black students and more than twice as many students with disabilities as YES Prep, located just a five-minute drive away.

The district went to court to stop the takeover, and the debate wove through the courts until the Texas Supreme Court gave the green light for the takeover in January.

Almost four years have passed since the first takeover attempt, and the district has made impressive strides. The electorate replaced the 2019 school board, and a highly respected superintendent, Millard House, was appointed.

By every objective measure, the district is on a positive trajectory. The district is B-rated, and in less than two years, 40 of 50 Houston schools that had previously received a grade of D or F received a grade of C or better. Wheatley High School’s grade, the school that triggered that 2019 takeover attempt, moved from an F to a C, just two points from a B rating.

While there is a law that triggers a TEA response when a school repeatedly fails, the state Supreme Court did not mandate the takeover of the district. Under Texas law, Morath had two options — close the school or take over the district by appointing a new Board of Managers and a superintendent. He chose to strip local control. For those who have followed the decisions of Morath, his choice, the harsher of the two, comes as no surprise.

Mike Morath and charter schools

Mike Morath, a former software developer, was appointed education commissioner by Abbott in 2015. Morath had served a short stint on the Dallas school board, proposing that the public school district become a home-rule charter system, thus eliminating the school board and replacing it will a board appointed by then-Mayor Mike Rawlings, the former chief executive of Pizza Hut. Transformation into a charter system would also eliminate the rights and protections of Dallas teachers, making it easier to fire staff at will.

Morath and the mayor were supported in their quest to privatize the Dallas school system by a group ironically called Support Our Public Schools. While many of its donors remained anonymous, one did not — Houston billionaire John Arnold. Morath admitted encouraging the development of Support Our Public Schools and soliciting Arnold’s help in founding the organization.

Arnold, a former Enron executive and Houston resident, is a major donor and board member of the City Fund, a national nonprofit that believes in disruptive change and “nonprofit governing structures” for schools rather than traditional school boards. The City Fund touts New Orleans as the greatest school reform success. Arnold is joined on the board of the City Fund by billionaire and former Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has blamed public school woes on elected school boards and said 90 percent of all students should be in charter schools.

The plot to turn the Dallas school system into a charter system fizzled by January 2015. In December of that year, Abbott plucked Morath from the school board to become Texas education commissioner based on his record as a “change-agent.”

As commissioner, Morath has unilaterally approved charter schools at what many consider to be an alarming rate. Patti Everitt is a Texas education policy consultant who closely follows the decisions of the Texas Education Agency. Everitt noted that Morath “has the sole authority to approve an unlimited number of new charter campuses in Texas — without general public notice, no community meeting, and no vote by any democratic entity.” According to Everitt, he has used this power more frequently than his predecessors. “Since Mike Morath became Commissioner, data from TEA shows that he has approved 75 percent of all requests from existing charter operators to open new campuses, a total of 547 new campuses across the state,” she said.

In 2021, according to Everitt, Morath approved 11 new campuses for International Leadership of Texas Charter Schools, even though 28 percent of the chain’s schools had received D or F grades in prior ratings.

Georgina Cecilia Pérez served two terms on the Texas State Board of Education, from 2017 to 2022. During that time, she observed the Texas Education Agency up close. A 2017 state law provides financial incentives for districts to partner with open-enrollment charter schools, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations or government entities. She said that several charter partnerships with the Houston school district have been in the works waiting for the state takeover. She predicts Morath will approve them, “with no public vote.”

Abbott, Morath, and vouchers

Few were surprised this year when Abbott declared that establishing an Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program would be one of his highest priorities this legislative session. ESA vouchers, the most controversial of all voucher programs, provide substantial taxpayer dollars, through an account or via a debit card, to private school and home-school parents to spend on educational services. Eight states presently have ESA vouchers, with three new programs in Arkansas, Iowa and Utah approved to begin in coming academic years. Other legislatures in red states, notably New Hampshire and Florida, are pushing for ESA program expansion.

Abbott had been reluctant to embrace vouchers — possibly because of a lot of opposition in Texas, especially in rural areas — causing some to speculate that his newly expressed support for them is linked to presidential ambitions. School choice is a pet cause of one potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Two voucher bills are now weaving their way through the Texas Senate. S.B. 8 would give families a voucher of $8,000 per child a year and institute a parents’ “bill of rights” that allows parents to review public school curriculums through parent portals. A second bill, S.B. 176, would give private school and home-school families a $10,000-per-child annual voucher. Although Abbott has not endorsed either bill, he has made it clear that he supports a universal voucher program, promoting universal vouchers in speeches at some of the state’s most expensive private Christian schools.

Last year, Morath gave tacit support for vouchers, claiming that “there is no evidence” that vouchers would reduce public school funding. In February 2023, however, when questioned during a state Senate hearing, the commissioner admitted that voucher programs could have a negative fiscal impact on public schools.

That same month, his second-in-command, Deputy Commissioner Steve Lecholop, encouraged an unhappy parent from the Joshua Independent School District to work with the governor’s speechwriter to promote vouchers, saying it would be a great way to “stick it to” the school district.

The lack of success of district takeovers

Regardless of Abbott’s and Morath’s ultimate objective — whether it be flipping some or all of Houston’s public schools to charters — research on state takeovers has consistently shown that state takeovers nearly always occur in majority-minority districts and rarely improve student achievement. Student results in takeover districts, with only a few exceptions, have remained the same or decreased. That was the conclusion of a comprehensive cross-state study published in 2021. The study’s authors, Beth Schueler of the University of Virginia and Joshua Bleiberg of Brown University found “no evidence that takeover generates academic benefits.”

This intervention does not help students, and it mutes community voices, undermines democracy in Black and Hispanic communities, and pushes charter schools and other privatized alternatives to democratically governed schools.

An example is the takeover of Philadelphia’s public schools in 2001. Then-Gov. Tom Ridge (R) hired Edison Learning, a for-profit management company led by Chris Whittle, to study the district at the cost of $2 million. Edison Learning made a recommendation that it play a significant role in the reform and proposed running up to 70 schools. After community outrage, the number was reduced to 20. A few years later, the number of managed schools increased to 22. It was not long, however, before Edison Learning and the district were embroiled in a lawsuit concerning liability damages after a student was sexually assaulted in an Edison-operated school. By 2008, all for-profit management companies, including Edison, were gone. By 2017, the state takeover experiment ended.

Retired teacher Karel Kilimnik of Philadelphia had a first-row seat. She taught at a school taken over by the for-profit management company called Victory Co., which ran six schools under the School Reform Commission. The Reform Commission “promised academic and financial improvements that failed to materialize over their 16 years of control,” Kilimnik said. “Instead of improving the district, they opened the door to privatization and charter expansion and laid out the welcome mat for graduates of the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy. They paved the way for the doomsday budget resulting in massive layoffs, larger class sizes, and the elimination of art and music.”

In his 2017 book, “Takeover,” New York University professor Domingo Morel concluded that, based on his extensive research, state takeovers are driven more by the desire of state actors to take political control away from Black and Hispanic communities than about school improvement. Recently in the Conversation, Morel described the seizure of the Houston school district as motivated by a need by the Republican establishment to thwart the growing empowerment of Black and Latinos as their numbers increase in Texas.

“The Houston public school system is not failing,” Morel said. “Rather, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and the Republican state legislature are manufacturing an education crisis to prevent people of color in Houston from exercising their citizenship rights and seizing political power.”

Allison Newport, a Houston mother of two Houston public school elementary students, agrees. “The commissioner should be congratulating Houston ISD and Wheatley High School for such incredible improvement in performance instead of punishing the students, parents, and teachers who worked so hard to make it happen.”

John Merrow updates a famous saying from the Second World War. There was a time when every educated person knew it, often by heart. It is about indifference to the sorrow and tragedy of others.

He begins:

First they came for the transgender kids, and I did not speak out—because I am not transgender.  

Then they came for the bisexuals, the gays, and the lesbians, and I did not speak out—because I am none of those.  

Then they came for the same sex couples, and I did not speak out—because I am married to a woman.  

Then they came for me—but by that time the puritans, the fascists, and the power-hungry were in complete control, and speaking out was not allowed. 

Of course, that is not what German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller wrote back in the 1930’s, of course.  What he said was this:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.  

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.  

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.  

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Hitler’s supporters responded to Pastor Niemoller’s warning by sending him to a concentration camp, where he stayed for eight years, until World War II ended in 1945.

His warning is regularly revised to reflect the threats of the times.  I was in college when I first encountered it, and, as I recall, that version began “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew.” 

I’ve rewritten the lines because of what is going on now, here in the United States and elsewhere.  Do you think I am kidding?  Read this:

Robert Foster, a former Mississippi House lawmaker who lost a 2019 bid for governor, is using his social-media platform to call for the execution of political foes who support the rights of transgender people.  “Some of y’all still want to try and find political compromise with those that want to groom our school aged children and pretend men are women, etc,” the former Republican representative from Hernando, Miss., wrote in a Thursday night tweet. “I think they need to be lined up against (a) wall before a firing squad to be sent to an early judgment.”  Here’s the full story:

And this: 

Michael Knowles—right-wing political commentator associated with the Daily Wire—said “for the good of society… transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely” at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday afternoon.

As you are reading this, dozens of states are considering draconian legislation–more than 120 bills were introduced before the end of January–that threatens the lives of young people struggling with their sexual identity. Other states have already passed legislation, which their Republican governors have signed. The ACLU has a good list here. Another organization, GLSEN, is also keeping watch here.

Please open the link and read the rest of this fine piece.

The principal of the Classical Charter School in Tallahassee was told to resign or be fired after a parent complained that a sixth grade art class saw a “pornographic” photograph of a sculpture. It was a picture of Michelangelo’s masterpiece “David.” Considered one of the greatest sculptures in the world, “David” is a massive piece of marble that is the centerpiece of the Accademia Gallery of Florence (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze) in Florence, Italy.

The Tallahassee Classical Charter School follows the Hillsdale College curriculum, supposedly based on the classics. The “David” is certainly a great classical work of art.

Dan Kois of Slate interviewed the chairman of the school’s board, Barney Bishop III. This is a small excerpt. Kois’s questions are in bold.

I tend to think of a classical education as being the mode in the 17th, 18th century, where you study the Greeks and Romans, and Western civilization is central. A tutor or teacher is the expert, and that teacher drives the curriculum. You’re describing something where it seems the parents drive the curriculum. How does your classical education differ from the classical education as I think of it?

What kind of question is that, Dan? I don’t know how they taught in the 17th, 18th century, and neither do you. You live in New York?


You’ve got a 212 number. That’s New York.

I lived in New York when I got the cellphone, many years ago. Now I live in Virginia.

Well, we’re Florida, OK? Parents will decide. Parents are the ones who are going to drive the education system here in Florida. The governor said that, and we’re with the governor. Parents don’t decide what is taught. But parents know what that curriculum is. And parents are entitled to know anytime their child is being taught a controversial topic and picture.

Parents choose this school because they want a certain kind of education. We’re not gonna have courses from the College Board. We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap. I know they do all that up in Virginia. The rights of parents, that trumps the rights of kids. Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me? I know lots of teachers that are very good, but to suggest they are the authorities, you’re on better drugs than me.

Please read the full interview.

I would like to give credit for the meme below. I found it on the Twitter feed of “Trump is Putin’s Puppet.” The person who posted it said was time to add Art to the list of bans.

John Thompson is a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma who follows the goings-on in his state closely. I wish there were someone like him in every state: wise, experienced, intelligent, articulate.

What was Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters thinking when, this weekend, he posted on Twitter a photo of a White, blond, young woman washing her hands in a bathroom with two Black, young women in the mirror next to her? To see the photo, click here.

Walters added the message, “I will always fight for students,” and “Student Safety over liberal agenda.” But, why would Walters see the photo as a real-life portrait of Blacks threatening Whites?

Since I’m not familiar with the insides of female students’ bathrooms, I checked out the 1.3k replies to the post. One responder found the same three young women in another photo that indicates it didn’t capture a real-life interaction. Another apparently found the source of the photo, a Linkedin post by Femly, entitled Period Equity Laws: Here’s why organizations should go above and beyond to ensure their period care offering is equitable! So, it appears to me that Femly’s message is about combating the stigma and shame that surrounds menstruation, even though Ryan’s use of the photo obviously sent the opposite message in terms of race.

One response on Twitter asked why Walters would choose “a period equity ad and then present it in such as a way that it looks pro-segregation?” But another had a different answer, noting that one of the Black students “clearly has books in that backpack. I’ll bet they’re books that promote CRT—books about the Tulsa Massacre or the Trail of Tears.”

Seriously, these tweets all add support for the editorial, It’s Time for Ryan Walters to End Disparaging Rhetoric or Resign, by the Oklahoman’s managing editor for diversity, community engagement & opinion, Clytie Bunyan. Bunyan wrote the “tweet was the latest of Walters’ blatant and unapologetic insults on Oklahoma.” She also provided context:

When you’re looking at curricula and allowing European history but surgically removing Black history, that’s racism. When Walters poses for a Christmas photo with his family with a white Santa and declares “No Woke Santa this year” at a time when stories about the popularity of a Black Santa and representation from a Native American Santa are published and aired in local media, that’s racism.

Bunyan correctly noted that Walters has:

Problems with messaging. His incessant video tweets are filled with offensive racist implications. He apparently believes we, the people of Oklahoma, have given him the authority to be unabashedly racist in his dog-whistling pronouncements.

Buynan notes that the “confusing tweet” … “leaves no positive benchmark, only angst, tension and more poison spreading through Oklahoma.” So, if he can’t do more than spread discord, he should “resign.”

As was demonstrated in the previous week, Walters is not alone spewing hatred and racism. So, I wonder what was on the minds of the Republican House members who censured and removed Rep. Mauree Turner from her committees. What did they think was in the head of the nation’s first, non-binary, Black Muslim, when she spoke with Capitol law enforcement agents before giving them access to her office and a trans-gender demonstrator? As Politico explained, “the spouse of a protester who threw water on a state lawmaker sought shelter in their office.”

Politico also recounted the abuse and death threats Turner has received, and it added an Editor’s note:

Turner read aloud from an email sent to their inbox. The sender hurled racist, transphobic, homophobic and Islamophobic insults at Turner and said they should be shunned from society because they were a burden. POLITICO has chosen not to print the insults so as not to elevate hateful rhetoric.

So, what did Turner have in mind when speaking with the police? Rep. Turner has witnessed the stress created by 40 anti-trans and/or anti-LGBTQ bills that have been filed this session. The protest was against “HB 2177, a bill that would outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.” And clearly, Turner and her supporters were being treated differently than the two legislators who are being prosecuted for felonies.

And, I wonder what the Republican leadership was thinking when they failed to talk with Turner before filing the censure without warning. And I wonder what Republicans who were quietly embarrassed by it were feeling when they stripped Turner’s and her district’s representation in committees.

Of course, there are questions about what plenty of Oklahoma MAGA’s had in mind when they’ve made extreme statements. For instance, what did Gov. Stitt mean when he claimed “every square inch” of Oklahoma for Jesus? And what was Sen. Shane Jett thinking when attacking Social and Emotional Learning as a leftist plot to “psychologically manipulate children and surveil Oklahoma families under the guise of addressing trauma.”

Then, what was in the minds of Republicans who voted down a bipartisan bill, HB 1028 which “would prohibit schools from administering corporal punishment to “any student identified with disability in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

As the Washington Post reported, “Oklahoma state Rep. John Talley thought his bill to bar schools from spanking children with disabilities would find little to no opposition at the state’s legislature.” After all, he “had a call with a U.S. Marshal who told me his autistic daughter got spanked three times in a day for not doing her math correctly — there’s a point when you have to step up and say ‘this is just wrong.’”

But, “what seemed like a rare bipartisan moment quickly came crashing down as other Republican lawmakers invoked the Bible to argue against Talley’s House Bill 1028, claiming in some instances that ‘God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts,’ as Rep. Jim Olsen posited during the proposed legislation’s debate.” The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported that Olsen further explained, “Somebody mentioned that American (Academy of) Pediatrics thinks (spanking) is a bad idea.” Then, “After reading Bible verses he said prove that God condones corporal punishment. ‘I disagree. And I have a higher authority.’”

In other words, every week since the Oklahoma legislature convened, rightwing extremists have continually hurled one cruel and irrational assault after another at our democracy. It seems like more Republicans are disturbed by this MAGA craziness. A few have spoken out against a few of the behaviors that they see as wrong. So, I wonder what is in the minds of Republicans who are being pressured to vote for such a brutal agenda. I wonder when they will reach a point when you have to step up and say “this is just wrong.”

John Thompson added as a postscript:

“Several people were a little nervous about voting for it because they thought they were voting against the Bible,” said [John] Talley, R-Stillwater,” and he’s working to get those Republicans to reconsider their votes.

Steven Singer, a teacher in Pennsylvania, cannot understand why the word “WOKE” has become a term of derision, when it means being aware of racial and social injustice. Who wants to erase our sense of right and wrong?

He explains:

“I advise everybody, be a little careful when they go along through there – best stay woke, keep their eyes open.”–Lead Belly“Scottsboro Boys”

How can you understand a problem if you are not allowed to name it?

How can you fight injustice if you are forbidden from learning its history and connection to the present moment?

These questions are at the heart of a well-financed war against a simple term – woke-ness.

Since the summer of 2020, oligarchs and their tools in the United States have been waging a disinformation campaign against that term – especially as it pertains to our schools.

Chiding, nagging, insinuating – you hear it constantly, usually with a sneer and wagging finger, but what does it really mean?

To hear certain governors, state legislators and TV pundits talk, you’d think it was the worst thing in the world. But it’s not that at all.

In its simplest form, being woke is just being alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.

That’s all – just knowing that these things exist and trying to recognize them when present.

I’m not sure what’s so controversial about that. If we all agree racism is bad, why is it undesirable to acknowledge it exists when it’s demonstrably there?

More specifically, being woke means focusing on intersectionality – how issues of race, class and gender overlap and interrelate with each other. It means practicing critical race theory – not the made up dog whistle conservatives use to describe anything they don’t like being taught in school, but the study of how racial bias is inherent in many Western social and legal systems. It means using the lens of Black feminism, queer theory and others to address structural inequality.

Again, why is that a bad thing? If we agree that prejudice is bad, we should want to avoid it in every way possible, and these are the primary tools that enable us to do so.

Our society is not new. We have history to show us how we got here and how these issues have most successfully been addressed in the past.

But these Regressives demand we ignore it all.

Shouldn’t we protect hard-fought advances in human rights? Shouldn’t we continue to strive for social justice and the ability of every citizen to freely participate in our democracy – especially in our public schools?…

As public school teachers, being woke is not a choice. It is a responsibility.

For we are the keepers of history, science and culture.

Who will teach the true history that for more than 400 years in excess of 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the transatlantic slave trade? Who will teach the true history of the fight against human bondage and the struggle for equal rights? Who will teach about women’s fight for suffrage, equal pay, and reproductive freedom? Who will teach about the struggle of the individual to affirm their own gender identity and sexual expression?

We, teachers, must help students understand what happened, what’s happening and why. And to do so we must protect concepts that emerged from decades of struggle against all forms of domination.

It must be us.

Please open the link and read the rest.

And stay WOKE.

Mercedes Schneider tries a thought experiment. Is it possible to create a universal education voucher that is “seamless” and reduces the role of government?

Imagine a state with one million students, each given a sum of money to spend on their education. Simple, right?


As she demonstrates, such a program will require a massive bureaucracy to administer. Unless the public doesn’t care where the money goes, whether it was wasted or stolen.

She begins:

The idea of taxpayer funding for K12 education following the student– “funding portability”– is not new. Following the COVID pandemic and the closing of schools (or following a virtual model that taxed family functioning and internet capabilities) has contributed to a rise in public willingness to consider funding portability. Conservative organizations like the Reason Foundation are ready to offer suggestions on how to institute universal funding portability “and ensure funds flow seamlessly across district boundaries.”

As I read the Reason article linked above, my first thought was on how it would require a monstrous bureaucracy to administer and track funding sent directly to the parents/guardians of each student. This cannot be understated. Consider the mess it would be, say, if the funding went to an old bank account, or wrong bank account. Consider the bureaucratic mess it would present if a child transferred schools at an inconvenient time. So many bank accounts to keep straight. So many payments or partial payments to track to parent from state, or from parent to correct school. Not just any school– the school at which student attendance has been verified.

Now think of this on the level of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of students.

In order for the transfer of funds to proceed “seamlessly” (Reason’s word), it would entail rules and guidelines, and accountability departments and scheduled, incremental payments, and stop-payment procedures for the school the student no longer attended. It would mean an established appeals process when money was sent to the wrong school, or in the name of the wrong child even in the same household (say, if several children attend different schools, even in different counties or states).

I haven’t even mentioned the bureaucracy needed to to both combat and confront acts of fraud committed by those disbursing and receiving funds.

Universal funding portability would also mean school and district budgets being thrown into chaos because money supposed to arrive one child at a time doesn’t just show up like idyllic magic.

None of this is smooth, and none of this is easy, and none of this is wondrously seamless.

Please open the link and read on.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Professor Sam Joeckel was fired by Palm Beach Atlantic University, a private Christian university where he has taught for more than two decades. A student complained that he discussed”racial justice” as a topic for his students to write about.

Joeckel walked into his office one day last week and discovered that his telephone and computer were gone. Apparently a parent complained that he was indoctrinating students by teaching about racism.

Joeckel had an idea something was up because he was called in by administrators to explain his rational for teaching about racial justice. There was also a rumor that he had said something positive about gay people,which the university forbids.

The president of the university, Dr. Debra Schwann, took a personal interest in the case.

The parent who complained had “a reasonable concern about Dr. Joeckel lecturing substantially on the history of racism and racial justice in a class designed to teach writing,” Schwinn wrote in the email.

Afterwards, she said, the dean and provost reached out to Joeckel and “shared their intention to schedule a time to review his syllabus with him so they could understand better the pedagogical rationale for including these lectures in a writing class.”

Later in the email, Schwinn went on to describe PBAU’s approach to teaching about racial issues from a “biblical worldview.”

His course consisted of four units: the one on racial justice, others on comedy and humor, gothic and horror, and gender equality.

Current and former students describe Joeckel as a beloved professor who was well known on campus. Several were confused by Schwinn’s email and the allegation that he was indoctrinating students.

Chrissy Perez, 22, a former honors student at PBAU who graduated in 2022, took many of Joeckel’s honors courses, which she described as a mix of philosophy and history. In one course, Joeckel taught about modern-day social justice movements, including racial justice movements, Perez said, but it was “nothing radical at all.”

“The only thing that was even kind of unique about the unit was that it presented documents that were written by people of color rather than history about people of color written by white people,” she said.