I recently received a one question online survey from the National Republican Senate Committee.
The question was "do you think that Democrats should be allowed to indoctrinate our childre?".
It's an obviously loaded question with only one correct answer, which is "NO".
There's a very good reason for the timing of the survey, and it is spelled CPAC.
Back in the dark ages of the last century, the right-wing culture war was often described with a reference to the three Gs: “God, guns and gays.”
These days, the right-wing culture war is perhaps better described with three Vs: vaccine derangement, validation of white racial innocence, and valorization of insurrectionists.
Over the weekend, the Conservative Political Action Conference treated the nation to a parade of such obsessions. We were told the large percentage of Americans who remain unvaccinated against covid-19 is a cause for ecstatic celebration. We were told “Marxist” Democrats want to indoctrinate your children to be ashamed of their whiteness.
Republicans everywhere are spewing all sorts of inanities about critical race theory. Just as “death panels” and terrorists importing Ebola were relied on to supercharge the GOP base while Democratic turnoff dropped off, so, too, do Republicans hope the three Vs will accomplish the same.
As of June 17, Texas became the 5th state to ban the teaching of critical race theory, and at least a dozen more were considering the same law.
There is scant evidence, experts note, that critical race theory is being widely taught in K-12 public schools, as it’s usually introduced at the graduate school level. Critics accuse conservatives who are championing the legislation of using the term as a catchall for any anti-racist and diversity efforts in education — an effort they fear is meant to silence certain views.
"Any anti-racist effort is being labeled as critical race theory,” said Jonathan Chism, assistant professor of history at the University of Houston–Downtown and co-editor of "Critical Race Studies Across Disciplines.”
“Many that are condemning critical race theory haven’t read it or studied it intensely. This is largely predicated on fear: the fear of losing power and influence and privilege,” he said. “The larger issue that this is all stemming from is a desire to deny the truth about America, about racism.”
In some states, lawmakers have also sought to put limits on teachers’ ability to make references to The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which argues the introduction of slavery marks the nation’s true beginning. In the wake of the project’s release, Chicago Public Schools officials announced the school system would utilize the project in classrooms. Schools in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., followed suit, noting the importance of highlighting the way America’s past has influenced the present.
So far, CRT legislation has been proposed in 22 states and signed into law in five — Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee. Legislators behind the Idaho bill said critical race theory “tries to make kids feel bad.” Tennessee lawmakers said teaching about racism promotes “division,” and a pending bill in Rhode Island bans teaching the idea that “the United States of America is fundamentally racist or sexist.” The fight over race and equity in schools is a coordinated one, backed by well-connected conservative groups and media outlets.
Conservatives fear that liberals are indoctrinating our children, but the truth is that the REPUBLICANS are the ones doing the indoctrination.
In 2017, Arizona State University launched the new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, which was funded by the state legislature. The birth of the school was controversial at ASU, in part because it absorbed two think tanks that had been heavily supported by the right-wing Charles Koch Foundation.
Charles Koch and his brother, David, are billionaires who have spent part of their fortune to promote their anti-regulation, pro-business views of economics as well as their positions on social issues (such as climate change denial). They have been leaders in a conservative movement that believes U.S. higher education is dominated by liberals intent on indoctrinating young people.
Arizona State University’s president, Michael Crow, recently was quoted in a New York Times story about using public money to support a pet project of Arizona conservatives: The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL). Crow said, “They were interested in having a broader set of curricular offerings than the one we presently have, particularly as it related to economic thought or political theory, philosophy.” He added, “The fact that someone from the state came along and gave us money for it, O.K., good.” But it’s not good.
The Charles Koch Foundation has infused existing college curriculum with libertarian ideology by supporting strategic hires of new professors in existing departments in universities and colleges across the country.
More recently, it has circumvented history, philosophy, economics, and political science departments altogether by financing the creation of new schools and departments that contain only professors that share their conservative views. These are troubling trends.
Born in secrecy at the 11th hour in the Arizona Assembly, a small group of conservative legislators inserted funding for the new school into the overall annual allocation for public universities. The maneuver forced Crow to make a choice — defend Arizona State University’s curriculum or lay down to these political partisans.
President Crow continues to support the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership despite its faculty’s failure to attract students to their classes. To boost enrollment, the school has promised costly goodies to students who agree to enroll in just one of its classes, including a free trip to India during spring break and a retreat to Sedona to talk about “Shakespeare’s Leadership.” Is this the careful shepherding of tax dollars conservatives promise?
The creation of ideologically driven schools such as the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at taxpayer expense bodes ill for public universities. It signals an intentional new front in the culture wars to undermine the foundations of the humanities and social sciences as we know them.
The belief that there is a “right” and “left” (and right and wrong) way to teach our subjects betrays the foundations of our university system that requires faculty and students to present evidence, argue theses, and civilly disagree with one another, all while respecting the disciplines that define our approaches to acquiring knowledge. Creating alternative schools to existing ones undermines this crucial component of our academic experience. Anyone concerned with the future of higher education in America should be paying attention to the quiet attack underway in Arizona and beyond.
In September of 2020, the Charles Koch Foundation and a group of other philanthropies will give the university $12 million for an initiative aimed at driving innovations across higher education in the U.S.
ASU's University Design Institute is coordinating the effort to support other universities in "culture change initiatives" that are designed to broaden access to high-quality postsecondary education, in part with technological innovations that seek to be more responsive to student needs.