The Right’s War on Education Is Reaching Dystopian Levels – Vanity Fair

The head of the country’s second largest teachers’ union ripped conservatives on Tuesday, calling the right’s ongoing panic about critical race theory a flagrant attempt “to stop us from teaching students accurate history” and pledging to take legal action to protect teachers impacted by such efforts. “Culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as [critical race theory] to try to make it toxic,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a virtual speech to union members, according to the Washington Post.

Republican advocates and lawmakers have weaponized critical race theory—the academic movement positioning race and racism as embedded in U.S. institutions—in their crusade to shape the discussion of national history in classrooms. As Weingarten noted, critical race theory is not taught in American elementary, middle, or high schools—the actual concept, as opposed to whatever it is conservatives have confused it with, is only taught in law school and college. But Republican-led legislatures have in recent months passed bans on critical race theory or related issues in at least five states, according to the Post, and dozens more are mounting similar legislative efforts. The AFT “has a legal-defense fund ready to go” and is prepared to protect any member who “gets in trouble for teaching honest history,” Weingarten said Tuesday, adding that the organization is “preparing for litigation [to counter these laws] as we speak.”

By tapping into GOP voters’ fear that children are being indoctrinated by left-wing fanatics—particularly amid increased racial equity work in schools—right-wing media figures have found a new bogeyman. Arguably no “culture warrior” has done so more than Tucker Carlson, the Fox News opinion host who on Tuesday continued to fan the flames around something that their children are likely not even being taught. “We can’t know exactly how widespread” the teaching of this “civilization-ending poison” is “until we finally get cameras in the classroom” to “oversee the people teaching your children, forming their minds,” Carlson told viewers. For months, the right-wing cable personality has amplified the ridiculous claim that anti-racism teaching is grounded in the demonization of white people, and continued to do so on Tuesday: “The overwhelming majority of Americans … think this is insane. They think you should judge people by what they do, not on the basis of their skin color.”

The approach comes at a cost, Weingarten notes. “We want our kids to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are,” she said, and the new laws limiting how educators discuss racism “knock a big hole” in that understanding. “We want to raise young people who can understand facts, study the truth, examine diverse perspectives and draw their own conclusions,” she said. Weingarten’s opposition is bolstered by the National Education Association—the other national teachers’ union, and the country’s largest—whose delegates recently approved a $56,500 measure to “research the organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work.” That was one of several measures passed at last week’s virtual representative assembly; another was a $127,600 effort that involves the NEA putting out information about “what [critical race theory] is and what it is not” and attesting that it is “reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed” by the school of thought.

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