Andrew Sullivan: “If the left has stealthily changed public education from above, the right has now used the only power they have to fight back — political clout in state legislatures.”
I know I’ve been repetitive on the loss of institutions at virtually every level of society. But maybe it’s also worth focusing not only on which institutions have been lost, but what remains and how much power what remains can have.
There is, of course, people power that exists outside institutions. That people power in 2021-2022 is focused on the parents’ movement to reclaim their children. It’s not just about Critical Race Theory, it’s about whether children are children of their parents or of the state and teachers unions. That people power also is manifesting itself in disgust with unscientific, irrational, harmful, and abusive lockdowns and Covid-related random acts of government abuse.
But there is an institution that remains, and it’s starting to engage in a serious way.
I touched on this issue in my speech to approximately 100 state legislators last summer — they may not be the only thing that stands between us and the abyss, but they can save the nation, “The fight over Critical Race Theory in education is a fight in many ways for our national survival”:
… I’m speaking to a group, although I only have 15 minutes, in many ways, you are the most important group ever spoken to. Because you can actually make a difference. You are really at the center of what this fight is about, and you can help change the trajectory of the country.
Now, I know you probably thought you were coming to a meeting to talk about educational policy, not how you’re going to save the nation. But I want to talk about how you can save the nation….
The fight over critical race theory in education is a fight in many ways for our national survival. And you are on the front lines of that fight.
The state level is where the action is happening particularly in education. And apart from a handful of Governors’ offices, state legislators are taking it upon themselves because there is almost no one else left.
Andrew Sullivan, in a substack post arguing the that right-wing pushback is becoming as bad as the left-wing push, makes the point that opponents of the “long march through institutions” have turned to the one institution that remains, state legislators (emphasis added):
… And in public education, once again a battleground in the culture war, it seems quite obvious to me that the left bears the burden of responsibility for the conflict.
Critical theory’s long march through the institutions reached its peak some time ago in higher education — and has gone on to capture media, corporate America, medicine, the federal government, tech, science, and every cultural institution. Over $14 billion have been spent on philanthropic “equity” initiatives since the summer of 2020 alone. Of course children’s education would be affected. What hasn’t been? And of course critical theorists aim directly at children. The woke, like the Jesuits, understand the value of instilling certain concepts at a very young age. How else to transform the world?
That’s why Ibram Kendi has bequeathed the world not just one but two books on how to rear “antiracist babies.” The publisher says the new one, Goodnight Racism, “gives children the language to dream of a better world and is the perfect book to add to their social justice toolkit.” My italics. Another recent book, Woke Baby, instructs toddlers to be “a good revolutionary,” and another one explains how “activism begins in the cradle.”
You truly think that in school districts where teachers are saturated in equity training, whose unions invite Kendi to be their keynote speaker, that this is all being made up? Just peruse through all the “equity” conferences, courses, syllabi, lesson plans and curricula that now dominate public ed. Many parents found out only because they overheard what their kids were being taught online during the pandemic. Or you can just surf the web as the woke dismantle schools for the gifted, abolish SATs, describe merit as racist, and lay waste to excellent schools merely because too many Asian-American kids are succeeding in them.
What we’re seeing now is the reaction to this left-wing power grab. And — guess what? — it’s a right-wing power grab. If the left has stealthily changed public education from above, the right has now used the only power they have to fight back — political clout in state legislatures. 122 separate bills have been introduced since January 2021, 71 in the last three weeks alone. They all regulate speech by teachers in public schools, but many are now also reaching into higher education — a much more fraught area — and outright book banning. The bills are rushed; some appear well-intentioned; others are nuts; many are very vague, inviting lawsuits to clarify what they can mean in practice. In most cases, if passed, they will surely chill debate of race and sex and history — and increasingly of gender, sex and homosexuality — in high schools. And that’s a bad thing for liberal education.
State legislators need to draft legislation carefully and constitutionally, but they should not shy away from the fight.DONATE
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