Critical race theory bugbear really targets the teaching of critical thinking

The right-wing is using the mantra of critical race theory as part of an overall assault on public education’s teaching of critical thinking. The ability of students to question subjective subjects like history, religion, politics, and race relations lies at the heart of the right’s attempt to wipe school curricula clean of topics over which they will accept only their biased, bigoted, and incorrect versions.

Republican politicians like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Ted Cruz of Texas are using the teaching of critical race theory, which is nothing more than providing students with examples of and lessons on America’s ingrained racism through the decades—from slavery to post-Reconstruction Jim Crow segregation laws and the modern civil rights movement to present-day voter suppression—as a stepping stone to higher political office.

DeSantis has enacted laws that require teachers, students, and administrators of state-funded colleges and universities to register with the state their political views and party affiliations. DeSantis’s allies in the Florida legislature intend to extend those provisions to Florida kindergarten through high school. DeSantis’s draconian education diktats also require that state schools teach Communism as “evil,” as if that particular word has any bearing in the teaching of political theory. Also verboten in Florida schools are any lesson plans or teacher’s comments that point out that “racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems.” DeSantis and those like him are trying to resurrect the 1950s and early 1960s conflating by southern states of the civil rights movement and Communism. Egged on by the John Birch Society, White Citizens’ Councils, and the Ku Klux Klan, some teachers in the South taught, without remorse, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and other civil rights leaders, in addition to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, were Communists.

If fascists like DeSantis have their way, life in the antebellum South will be pictured like scenes from Walt Disney’s “Song of the South”—smiling Negroes dancing and singing while picking cotton in the fields. The Reconstruction South will be portrayed like scenes from D. W. Griffith’s 1915 racist film “The Birth of a Nation,” which portrays blacks assaulting white women and black elected South Carolina state legislators drinking liquor and tossing fried chicken bones on to the floor of their chamber. For DeSantis, the aptly-named Cotton, Hawley, and Cruz, that is their idea of how pre- and post-Civil War history should be taught. Why? Because they are fascists and racists in the Nth degree and none of them should be anywhere near a governor’s mansion or legislative body, let alone the White House.

It is the clear intent of fascists like DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and others like them to purge American educational institutions of teachers and staff who fail to promote right-wing state ideology. That is what Nazi Germany did in 1933 when Jews and those deemed “politically unreliable” were fired from the public school system. By 1936, 97 percent of all public school teachers in Germany were members of the National Socialist Teachers League. School curricula included lessons on how to identify Jews and school children were taught to draw the noses of Jews by using the number 6. Today, the right-wing GOP organization that targets the National Education Association (NEA) at every turn is the 74 Million Organization, which is named for Trump’s total number of votes in the 2020 election.

The teaching of critical race theory as part of critical thinking should be the requirement in every public school in the nation. My high school, John F. Kennedy High in Willingboro, New Jersey, cleverly got around right-wingers on the school board by disguising an elective course on critical thinking by calling it “Advertising and Business.” What pro-Richard Nixon Republican school board member would argue against teaching teens about to enter the work force about all the ingenious ways there were to rip off their fellow citizens? In fact, the course taught critical thinking and concentrated on how to know when one was being played by the use of “glittering generalities,” which included such words as “Sale,” “Free,” “God,” “Patriotism,” “Hardworking Families,” (meaning, white suburban families and was often used with the phrase “High Taxes”), and all the other various dog whistles and buzzwords associated with corporate and political propaganda. One glittering generality that the teacher tore apart was the one in vogue at the time that was used by President Nixon and his administration in explaining their Vietnam War policy: “Peace with Honor.” Never before had so much bullshit been conveyed by three words.

Donald Trump, who juxtaposed his surname with elegance and top flight hotels and product lines in one of the most blatant examples of selling a glittering generality, has restored the need to teach critical thinking in public schools and parochial institutions that receive public funding. Too many have fallen for Trump’s racial propaganda and many of those have been sucked into the maelstrom of Qanon lunacy.

American education must receive a jump start that reinforces the Constitutional principles upon which the United States was founded. There should be no question about the racist bedrock upon which the Confederacy was founded and the treason that was engaged in by its political leaders and generals. Contrary to what Trump thinks of Adolf Hitler, that he did a lot of good things, the Nazi regime should be treated in classrooms as an abhorrent manifestation of the dangers posed by fascism. The Soviet Union, with all of its faults, was a principal member of the Allied nations which, with the loss of 25 million lives, helped to crush Nazi Germany. Voting in the United States is a right, not a privilege, and any attempt to stymie universal suffrage by a Republican Party intent on restoring a version of the Confederacy should be condemned in classrooms across the nation.

Critical race theory, critical history, critical thinking—call it anything you want—must be part of every school curriculum.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2021

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

Comments are closed.