by Robert Weissberg
Few notice what is taught in school until it is too late. Today’s push for Critical Race Theory (CRT) is extraordinarily ambitious, and it is hard for defenders of traditional education to imagine anything more toxic than this theory that has seemingly burst on the scene.
But, as bad as it may seem, CRT is not the ne plus ultra of pernicious radical ideology. It can get worse, and it is delusional to believe that just because a given idea is incredibly stupid and destructive, it is therefore impossible for something worse to come along. If that were true, today’s PC madness would have died out decades ago.
So, what can outshine CRT in destroying our schools with crackpot history and underserved guilt trips? The answer is assaulting the core values that make America a First World democracy.
This agenda is still in the preliminary stages, but, like CRT, it is race-centered and obsesses upon evil whites. But here the focus is on “whiteness” apart from anything specific inflicted on blacks by malevolent whites. Whites just infect blacks as if whiteness were a communicable disease.
“Whiteness” inherently oppresses blacks is the message in a recent statement from the National Museum of African American History. The toxicity being transmitted includes, among other things, the scientific method, rugged individualism, a strong work ethic, respect for authority, rational thinking, Christianity, English common law justice, and property rights. To be blunt, everything that separates contemporary America from, say, nations like Haiti or Zimbabwe. In response to outrage, the Museum removed this condemnation of whiteness from its website, but it did not disavow it.
How might teachers undermine such values as clear rational thinking or the merits of hard work? The bad news is it can be done, and the really bad news is that this can be accomplished in an under the radar manner, and this stealthiness makes it more dangerous than CRT. In fact, this anti-whiteness campaign is already in place, though it is seldom recognized as such.
Consider, for example, subverting the work ethic. Promote students regardless of their accomplishments, award meaningless grades just for showing up, and stigmatize the diligent for making lazy students feel bad about themselves.
Destroying faith in rational thinking is equally easy. Don’t explain how scientific reasoning created modern technology, describe instead how scientific thinking is just one way of trying to understand the world, and how this one method is rooted exclusively in European culture. Add in a detailed description of how non-Western cultures have their own, equally valid approaches to discovering truth. Then belittle mathematics as unimportant for understanding the world. It is easy to imagine how children might graduate never having heard of Galileo or Newton yet having an appreciation of African sorcery.
What makes this nonsense so difficult to defeat is that proponents cloak it in faddish multicultural relativism. After all, when it comes to individualism versus collectivism, Hilary Clinton herself tells us that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Yes, many students may appreciate car culture, but for those who hate capitalism, “honesty” in recounting the history of the automobile requires telling fourth graders that Henry Ford was an anti-Semite and John D. Rockefeller was a rapacious money grubber. And, of course, that the pollution-emitting car is destroying the planet.
Imposing the transformation would not be especially difficult. Rita Kramer’s 1991 Ed School Follies details the training of future teachers, and even in 1991 the assault on American values was pervasive. Now, decades later, parents are “surprised” that Junior learns that one’s sexual identity just reflects personal choice. Meanwhile, who keeps track of thousands of local school board elections where a few well-organized radicals can elect officials to advance a radical ideological agenda? The left’s political ideology spreads like carbon monoxide—odorless and invisible.
Finally, this willingness to accept nonsense exploits America’s desperation to achieve racial equality via schooling. Unfortunately, this quest is a parade of failures, spanning everything from court-ordered racial integration, to hiring teachers “who look like their diverse students,” to spending billions on technological gimmicks. This is an industry where every crackpot idea deserves a hearing, no matter how dangerous. If millions can be convinced defunding the police will reduce crime, they may also come to believe eliminating the values incorporated in “whiteness” will cure crime-ridden schools.
Never dismiss ideas as too stupid to win the battle of ideas. Was the American Revolution all about defending slavery, as The 1619 Project alleges? Are color-blind policies racist? Destroying what made America great is a way of life for some, so it is better to kill off their schemes before they are taken seriously.
Consider yourself warned.
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Robert Weissberg is a retired professor (emeritus) of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He writes from New York.