Arizona, Tennessee Cancel Culture All The Icky Parts Of US History
Conservatives are steadily winning battles in the war against critical race theory. They had the advantage of starting this war themselves and striking before anyone knew what the hell critical race theory actually was. Soon, it wouldn't matter. White suburban parents now associate critical race theory with why their pre-teen kids didn't like being seen in public with them.
Let's pause for a moment to consider that this critical race theory backlash is taking place when Betsy DeVos is no longer secretary of Education. She's not the one issuing guidance against teaching that slavery existed and sucked hard. But the game isn't won at the federal level alone. Conservatives have over the years systematically taken over state legislatures and local school boards. Local initiatives feel like a movement because they come from all directions with no apparent leader or convenient bogeyman to rally against.
Educators warned that these critical race theory bans would result in punitive action for any teacher who stepped out of line and said the word “racism" in front of first graders. Tucker Carlson and Matt Walsh had suggested installing cameras in classrooms to monitor for any incidental wokeness. That might've seemed like a brave new world, but now it's possibly our craven regular one.
Arizona Republicans were already considering slapping teachers with $5,000 civic fines (an entire student loan payment!) if they brought up “controversial" topics in the classroom. And any employee who “knowingly aids" their anti-American rhetoric would also be subject to a fine. Groundskeeper Willie better keep his mouth shut about the Fugitive Slave Act.
State Rep. Michelle Udall introduced an amendment that would not just fine teachers for allowing classroom discussion that offends conservative snowflakes but would also require that “equal weight" is given to any relevant historical topics that are potentially “divisive." Yes, Udall wants to “both sides" Dred Scott and women's suffrage.
“Tennessee aims to levy fines starting at $1 million up to $5 million on school districts each time one of their te… https://t.co/YLrfoYoYcc— Ida Bae Wells (@Ida Bae Wells) 1628081404.0
Nikole Hannah-Jones from the New York Times shared an article today from Education Week, detailing Tennessee's plan to levy fines against school districts each time one of their teachers is discovered to have "knowingly violated" state restrictions on classroom discussions about systemic racism, white privilege, and sexism. The fines would start at $1 million and top out at $5 million. (Tennessee is the same state that until recently had a statue of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest in its Capitol.)
If teachers are caught filling students' heads with commie notions about systemic racism or sexism that can only serve to make an innocent kid feel "guilt or anguish" because of "past actions committed by their race or sex," they could lose their license. That superficially seems easy to avoid — no “America Sucks" lesson plans. However, if you're a competent educator, you might wonder how the hell you're supposed to teach American history honestly without setting off career-ending landmines.
White Americans enslaved black people and profited from their labor. That actually happened. Women weren't allowed to vote or otherwise participate in politics because men believed their brains were cotton candy wrapped in Chantilly lace. This all seems very racist and sexist.
You'll note that the language specifically refers to students feeling “guilt or anguish" because of their ancestors' past actions. This is about protecting the fee-fees of white kids, especially white males. It says nothing about the guilt or anguish a student of color might feel when learning about the brutality inflicted upon their ancestors, often by people who are commemorated as heroes and appear on our money. There's also no concern that a female student might resent that married women were once considered chattel. If a country's laws considered Black people and white women property, what else are we to consider that country but racist and sexist?
The new guidance from the Tennessee department of education lays out the complaint process that a current student, parent, or aggrieved lunch lady can initiate against a district if they want to report a wokeness sighting. The guidance doesn't specify what educators are banned from teaching, which was the bare minimum teacher advocates had expected. Teachers are merely warned to avoid 11 broad concepts and materials, and God help any teacher who implies students are "inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously." This is affirmative education action for white (male) students, and it's sure to leave every child behind.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."