To far-right lawmakers and parents, critical thinking is the enemy of the state

For decades now, education insiders have been proclaiming to the public that the far right has a clear agenda to discredit and completely dismantle public education. We’ve warned anyone willing to listen about the critical teacher shortage that would follow. Some of you have listened, some of you have laughed. Well, it can’t be ignored anymore. In red states all over the country, those prophesies have all come to pass. The far right’s end game is now upon us, and we are seeing it played out in statehouses all over the country. Now you can see it right before your eyes. The end game of the far right has always been and continues to be to obliterate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment and use Christianity and Nationalism to completely rewrite the curriculum of public schools. This concept is beyond frightening but even more horrifying is the fact that they are having a lot of success in getting this done. 

Many red states are currently trying to pass legislation (almost identical legislation point for point) to “give parents more control” over what their children are being taught. Parental control sounds like a good thing, right? But don’t be fooled by such language. What it really means is that they want right wing Christian Nationalist parents to be able to circumvent any curriculum that would cause students to think critically about any topic that might make them feel “uncomfortable” because it doesn’t completely match what they want their children to believe. 

Christian Nationalists believe that critical thinking is the enemy of their faith and of their nation. That very fact casts the depth of their faith in a dark shadow of doubt. Faith that can’t stand up to critical thinking isn’t a very deep faith, it would seem to me. By the same token, a nation that can’t withstand a population of critical thinkers isn’t a very strong nation. Attempting to shield your children from being exposed to history and scientific facts and theories that might make them uncomfortable is, quite frankly, child abuse. What kind of parent would do anything that might stunt their child’s physical development? Yet, millions of far-right Christian Nationalist parents are fighting hard to stunt their children’s mental and emotional development by trying to shield them from any information that might not match the narrative with which they’ve been indoctrinated at home. They don’t need to do this, of course. They need only place their children into a private school which will reinforce the world view they want. But public schools should be helping develop critical thinkers without indoctrinating children with any particular world view. Discomfort and productive struggle are what drive growth and change and far-right Christian Nationalists fear growth and change more than anything. Every step forward our nation has made with regard to living up to our national creed that we are all created equal has come as a result of discomfort and productive struggle. Our country is better now than it used to be only because courageous critical thinkers were made uncomfortable and were unwilling to ignore problems any longer. 

This is exactly why Donald Trump’s message of “Make America Great Again,” struck such a chord with Christian Nationalists. They didn’t like the changes brought about by critical thinking that began to reexamine the white-washed version of history that many of the Baby Boomers were spoon fed in school. They didn’t like having the false veneer of the “good old days” stripped away from their version of history. They didn’t like the multiple perspectives of the marginalized people of our nation’s history featured alongside those of their “pious patriots” who could do no wrong in their minds. They wanted our nation’s past to sparkle and gleam and they wanted the stories of Genesis to be taught in science classes. They wanted public schools to mirror what was taught in Sunday school classes or from the pulpits of their church—their church, mind you, not any of those “other” churches. When it wasn’t, they went around screaming about how “God had been locked out of schools.” 

And now we see their end game coming into brilliant focus. We see classic books about the holocaust being banned in places like Tennessee. We see laws being passed that will cause teachers to spend hundreds of extra hours posting detailed lesson plans for parents to pick over and decide whether they want their children exposed to the information in them. If the parent opts out of a lesson, the teacher would be required to develop a different lesson catered just to their child. We see laws being passed that require school districts to bring untrained parents into the process of approving curriculum at the local level. 

And, unfortunately, we see thousands upon thousands of teachers preparing for new careers because they refuse to be a party to such insanity.  

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One Reply to “To far-right lawmakers and parents, critical thinking is the enemy of the state”

  1. Shane, you have written what I’ve seen happening for years.
    Thank you for your clarity.
    I’m doing my part here in Middlebury by throwing my hat in the ring in our Town Council.
    (We don’t have elected school board so I’m starting here first.)
    Keep doing your work. Get the word out . There are some who will hear and act on it.

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