No, Virginia, Abraham Lincoln Never Debated Oliver Wendell Douglas, Either
After the summer's stupid battles over the tyranny of masks and supposed indoctrination of innocent schoolchildren with Marxist books like Beloved, which suggested that somehow white people exploited Black people in the bad old days, Virginia elected Republican Glenn Youngkin, who's set to take office today and has pledged to immediately lift the Commonwealth's mask mandate in schools, because the pandemic apparently went away without telling anyone.
Also, there's a bill before the House of Delegates (it's like a house of representatives, only more quaint), introduced by freshman Republican Del. Wren Williams, that would ban the teaching of "divisive concepts" and also make sure the schools teach American history right.
The founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10 and 51, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States. [emphasis added]
Williams, a Trumpy Republican who believes the Great Man won the 2020 election, was derided for that ridiculous error, since of course Lincoln actually held a series of debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas, a white supremacist who believed slavery should continue to be allowed if white people wanted it. Lincoln did not debate abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery himself and was one of the most well-known opponents of America's founding shame. If he had debated Lincoln for hours and hours, the two would have been saying "I entirely concur with my worthy opponent" a lot.
Not surprisingly, a lot of folks on Twitter figured that maybe Williams just liked Donald Trump so much that Mr. Williams simply considers Frederick Douglass "an example of somebody who has done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more," and did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican? Not many people know that.
Friday morning, the Virginia Division of Legal Services took the blame for the error, releasing a statement explaining that it had mistakenly added the error to the bill during the drafting process, "following receipt of a historically accurate request from the office of Delegate Wren Williams."
So don't you damn liberal progressive America haters go calling Wren Williams a birdbrain over that.
Instead, you can call him a birdbrain over this: if Virginia teachers actually teach the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Tocqueville's Democracy in America, or the Declaration of Independence too accurately, they may run the risk of getting fired for running afoul of Section A of HR 781 instead.
That's because, like all the other copy-pasted, probably unconstitutional bans on teaching "divisive concepts" and "critical race theory" in schools, the bill prohibits teaching the concept that "one race, religion, ethnicity, or sex is inherently superior to another race, religion, ethnicity, or sex," or that "an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual's race, religion, ethnicity, or sex."
Now, we certainly don't think schools should teach kids to believe those things, either, but the problem comes in Section E2 of the bill, which makes clear that "no school board or employee thereof" is allowed to "teach or incorporate into any course or class any divisive concept."
As damnliberal history professors like Seth Cotlar Of Willamette University insist on pointing out, the very texts the bill says all Virginia kids should be familiar with are freaking full of divisive concepts. For starters, there's that Declaration of Independence with its complaint that King George III has
excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
That certainly seems to say that one race is inherently superior to another, now doesn't it?
The bill doesn't specify which excerpts from Democracy in America should be taught, but we'd assume teachers using Tocqueville would want to avoid passages like this, from Chapter 18, which sounds pretty darn divisive in its discussion of the "three races" to be found in America.
Among these widely differing families of men, the first that attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power, and in enjoyment, is the white, or European, the MAN pre-eminently so called, below him appear the Negro and the Indian. These two unhappy races have nothing in common, neither birth, nor features, nor language, nor habits. Their only resemblance lies in their misfortunes. Both of them occupy an equally inferior position in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and if their wrongs are not the same, they originate from the same authors.
Good heavens! That awfully divisive French guy isn't merely suggesting that white people are superior, he's also saying America is a systematically racist place!
In the paragraphs that follow this passage, Tocqueville continues that point at length, blaming white people for the oppression of Black people and Native Americans in a way that seems calculated to make the reader "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's race, religion, ethnicity, or sex," another divisive concept.
It's such an acute depiction of racist oppression that we have no doubt it could make Virginia kids feel very down on America, perhaps illegally so. (For more examples, see this Twitter thread, or for that matter, just read around in his version of Tocqueville for free, online. It's Saturday!)
And then there's the actual Stephen Douglas, whose opinions in the debates with Lincoln are plenty divisive, too. Douglas mocked Lincoln for believing
that the negro was born his equal and yours, and that he was endowed with equality by the Almighty, and that no human law can deprive him of these rights which were guarantied to him by the Supreme ruler of the Universe. Now, I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to be the equal of the white man. ("Never, never.") If he did, he has been a long time demonstrating the fact. (Cheers.)
For thousands of years the negro has been a race upon the earth, and during all that time, in all latitudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been inferior to the race which he has there met. He belongs to an inferior race, and must always occupy an inferior position. ("Good," "that's so," &c.)
Thank goodness Wren Williams is there to protect innocent Virginia schoolchildren from the divisive ideas that Wren Williams wants all Virginia schoolchildren to be familiar with, the end.
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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.