Site icon Inside Education with Shane Phipps

The Far Right Wants Me to Indoctrinate Students with Lies

States with far-right conservative leadership are continuing their siege on public education. The most recent example comes from—surprise, surprise—Florida, and Governor Ron DeSantis. Florida’s state board of education recently rejected large percentage of the new math textbooks submitted for consideration, many based upon the claim that these math textbooks included attempts to indoctrinate students with aspects of Critical Race Theory. Florida has already been leading the way in the wide-spread national push (in over 30 states) to give parents unprecedented control over curriculum in public schools by allowing them to reject any material that in any way goes against their deeply held social-religious beliefs, or material that might be deemed to make their students feel uncomfortable. Governor DeSantis had this to say about the latest mass banning of books in the Sunshine State:

“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of…indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students.” 

The fact that they are now so broadly rejecting even math books seems to reveal a new level of paranoia among those of DeSantis’ ilk. They seem bound and determined to try to make all material presented to students—particularly the youngest and most impressionable students—paint a picture of a nation that is completely free of obstacles for anyone who merely has the gumption to swallow their story whole, assimilate into their version of America, and do their best. Any hint of material that would suggest that some groups of people in America have had to overcome things that others haven’t simply because of who they were born to be is seen as mendacious propaganda that must be eradicated at all cost. 

I predict that the next big wave of attacks from the far-right will be to attempt to eliminate from public schools anything on the order of celebrating diversity in any form, i.e. Black History Month, Indigenous Peoples Day, Women’s history units, and so on. This is already happening in some places, but I expect this will be pushed much harder very soon, especially if, as I suspect will happen, the GOP sees great gains in Congress in the upcoming midterm election cycle. 

This is all just another battle in the long war on public education that the far-right wing of the GOP has been—admittedly brilliantly—orchestrating for decades. They prey on the fears of white, red state Americans by selling them on the idea that public schools are training an army of young people to go out and destroy what America is built on. Yet, they won’t admit what America actually was built on—at least not explicitly. That’s why teaching students to think critically about how our nation has not lived up to its creed that all men are created equal is such a scary thing to them. They fear that it will chip away at the one thing they value above all else—the very thing they don’t want to admit exists—white privilege. 

When minority students are provided with examples of the long and ongoing struggle to achieve true equality, there is a presupposition that is embedded in those lessons which reveals that some people have not had a fair shake in America. You simply can’t teach about America truthfully unless you shine the light on this fact because, let’s face it, most of the American story is about that struggle, either directly or indirectly. This is exactly the part of the story that people like Ron DeSantis are so desperately trying to cover up. 

It is easy for a white person in a red area to go through life without having to be made uncomfortable about race very often, if ever. I know this to be true because I grew up in such a time and place. When you don’t have to face, or even think about, a problem in your own daily life, it becomes human nature to just let it fade away a vague notion that it is someone else’s problem somewhere far away and probably long ago. That mindset—the uber-controversial idea of white privilege—has been the unspoken norm in this nation for a long, long time. But in the last few decades, everything else has begun to change. The advent of cable television, the 24-hour news cycle, the internet, social media, the quickly growing minority population, etc., has made it more and more difficult to live in a safe-white bubble like the one I grew up in. The discomfort that the far-right is trying so hard to shelter their children from is that of the flood of reality that has broken through the levies of their white privilege bubbles. The calls to “make America great again,” and the harkening back to the “good old days,” is actually a desperate plea for a return to insulation and ignorance. 

Governor DeSantis readily admitted that I am right with the very words he uses to attack people like me when he attempted recently to define what he thought Critical Race Theory is: 

“…the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society ant its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white person [sic]”

The fact that DeSantis would even imply that racism has not historically been embedded in American society and legal systems is telling. It means that he either didn’t learn American history, or he wants desperately to rewrite it.

The battlefield between ignorance and truth is in public school classrooms. The far-right wants to indoctrinate our children with lies. We can’t allow it. 

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