By Yonoson Rosenblum | NOVEMBER 16, 2021
It is not the job of public schools to indoctrinate students in any orthodoxy, racial, gender, or otherwise
In his famous "I have a dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned an America in which his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Such a statement today would be adjudged "racism" in its advocacy of color-blindness. "Anti-racism" in the new woke dictionary requires just the opposite — never forgetting race for a moment and treating it as the essential quality of every person.
And that is wrong.
In The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt identify three bad ideas that have poisoned American parenting and education. The third of those they term "Us versus Them: Life Is a Battle Between Good People and Evil People." That worldview both falsifies reality and harms those on both sides of the dichotomy. It renders discussion across racial, class, or gender lines futile. And it deludes the alleged possessors of "virtue" into thinking that they are far better than they are.
Haidt and Lukianoff locate the failure of us-versus-them thinking near the beginning of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's classic The Gulag Archipelago. The author is marching to a prison camp in Siberia, in which he will likely freeze, starve, or be beaten to death, if not executed straight away.
At that moment, he recalls how close he came to joining the government security service, the NKVD (predecessor to the KGB). And with that memory comes an unforgettable insight:
"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
Marxism is one form of us-versus-them thinking: It is predicated on the assumption that the proletariat represents the general will. And all who do not belong to the proletariat are class enemies. That easy-to-remember formula allowed Lenin and Stalin to kill six million kulaks without compunction.
Contemporary racial identitarianism, which assigns everyone a ranking from oppressor to victim based on their race, is rightly called cultural Marxism. Like Marxism, it assumes that virtue naturally inheres in one class of beings — members of racial minorities — and that others are inherently oppressors, who must undergo elaborate expiation rituals to purge their guilt.
In Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court ruled that legally segregated schools violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, effectively overruling the Court's earlier decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) that as long as the separate facilities were equal, they were not unconstitutional. Separate schools are inherently unequal, ruled the Brown Court, because the very act of separation conveys a message of inferiority to black children.
Much of the racial indoctrination taking place in American schools today fails for the same reason: It conveys a negative message to white kids that they are unfairly beneficiaries of "white privilege" and are, as a consequence, perpetuators of racism, whether advertently or inadvertently. The "liberation" pedagogy adopted by a Buffalo school district that teaches "all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism" sends a message to white students more explicit than that conveyed in Brown.
Woke racism, as black linguist John McWhorter entitles a new book, further constitutes an unconstitutional establishment of religion. McWhorter argues that the phenomenon he discusses is literally a religion, with its own catechism and rituals.
Justice Robert Jackson wrote in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette (striking down compulsory flag salutes and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance) that if there is one "fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no government official... can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
But the most frequently assigned works in schools of education today are works of "critical pedagogy," such as "Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education." Peter McLaren, one of the leading lights of the "critical pedagogy" movement, argues that knowledge should be evaluated not by its truth or falsity, but by whether it is oppressive.
Teachers produced by these schools are trained in how to indoctrinate their classrooms, like the fifth-graders in a Philadelphia school recently required to march across stage bearing signs like "Jail Trump" and "Black Power Matters" in support of "black communism."
Opposition to such racial indoctrination has nothing to do with opposition to teaching unpleasant facts about American history, such as slavery or Jim Crow. Nor would it forbid teaching controversial ideas, such as the Beard thesis that the Constitution was designed to protect the Founders' economic interests. But those ideas must be taught as a thesis subject to debate, not as a catechism. In my high school American history course, for instance, we read a booklet of leading historians debating and critiquing Beard's work.
It is not the job of public schools to indoctrinate students in any orthodoxy, racial, gender, or otherwise.
Laughing at the Wrong Joke
Asked recently what is her plan to reduce gasoline prices, which have risen 59 percent over the past year, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm guffawed.
"That is hilarious," she told the intrepid reporter. "Would that I had a magic wand on that. As you know, of course, oil is a global market. It is controlled by a cartel. That cartel is called OPEC. And they made the decision yesterday that they are not going to increase production."
That "blame OPEC" defense was made less amusing, however, by the Biden administration's determination to do everything in its power to increase the sway of OPEC over global markets. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order terminating the Keystone XL pipeline. And another one of his first executive orders suspended oil and leases on federal lands.
In 2019, the United States had achieved something it could only dream of for over six decades — energy self-sufficiency, and it remained a net exporter of energy through the first half of 2021. At the same time, between 2011 and 2020, US carbon admissions declined 14 percent, more than in any other country. That was largely due to fracking, to which the Biden administration is hostile.
Even the New York Times noted the irony that the Biden administration is at once "calling on OPEC... to boost production to help bring down oil and gasoline prices, even as it seeks to limit the growth of oil and gas production on federal lands and waters." Cutting American production does not, in the end, reduce fossil fuel use or production; it just means that other countries replace the fossil fuels America is not producing, at the cost of greater American energy vulnerability, and higher prices at the gas pump.
Such absurdities, however, have become a feature of climate activists' moral posturing. Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Harms Us All, details in a recent article how global climate activists have succeeded in scaring energy companies away from investment in oil and gas exploration. "Environmental... considerations account for much of the decline in capital expenditure by international oil companies, and investor exodus out of oil and gas markets," writes the Financial Times. Large university endowments, investment banks, governments, and ultimately shareholders themselves have either sold off holdings in energy companies or pressured them to stop investing in new exploration.
As a result, according to the FT, firms are spending 25 percent less than they need just to hold oil production steady. And the result? Faced with a shortage of oil and gas, and with renewables still a long way (if ever) from picking up the slack, China, India, the US, East Asia, and Europe are all mining and burning more coal to make up for the lack of natural gas.
In short, environmental activism has resulted in dirty coal replacing far cleaner energy sources, and an increased release of carbon dioxide.
That's not funny.