Last week, the Georgia Board of Education adopted a resolution that would (1) bar the practice of protest civics (extracurricular political protest and lobbying as required schoolwork) and (2) prevent Georgia schools from instilling in students the key tenets of critical race theory. The week before, the Texas legislature passed a bill barring both protest civics and critical race theory. A similar bill was introduced in Ohio by state representative Don Jones in late May.
These moves all draw upon the model Partisanship Out of Civics Act (POCA) that our friend Stanley Kurtz published with the collaboration and endorsement of the National Association of Scholars. The virtue of POCA is that it takes on both protest civics and critical race theory (CRT). That is important because, as Stanley explains:
The various “civics” bills currently being considered in Congress could easily impose leftist indoctrination on the states via protest civics alone. Even if every state in the Union were to bar the core tenets of CRT from K–12, in the absence of a POCA they would nonetheless be vulnerable to federally imposed politicization. Georgia’s move thus signals welcome momentum for the extended protections of the POCA model against federally imposed indoctrination.
It’s significant that Georgia’s ban comes from the Board of Education. Many state legislatures, including Georgia’s, are out of session now. Thus, as Stanley points out, “without action by boards of education or legislative committees during formal recess, there is a very real risk that Biden and the Democrats could federalize and politicize America’s schools before the year is out.”
The leftist mainstream media is starting to freak out over the attacks on CRT and protests civics. For example, the Washington Post warns of the dangers of sugar-coating America’s past — as if America’s students might not hear about slavery, Jim Crow, etc. (The Post echoes Joe Biden’s claim that students should learn “the good, the bad, the everything.” Does that encompass being taught about the disproportionate degree to which Blacks commit violent crime, for example?)
There is zero danger that students won’t learn about slavery, Jim Crow, etc., and the actions of Georgia and Texas create none. Stanley addresses false claims by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Georgia’s ban as follows:
An article on the Georgia Board of Education’s latest action in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution conveyed some misconceptions about the resolution by its opponents. The Georgia resolution does not declare that teachers may not make students feel guilty or uncomfortable during discussions of race, a purely subjective standard. On the contrary, the resolution prevents teachers from asserting that students ought to feel guilty simply because of their race, a different and much clearer standard.
Nor are teachers or students prevented from discussing the core concepts of critical race theory. Teachers are prevented only from “inculcating” a belief in concepts like racial superiority or collective guilt. When carrying out their duties, K–12 teachers are rightly obligated by law to convey the approved curriculum. To bar the inculcation of certain concepts is therefore not a violation of a teacher’s freedom of speech. On the contrary, it is well within the scope of discretion by states and school districts to bar teachers from instilling certain concepts.
Few would be bothered by barring teachers from inculcating notions of White supremacy. So why be bothered by a ban on the teaching of White inferiority?
In significant ways, the Georgia resolution actually protects teachers from compulsion, while also safeguarding the ethos of free exchange. It prevents teachers who do not wish to discuss current controversies from being forced to do so. It also encourages teachers who do wish to explore current public-policy debates to explore them from diverse and contending perspectives. That gives teachers a variety of options, while also protecting students from indoctrination.
Sadly and perhaps ironically, only a modern-day liberal could have a problem with that.