Georgia Schoolchildren Will Just Have To Learn All History From Confederate Statues
Georgia's state Board of Education this week became the latest government entity to take a firm stance against teaching about racism in schools, or at least against teaching anything that makes white Republicans uncomfortable. The Georgia Board of Ed adopted a resolution insisting that the USA and Georgia are definitely not racist places, while calling for limits on how public schools should be allowed to discuss and teach about racism.
Like many states' anti-CRT laws, the resolution itself is based on a model bill authored by National Review writer and professional culture warrior Stanley Kurtz, author of many serious works of scholarship like Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. Kurtz wrote the model legislation for the rightwing National Association of Scholars to create supposedly colorblind educational practices that will not "indoctrinate students in social, or political, ideology or theory" or "promote one race or sex above another," and how could anyone possibly object to that? Like, unless you apply those concepts very selectively and in bad faith, or are actively letting Stanley Kurtz decide what is "isms," but only a cynic would suggest rightwing officials could be capable of such a thing.
Among other things (we have the full list below), the resolution says no element of public education should do terrible things like tell innocent schoolchildren that
any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex;
with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality
That could definitely create some puzzles for school districts! How would you teach about the writing of the Constitution, including the Three-Fifths Compromise, while insisting with a straight face that slavery is a "deviation from" the authentic founding principles of the USA? "Yes, the Founders wrote slavery into the Constitution, but that was a betrayal of the founding principles they were at that very moment formulating." Or maybe you'd just say it was secretly designed to end slavery?
As George Chidi notes at The Intercept, this has nothing to do with the actual academic field that goes by "critical race theory." Rather, it's a denial of the very "idea that students should be taught that racism is a real, current problem created by longstanding structural inequality." There are no structures or systems in America, after all, just a glorious tradition of freedom, unless you want the freedom to talk about institutional racism as a real thing that harms actual people. Then you'd better watch your mouth.
All this fits very strangely with — and is the radical rightwing outgrowth of — last year's panic over calls to bring down monuments to the Confederacy. We were told removing those post-Reconstruction celebrations of the Lost Cause would amount to "erasing history," although historians were quick to point out that the statues of dead Confederates had far more to do with reinforcing white supremacy and Jim Crow than with any real educational purpose.
And now look who wants to wipe out the teaching of history. It's the very worst "revisionism" to take down statues celebrating enslavers, but we also can't have all these terrible teachers pointing out that those very statues were dedicated with speeches praising the noble cause of white supremacy, either. After all, that might give white students the impression that they should "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" over that legacy of white supremacy.
Or perhaps a teacher might be allowed to mention those openly racist dedication speeches, as long as the teacher emphasized that the Jim Crow era was a temporary, century-long deviation from the nation's founding principles, just as the 250 years of legal slavery prior to the Civil War had also been a great big deviation from the nation's basic goodness, too.
Are we supposed to talk about history, or not?
At the core of the Georgia resolution is this list of Thou Shalt Nots, which appears not only in the NAS document (twice, weirdly) but has also made its way into several states' laws aimed at making critical race theory go away. Oklahoma, we're looking at you, and at Texas, too.
Get ready, sucker's LONG. The Georgia Board of Ed
Believes that no teacher, administrator, or other employee in any state education agency, school district, or school administration shall approve for use, make use of, or carry out, standards, curricula, lesson plans, textbooks, instructional materials, or instructional practices that serve to inculcate in students the following concepts:
(a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
(c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual's race;
(d) members of one race cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race;
(e) an individual's moral standing or worth is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
(f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex;
(h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a members of a particular race to oppress members of another race;
(i) that the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or
(j) that, with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality
That next-to last one is clearly aimed at prohibiting the use of the 1619 Project in classes, of course.
Also, how's this for a kick in the pants? As we note, this list of supposed educational goals crops up, with variations, in state laws aimed at "protecting" education all over Red State America. But weirdly, the first eight items in the list are virtually identical to the list of "divisive concepts" banned in Donald Trump's September 2020 executive order aimed at prohibiting "racial bias" training for government employees and contractors.
So what the hell is up there? Did Stanley Kurtz write the Trump executive order, or crib from the EO for his NAS document? Did the two lists share some common genesis that we haven't seen? We are confused, we'll confess — though not to the point of psychological distress. Maybe we should go find a statue to look at, so we'll understand what history is about.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.