Nothing to See Here – The American Prospect

Posted: June 4, 2021 at 3:20 pm

This article appears in the May/June 2021 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here.

One of the hallmarks of an autocracy is to go after the teachers. Teachers. Seriously, the people who get crappy pay for trying to put information in your childs head. I dont know if youve met your kid, but hes an idiot. I cant even get him to stop kicking the back of my seat on an airplane. And yet some teacher takes that idiot child of yours and gets him to understand the themes in Huckleberry Finn. If I had to do that job, Id search for a quiet spot to commit suicide.

Teachers, whatever their flaws, have the nasty habit of letting facts slip out. Facts like the Jews dont have horns; Tibet is not legally part of China; Lord Xenu was not Galactic Emperor, nor does he command you to build a tax-exempt real estate empire. Teachers also introduce seditious ideas, like the scientific method (Do you have any actual data to back up your thesis that George Soros heads a vast global conspiracy? Then Im gonna have to say this is not a good science fair project.). Meanwhile, authoritarians are often doing some pretty heinous things, and justifying them with some pretty flimsy stories. The simplest of facts or the slightest bit of critical thinking can undermine an authoritarian narrative (President Erdogan, I think we actually did kill a million Armenians. Hey man, stop killing my buzz, Im trying to screw the Kurds over here!).

That takes us to Idahothe state you confuse with Iowa, but have never bothered to correct in your head because youve got better things to worry about. Idaho voted for Trump by more than 30 points in 2020. They drank the orange Kool-Aid and went back for seconds. For their next act, Idaho has drafted a boatload of ultra-Trumpy legislation. Things like a fetal heartbeat law; a law against mask mandates; and a law that authorizes the killing of 90 percent of the wolves in Idaho (because, among other things, Trump hates wolves, the sharks of the land!). Among this raft of bills is a law that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in public universities and grade schools.

Generally, critical race theory (CRT) just means paying attention to racism in history. I know, shocking, right? Its more complicated than that, but not by much. Its really not a big deal, unless youre a white supremacist who wants to pretend George Washingtons slaves really appreciated him. CRT is an approach that really only affects undergraduate and graduate students majoring in history. It isnt indoctrinating Idaho State University students into the local chapter of the Black Panthers, which at ISU is the one Black student who happens to own a beret (his name is Carl). The MOST a nonhistory major might have to deal with CRT is:Student: The Civil War was about states rights.Professor: Really? What specific rights did these states want?Student: Um well, the right to own slaves Professor: Any others? Student: Damn you, critical race theory! Now I have to reconcile myself with the past!

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CRT is not being used in grade schools; Boise kindergarteners are mercifully safe. The closest to CRT one might hear in high school is a teacher saying, Hey, slaughtering Native Americans was some pretty immoral stuff, am I right? Its really not controversial material at all except in Trumpworld, where Republicans now make legislation based on Tucker Carlsons A-block rant.

Dont be fooled though. This isnt the Mr. Potato Head controversy (Theyve made Mr. Potato Head a gay Marxist! Now how am I supposed to teach my kid about gender norms and Ayn Rand?!). Trump Republicans are genuinely scared of critical race theory. Make America Great Again isnt just a hat that lets you know you shouldnt hire someone for that job in human resources. MAGA is a fable, and its an agenda. The fable is that the United States was best when white men had total control over everything; it was like an episode of Care Bears, but without that one sassy, darker bear. And the agenda is to get back to that mythical time, by any means necessary. Inconvenient facts like Hey, it wasnt totally awesome for Black people, women, or gay people tend to ruin the project. Especially when told by one of those meddling teachers.

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Nothing to See Here - The American Prospect

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