Monday Wake Up Call – July 19, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Morning Glory Geyser, Yellowstone NP, WY – 2021 photo by Edwin Buske Photography. The geyser used to be blue, not green. Tourists throwing things into it have changed it’s color. The debris affected water circulation and lowered the geyser’s temperature. That caused a bloom of orange and yellow bacteria.

The Republicans won’t stop fighting Critical Race Theory (CRT), which examines the history of institutional racism in America. From Roll Call:

“…on Monday, GOP Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) sent a request to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee asking the panel to prohibit funding for instruction in critical race theory for service members in its fiscal 2022 defense spending bill. He argued that service members “should not have to be subjected to discriminatory intersectional exercises that try to politicize our military.”

It’s worth remembering that The Former Guy issued an executive order in September 2020 that restricted the federal government and its contractors from teaching CRT. And that Biden rescinded that order on the day of his inauguration.

This represents a widening of the Republicans’ war on CRT. In recent weeks Republicans have passed legislation in Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa, Idaho and Texas, placing significant restrictions on what can be taught in public school classrooms and, in some cases, in public universities.

We’ve seen this before. The CRT insanity is reminiscent of 2010 when Fox News and the GOP went berserk condemning the so-called Ground Zero Mosque being built in New York City.

Today, it’s the same thing all over again with CRT. Eric Boehlert via his indispensable “Press Run”:

“When Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to ban critical race theory from classrooms in the Sunshine State, the Miami Herald reported, ‘Superintendents across the state have said they do not teach critical race theory in their schools’. But that did not stop the State Board [of Education] from considering the rule to ban it.”

It’s the same everywhere: Republicans are saying they must make moves to protect students from CRT. But Republicans can’t find examples of it actually being taught in high schools. Once again, we’re seeing conservatives pushing a concocted claim and the entire Republican Party playing along.

Let’s not mince words about what Republicans are doing. They’re passing laws that amount to speech codes. They’re trying to control public education by banning the free expression of ideas. Education is by its nature political. To try and “cleanse” it from politics will give us citizens who lack civic knowledge and the civic responsibility that comes with it.

Censoring information makes informed choice impossible. It takes away the opportunity for people to learn and become mature and caring citizens.

When Christians were trying to add “Intelligent Design” into public school science curricula as an alternative theory to evolution, they often said schools should “teach the controversy“, implying an equivalence between the two. That failed, not because Creationism was debunked, but because it didn’t belong in the same category of knowledge as science.

At the time, nobody argued that Intelligent Design should be banned, just that it be discussed in its appropriate context: In comparative religion, not in biology class.

We can learn from the Christians this time though. If we frame America’s origin story as “teaching the controversy“, it might well be the best approach. It’s the only one that retains the nuance, contradictions, and complications necessary to provide an understanding of America and the experiences of its peoples.

There will always be disagreement about our nation’s history. We should welcome that debate in our public schools. It would be a violation of our shared vision of America as a nation of free and open debate if we resort to using state governments to wall off that discussion.

It’s impossible to create a neutral, non-controversial curriculum because real education aims to develop critical thinking. Critical thinking requires us to understand controversial viewpoints on the one hand, and the arguments for and against them on the other.

People have the right to get the education that they want for their kids, but that doesn’t mean legislating CRT out of existence. Instead, why don’t we teach kids how to spot and critique propaganda?

Time to wake up America! We can’t let one political party control our curricula. To help you wake up listen to Nina Simone perform “Backlash Blues” live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 1976. The lyric of this song is the poem, “Backlash Blues” by Langston Hughes:

Resentment over the pace of the civil rights movement in the 1960s came to be known as white backlash, and it’s still with us today.

Lyric:

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash

Just who do you think I am

You raise my taxes, freeze my wages

And send my son to Vietnam

You give me second class houses

And second class schools

Do you think that alla colored folks

Are just second class fools?

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