Archives for category: Racism

This should be a fascinating event, and it starts in only 2 1/2 hours!

Educators and concerned citizens in South Carolina are holding a Town Hall zoom at Furman University about the new legislative mandates that criminalize teaching the truth about race and gender.

I asked for and received permission for readers of this blog to join the zoom.

To register for the zoom, sign in here:

https://furman.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0pZJAK1PSPGZSS4npLWqOg

Kris Nordstrom of the NC Policy Watch notes the loud whining by charter advocates who are outraged by the common sense reforms proposed b6 the Biden administration’s Department of Education. They are whining, writes Nordstrom, because they are guilty of every malpractice that the reforms aim to cure.

Nordstrom begins:

Advocates for charter schools have long justified the existence of charters by claiming they serve as laboratories of innovation for traditional schools. They have claimed that operational flexibility and exemption from regulation allows them to operate more efficiently than traditional public schools. And they have claimed that they are not only willing – but better suited – to serve students from families with low incomes.

These premises have been disproven over the course of North Carolina’s nearly 30-year-long experiment with charter schools. There are no examples of charter school innovations that have offered new approaches for traditional schools (after all, traditional schools can’t follow the example of “successful” charters that garner high test scores by pushing out struggling students). Nor have charters delivered efficiency gains. Charters spend substantially more on administration than their traditional school counterparts. Most North Carolina charters outspend their neighboring traditional schools while serving a more advantaged student population and delivering weaker academic outcomes. Meanwhile, North Carolina charters continue to exacerbate racial segregation and raise costs for traditional inclusive public schools.

Charter advocates have long disputed the overwhelming evidence of their ineffectiveness. But now, they are making the case themselves.

At issue are recent changes to the terms of the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant programs. The CSP provides money to states to run grant programs, “to open and prepare for the operation of new charter schools and to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools.” North Carolina was awarded these federal grant funds specifically to support charters, “focused on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged students.”

Unfortunately, the program run by North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction has failed to meet these goals. Much of the federal funding has been awarded to schools with a history of serving as white flight charter schools and that enroll substantially fewer students from families with low incomes than nearby inclusive public schools. Incredibly, Torchlight Academy was awarded a $500,000 grant in 2020. Just two years later, this school has had its charter revoked for rampant corruption and poor student results

Are high-quality charters unwilling to operate if they can no longer divert as much money as possible into the pockets of corporations? Are charters unwilling to serve as laboratories for innovation that work with traditional public schools to expand promising practices? Are charters unable to craft community impact statements because they are unable to demonstrate community benefits? Are they unwilling to commit to greater school integration efforts because they’d rather effectively pick and choose who their students are?

By opposing the CSP rule changes, charter supporters are implicitly answering the above questions in the affirmative. Their protests affirm the arguments made by charter critics that such schools are overly focused on profit-hoarding, unable to serve as collaborative partners in developing and scaling instructional innovation, exacerbate budget challenges, and contribute to segregation.

The proposed CSP rule changes do not in any way undermine charter schools. They simply ask charters seeking supplemental federal funds to try to live up to the promises made by charter advocates. The protests of charter advocates indicate that – as many of us have been arguing for years – charter schools are largely unable to live up to these promises.

And if charters are – as they now admit – unable to meet these promises, then policymakers should question not just whether they deserve supplemental federal funding through the CSP…but whether such schools are deserving of public funding at all.

Good news sometimes comes in small victories. I this case, the good news is that the legislature in South Carolina did not pass bills banning teaching about race and restricting abortion.

The Charleston Post & Courier reported:

COLUMBIA — Legislation that bars race-centric lessons in South Carolina schools and further limits abortions are likely doomed for the year.

The highly partisan bills are among proposals that did not meet the Legislature’s deadline for clearing at least one chamber, which opponents count as success.

“I’m a firm believer that there is success in stopping bad things from happening,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. “In some cases, it’s a matter of delay.”

The Legislature was preoccupied by debate on a bill about banning transgender athletes from participating in sports that do not match their sexual identity at birth. And they didn’t have time left to deal with other issues.

Tom Ultican, chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement and retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, investigated a strange occurrence in the District of Columbia: Two respected, experienced black educators were fired for refusing to adopt the practices of the so-called Relay “Graduate School” of Education. Relay is not a real graduate school. It has no campus, no research, no graduate programs. It was created by charter schools and recognized by their allies so that charter teachers could teach the tricks of raising test scores to other charter teachers and enable them to get a “master’s degree” from people who had never earned doctorate degrees. Relay’s textbook is Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion.” Relay does not offer the wide range of courses offered in real graduate schools.

He begins:

School leaders and teachers in Washington DC’s wards 7 and 8 are being forced into training given by Relay Graduate School of Education (RSGE). West of the Anacostia River in the wealthier whiter communities public school leader are not forced. When ward 7 and 8 administrators spoke out against the policy, they were fired. Two of them Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King and Marlon Ray, formerly of Boone Elementary School are suing DC Public Schools (DCPS) for violating the Whistleblower Protection Act and the DC Human Rights Act.

Jackson-King and Ray are emblematic of the talented black educators with deep experience that are being driven out of the Washington DC public school system. They are respected leaders in the schools and the community. When it was learned Jackson-King was let go the community protested loudly and created a web site publishing her accomplishments.

In 2014, Jackson-King arrived at the Lawrence E. Boone Elementary school when it was still named Orr Elementary. The school had been plagued by violence and gone through two principals the previous year. Teacher Diane Johnson recalled carrying a bleeding student who had been punched to the nurse’s office. She remembered fighting being a daily occurrence before Jackson-King took over.

In 2018, Orr Elementary went through a $46 million dollar renovation. The community and school board agreed that the name should be changed before the building reopened. Orr was originally named in honor of Benjamin Grayson Orr, a D.C. mayor in the 19th century and slave owner. The new name honors Lawrence Boone a Black educator who was Orr Elementary’s principal from 1973 to 1996.

Jackson-King successfully navigated the campus violence and new construction. By 2019, Boon Elementary was demonstrating solid education progress as monitored by the district’s star ratings. Boone Elementary is in a poor minority neighborhood. It went from a 1-star out of 5 rating when Jackson-King arrived to a 3-star rating her last year there….

Marlon Ray was Boone’s director of strategy and logistics. He worked there for 13-years including the last six under Principal Jackson-King. Despite his long history in the district, Ray was apparently targeted after filing a whistleblower complaint over Relay Graduate School. Ray questioned RGSE’s relationship with DCPS, the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. He implicated Mary Ann Stinson, the DCPS Cluster II instructional superintendent who wrote Jackson-King’s district Impact review that paved the way for her termination. In the lawsuit, Ray alleges that DCPS leadership responded by requiring him to work in person five days a week in the early months of the pandemic while most of his colleagues, including Jackson-King’s replacement Kimberly Douglas, worked remotely. This continued well into the spring of 2021.

In October of 2020, Ray joined with about 30 Washington Teacher’s Union members, parents and students to rally against opening school before it was safe. Ray reported that he received a tongue lashing from a DCPS administrator for being there and then 2-hours later receive a telephoned death threat. He reports the caller saying, “This is Marcus from DCPS; you’re done, you’re through, you’re finished, you’re dead.”

Ray’s position was eliminated in June, 2021…

In Washington DC, the mayor has almost dictatorial power over public education. Therefore, when the mayor becomes convinced of the illusion that public schools are failing, there are few safeguards available to stop the policy led destruction.

In the chart above, notice that all of the key employees she chose to lead DC K-12 education have a strong connection to organizations practicing what Cornell Professor Noliwe Rooks labeled “segrenomics.” In her book Cutting School (Page 2), she describes it as the businesses of taking advantage of separate, segregated, and unequal forms of education to make a profit selling school. Bowser’s first Deputy Mayor for Education, Jennifer Niles, was a charter school founder. Her second Deputy Mayor, Paul Kihn, attended the infamous school privatization centric Broad Academy. She inherited Kaya Henderson as DCPS Chancellor and kept her for five years. Kaya Henderson, a Teach For America alum, was the infamous Michelle Rhee’s heir apparent. The other two Chancellors that Bowser chose, Antwan Wilson and Lewis Ferebee, also attended the Broad Academy and both are members of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change….

The State Superintendent of Education who awarded $7.5 million in public education dollars to five private companies was Hanseul Kang. Before Bowser appointed her to the position Kang was a member of the Broad Residency class of 2012-2014. At that time, she was serving as Chief of Staff for the Tennessee Department of Education while her fellow Broadie, Chris Barbic, was setting up the doomed to fail Tennessee Achievement School District. In 2021, Bowser had to replace Kang because she became the inaugural Executive Director of the new Broad Center at Yale. Bowser chose Christina Grant yet another Broad trained education privatization enthusiast to replace Kang.

For background information on the Broad Academy see Broad’s Academy and Residencies Fuel the Destroy Public Education Agenda.)

Bowser and her team are in many ways impressive, high achieving and admirable people. However, their deluded view of public education and its value is dangerous; dangerous for K-12 education and dangerous for democracy.

“Teach like it is 1885”

The root of the push back against Relay training by ward 7 and 8 educators is found in the authoritarian approach being propagated. NPR listed feedback from dismayed teachers bothered by instructions such as:

  • “Students must pick up their pens within three seconds of starting a writing assignment.
  • “Students must walk silently, in a straight line, hands behind their backs, when they are outside the classroom.
  • “Teachers must stand still, speak in a ‘formal register’ and square their shoulders toward students when they give directions.”

Dr. Jackson-King noted“Kids have to sit a certain way, they have to look a certain way. They cannot be who they are. Those are all the ways they teach you in prison — you have to walk in a straight line, hands behind your back, eyes forward.”

RSGE does not focus on education philosophy or guidance from the world’s foremost educators. Rather its fundamental text is Teach Like a Champion which is a guidebook for no excuses charter schools.

In her book Scripting the Moves Professor Joanne Golann wrote:

No excuses charter school founders established RGSE. In the post “Teach Like its 1885.” published by Jenifer Berkshire, Layla Treuhaft-Ali wrote, “Placed in their proper racial context, the Teach Like A Champion techniques can read like a modern-day version of the *Hampton Idea,* where children of color are taught not to challenge authority under the supervision of a wealthy, white elite….”

‘“Ultimately no-excuses charters schools are a failed solution to a much larger social problem,’ education scholar Maury Nation has argued. ‘How does a society address systemic marginalization and related economic inequalities? How do schools mitigate the effects of a system of White supremacy within which schools themselves are embedded?’ Without attending to these problems, we will not solve the problems of educational inequality. ‘As with so many school reforms,’ Nation argues, ‘no-excuses discipline is an attempt to address the complexities of these problems, with a cheap, simplistic, mass-producible, ‘market-based’ solution.’” (Page 174)

Legitimate education professionals routinely heap scorn on RSGE. Relay practices the pedagogy of poverty and as Martin Haberman says,

“In reality, the pedagogy of poverty is not a professional methodology at all. It is not supported by research, by theory, or by the best practice of superior urban teachers. It is actually certain ritualistic acts that, much like the ceremonies performed by religious functionaries, have come to be conducted for their intrinsic value rather than to foster learning.”

So these two courageous black professionals were fired for refusing to accept the harsh “no excuses” pedagogy designed for black children, designed to make them servile and obedient.

Their jobs should be promptly restored. Mayor Bowser has been captured by the forces of privatization and conformity. She should wake up. Some of the “no excuses” charter schools have recognized the harm they do to black children by treating them as clay to be molded, instead of human beings with vitality and interests who need to discover their talents and the joy of learning.

Frank Breslin is a retired teacher in New Jersey. This article originally appeared in the NJEA monthly publication.

What if your race had known only tragedy
throughout America’s history? What if your people had been enslaved, murdered, persecuted and denied their civil rights?

And what if, instead of owning up to having inflicted such outrages, showing remorse, asking forgiveness, and making amends, those responsible, their descendants and
sympathizers denied that those actions had ever
occurred or, if they had, they had best be forgotten?

But what if the history of those deeds could
never be taught in our schools, but covered in
silence because it would only be “divisive” or
“racist” against those whites who had committed
them? Rather, let bygones be bygones! We should
forget the past and simply move on!

This is the white supremacist gospel being
preached by some in our country today, especially
by protestors at school board meetings. It is the
New Jim Crowism that would leave no public
record in the classroom of the centuries-old infamy that was inflicted on the Black race.

Moreover, these protestors add insult to injury
by denying the victims of this racism the chance to finally have their story told to America’s children as our schools have done for the Holocaust. Children deserve the truth, not fairy tales, even when the truth makes racists uncomfortable.

Anyone with an ounce of humanity could not
help but be moved when learning about the brutal treatment of Blacks over the centuries. Students would learn that the justification of slavery was preached even from church pulpits. They would learn about the KKK, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, fire bombings of Black churches, racial segregation of our schools today—decorously disguised as “school choice,” the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the killing of George Floyd, and the freedom march in Birmingham, Alabama when Commissioner “Bull” Conner turned his fire hoses, attack dogs, and police truncheons on peaceful Black marchers demanding their civil rights, as Americans watched aghast at their TV
screens as it unfolded.

It would be a national catharsis to know that
America was finally coming to terms with the dark
chapters in its history and not-so-distant past. For
this is what great nations do that are big enough,
humble enough, contrite and courageous enough
to admit their failings and vow to do better. The
beginning of healing is the admission of wrong!

Great nations also reverence the sacrosanct
nature of the mind. They do not insult those who
have dedicated their lives to the noble profession of
teaching the young. They do not force teachers to
indoctrinate their students with a sanitized history
that omits the entire truth about their nation’s past.

However, teaching the truth is terrifying to these
protestors who view truth as dangerous, especially
for their children, for it would mean losing control
over their minds. Schools that teach what actually
happened should be shut down because truth
leads to social unrest, and it is better to have peace
based on lies.

In a word, we are dealing with an
educational philosophy that teaches: Thou shalt
not think! Thou shalt not question! Thou shalt
only conform!

These protestors abhor teaching about what
happened to Black people since this would mean
the end of their white supremacist world. Their
protests are an assault on the mind itself, the
importance of truth, and the nature of education.

An education in its ultimate sense is not an
initiation rite into the myths of one’s tribe, but
a personal struggle to free oneself from those
myths. It is escaping from Groupthink. An
education is not about fear of the truth or a blind
acceptance of White supremacist doctrine.

Teachers resist such indoctrination of their
students. They want to teach, not suppress, the
truth of what happened, but these protesters know
what happened and want to suppress it lest it be
taught not only to their children, but to everyone’s
children, as well, a.k.a. censorship.

Teachers refuse to aid and abet this fantasy
of a dying white Supremacy whose days are
numbered as anyone knows who has checked
the demographics, for what we are hearing today
is but its death knell!

A classroom is a sacred place, a temple of
reason, not a recruiting station for a white
supremacist doctrine that would ban the teaching
of Black history because it dismisses Black people
themselves as unimportant in their kind of
supremacist democracy that is not a democracy
at all, but an ethnocentric, xenophobic, wouldbe fascist dictatorship, and not the American
democracy most of us know, cherish, and want
to preserve.

Teachers refuse to violate their consciences by
lying to children and shattering their trust in them,
and when they are forbidden to tell the whole
truth lest it embarrass white racists, they refuse
to betray both children and truth

Frank Breslin is an NJREA member and a retired
English, Latin, German, and social studies
teacher. An educator for over 40 years, he retired
from the Delaware Valley Regional High School.

After four days of hostile grilling by Republicans, the nation had the chance to see a person who stood up to every insulting and demeaning question with a calm and collected demeanor. Judge KJB has a judicial temperament. She demonstrated grace under pressure.

She just received the highest rating from the American Bar Association, in recognition of her record, wisdom and intellect.

The senators running for the Republican nomination used the opportunity to appeal to their racist, Q Anon base, asserting that she was an advocate of critical race theory (false), soft on crime (false), and easy on child pornographers (false).

The judge has been endorsed by police organizations; several of her family members were law enforcement officers.

She opposes racism, but that does not make a CRT ideologue. The fact that her husband is white gives the lie to those like Senator Cruz who portray her as a racist who is hostile to white people.

The flap about child pornographers was an effort by GOP senators to placate the crazies in Q Anon who believe the government is filled with predators of children. Anyone who panders you them should be ashamed.

The judge was even questioned about whether she supports court-packing, a strange question coming from a party who refused to meet with President Obama’s choice “because it was an election year,” but rushed through Justice Barrett’s nomination on the eve of the 2020 election. The court now has 6 conservatives and only three liberals. Judge Brown would not change that uneven balance.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is well qualified to serve on the High Court. She should be promptly confirmed. Republicans should demonstrate that they are not knee-jerk partisans by voting for her.

Ted Cruz harangued Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory. Why did her daughters attend a private school that teaches CRT, he asked, when she sits on the board of the school. Judge Jackson patiently explained that the board does not write the curriculum for the school, Georgetown Country Day School. Cruz professed shock that the school library contains books by Ibram X. Kendi. He is shocked!

Dana Milbank called out Ted Cruz for hypocrisy. His daughters attend the elite St. John’s School in Houston, which unabashedly endorses and teaches critical race theory.

He writes:

Georgetown Day School, in the nation’s capital, does indeed take a strong “anti-racism” approach. So does St. John’s School, the private school in Houston where, as the New Republic’s Timothy Noah noted, Cruz sends his daughters.

As the headmaster and chair of the board of trustees at St. John’s put it in 2020: “Black lives matter. … St. John’s, as an institution, must be anti-racist and eliminate racism of any type — including institutional racism.”

To its credit, the school has vowed to continue to “ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational aspects of our educational program,” and to “incorporate cultural proficiency, diversity, global awareness, and inclusivity into all facets of the K-12 curricula.”

A St. John’s class called “Issues of Justice and Equity in the Twenty-First Century” is labeled a “Critical Race Training Course” by the right-wing Legal Insurrection Foundation.

And there in the St. John’s library catalog is — wait for it — Kendi’s “Stamped (for Kids),” the very book Cruz demanded Jackson account for at Georgetown Day School. Cruz’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson writes on her blog that Republicans want to remove federal protections on many issues and restore states’ control. Several Republican senators have spoken out against Supreme Court decisions that overturned state laws on abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, even interracial marriage. It was Senator Mike Braun of Indiana who said that the states should decide whether people of different races should be allowed to marry, but when the negative reactions poured in, he claimed he misunderstood the question. He was unusually clear for someone who “misunderstood the question.”

It’s sad that any Republican would question the right of people of different races to marry at the very moment that the Senate is questioning a Black woman judge who is married to a white man.

The Republicans who seek to revive a system of states’ rights and long-discredited laws reveal that they long to return to the 1950s, when segregation was legal in some states, women were not allowed to buy contraceptive devices or have an abortion, and gays were in the closet.

On Friday, a large continent of Black students walked out of North Star Academy, a high-scoring no-excuses charter school in Newark, New Jersey. The students were protesting the mistreatment of Black students and teachers.

Chalkbeat reports:

Hundreds of students walked out of a Newark charter school and rallied outside City Hall on Friday to call attention to what students said is the frequent mistreatment of Black students and faculty.

Around 9 a.m., students began streaming out of the Lincoln Park High School campus of North Star Academy, which is New Jersey’s largest charter school operator with more than 6,000 students in Newark and Camden. After marching from the Central Ward campus to nearby City Hall, student organizers and a former teacher gave speeches about a culture of anti-Blackness they said pervades the school, while scores of students cheered and waved signs.

“We’re tired and we’ve been fed up,” 12th grader Kwadjo Otoo called out from the steps of the historic building, adding that some Black teachers and students continue to feel disrespected despite efforts by the charter operator’s leadership to address complaintsabout the schools. “Now they’re trying to pretend like something changed, but we know it’s the same school we’ve been going to forever now.”

Several students said multiple Black teachers over the years have left the school, which the students said is because the teachers felt overworked and undervalued. When well-liked Black teachers depart, their absence can leave students feeling isolated, they said.

“It’s very upsetting for us to build bonds with our teachers, to build relationships and connect,” said L. Drummond, a senior at the Lincoln Park campus, “and then see them chased out by the school.”

The school went into lockdown during the protest, and students who left were not allowed back in after they returned from City Hall. Locked out of school, the students began to disperse around 10:30 a.m.; some said they planned to walk home while others set out for a different North Star campus downtown.

Jill Lepore is a historian at Harvard University and a writer for The New Yorker. In this recent article, she reviews a history of attacks on one of our nation’s most important democratic institutions: our public schools. To read the complete article, subscribe to The New Yorker. It is a wonderful magazine.

She begins:

In 1925, Lela V. Scopes, twenty-eight, was turned down for a job teaching mathematics at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky, her home town. She had taught in the Paducah schools before going to Lexington to finish college at the University of Kentucky. But that summer her younger brother, John T. Scopes, was set to be tried for the crime of teaching evolution in a high-school biology class in Dayton, Tennessee, in violation of state law, and Lela Scopes had refused to denounce either her kin or Charles Darwin. It didn’t matter that evolution doesn’t ordinarily come up in an algebra class. And it didn’t matter that Kentucky’s own anti-evolution law had been defeated. “Miss Scopes loses her post because she is in sympathy with her brother’s stand,” the Times reported.

In the nineteen-twenties, legislatures in twenty states, most of them in the South, considered thirty-seven anti-evolution measures. Kentucky’s bill, proposed in 1922, had been the first. It banned teaching, or countenancing the teaching of, “Darwinism, atheism, agnosticism, or the theory of evolution in so far as it pertains to the origin of man.” The bill failed to pass the House by a single vote. Tennessee’s law, passed in 1925, made it a crime for teachers in publicly funded schools “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Scopes challenged the law deliberately, as part of an effort by the A.C.L.U. to bring a test case to court. His trial, billed as the trial of the century, was the first to be broadcast live on the radio. It went out across the country, to a nation, rapt.

A century later, the battle over public education that afflicted the nineteen-twenties has started up again, this time over the teaching of American history. Since 2020, with the murder of George Floyd and the advance of the Black Lives Matter movement, seventeen states have made efforts to expand the teaching of one sort of history, sometimes called anti-racist history, while thirty-six states have made efforts to restrict that very same kind of instruction. In 2020, Connecticut became the first state to require African American and Latino American history. Last year, Maine passed “An Act to Integrate African American Studies into American History Education,” and Illinois added a requirement mandating a unit on Asian American history.

On the blackboard on the other side of the classroom are scrawled what might be called anti-anti-racism measures. Some ban the Times’ 1619 Project, or ethnic studies, or training in diversity, inclusion, and belonging, or the bugbear known as critical race theory. Most, like a bill recently introduced in West Virginia, prohibit “race or sex stereotyping,” “race or sex scapegoating,” and the teaching of “divisive concepts”—for instance, the idea that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist,” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

While all this has been happening, I’ve been working on a U.S.-history textbook, so it’s been weird to watch lawmakers try their hands at writing American history, and horrible to see what the ferment is doing to public-school teachers. In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin set up an e-mail tip line “for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated . . . or where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools.” There and elsewhere, parents are harassing school boards and reporting on teachers, at a time when teachers, who earn too little and are asked to do too much, are already exhausted by battles over remote instruction and mask and vaccine mandates and, not least, by witnessing, without being able to repair, the damage the pandemic has inflicted on their students. Kids carry the burdens of loss, uncertainty, and shaken faith on their narrow shoulders, tucked inside their backpacks. Now, with schools open and masks coming off, teachers are left trying to figure out not only how to care for them but also what to teach, and how to teach it, without losing their jobs owing to complaints filed by parents.

There’s a rock, and a hard place, and then there’s a classroom. Consider the dilemma of teachers in New Mexico. In January, the month before the state’s Public Education Department finalized a new social-studies curriculum that includes a unit on inequality and justice in which students are asked to “explore inequity throughout the history of the United States and its connection to conflict that arises today,” Republican lawmakers proposed a ban on teaching “the idea that social problems are created by racist or patriarchal societal structures and systems.” The law, if passed, would make the state’s own curriculum a crime.

Evolution is a theory of change. But in February—a hundred years, nearly to the day, after the Kentucky legislature debated the nation’s first anti-evolution bill—Republicans in Kentucky introduced a bill that mandates the teaching of twenty-four historical documents, beginning with the 1620 Mayflower Compact and ending with Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing.” My own account of American history ends with the 2020 insurrection at the Capitol, and “The Hill We Climb,” the poem that Amanda Gorman recited at the 2021 Inauguration. “Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: / That even as we grieved, we grew.”

Did we, though? In the nineteen-twenties, the curriculum in question was biology; in the twenty-twenties, it’s history. Both conflicts followed a global pandemic and fights over public education that pitted the rights of parents against the power of the state. It’s not clear who’ll win this time. It’s not even clear who won last time. But the distinction between these two moments is less than it seems: what was once contested as a matter of biology—can people change?—has come to be contested as a matter of history. Still, this fight isn’t really about history. It’s about political power. Conservatives believe they can win midterm elections, and maybe even the Presidency, by whipping up a frenzy about “parents’ rights,” and many are also in it for another long game, a hundred years’ war: the campaign against public education.

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