Dr. Carol Swain Talks Critical Theory Dangers and the Need for More Leadership in Tennessee’s K-12 Education


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist, Dr. Carol Swain in studio to react to Critical Race Theory incentives for professors at the University of Memphis and Americans for Prosperity’s 2022 goals.

Leahy: Carol, you have been a university professor at the most prestigious universities in the country. Princeton, Vanderbilt. You cut the cord, you’re out on your own. You’re doing much better than you would if you’ve been staying with those guys in the left-wing land of higher education.

Swain: I have to admit that you’re right. (Leahy chuckles) Leaving Vanderbilt was one of the most important things that I’ve done in my life.

And it opened the door for all sorts of new possibilities. And I feel like the impact that I’m making now is far greater than anything I could have done in the classroom.

Leahy: I agree with that completely. Speaking of the classroom, some taxpayer-funded universities have decided to provide bonuses to teachers that teach about social justice. Our own Chris Butler has that story.

(Chris Butler clip plays)

Leahy: And they get, like, $3,000 for doing that.

Swain: And I think for a lot of professors, especially if they are instructors or assistant professors, that $3,000 can be a big incentive. And so people would naturally try to comply to get that little extra money.

Leahy: Now answer me this. Let’s go back to May of this year where the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law that said, K-12 public schools will not teach the tenets of Critical Race Theory, asterisk.

The judge, in that case, is the Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. There was a complaint on Williamson County that they’re teaching it. And she said, oh, no, they haven’t taught it yet.

So we’re not going to make a decision on that. That seemed to be more than a bit of dodge in my point of view. But why are Tennessee taxpayers paying for social justice learning at the University of Memphis?

Swain: First of all, the schools, the ones in Williamson County, they did not stop teaching CRT. And so it’s still being taught. And when it comes to Bill Lee’s administration and education, I think it’s been a dismal failure.

And I say this as someone like a lot of us, there are things that we love about Bill Lee, but when it comes to education, his administration has been a huge disappointment. When you go to the University of Memphis, some of these schools, what they’re teaching runs contrary to our civil rights laws in our Constitution.

And they will be setting themselves up for lawsuits depending on how the teacher approaches it and what they say in the classroom. Many of us forget that our civil rights laws protect white people as well as black people when it comes to racial discrimination.

And so there’s no place in America where it should be acceptable to discriminate against people because of immutable characteristics like the color of their skin.

Leahy: That’s a very good point. What’s interesting about this is when there’s something that happens in the arena of public policy, the example is, shall we say, the masks and the executive order that Governor Lee said that schools, he said they had the authority to do mask mandates.

But parents could opt-out immediately. Just hundreds and hundreds of lawyers for the Democrats started filing lawsuits, and they got the lawsuits in front of friendly federal judges. And that executive order was basically enjoined, right?

Swain: That’s a Democrat strategy to use lawyers to advance their agenda. And maybe Republicans should do more of that.

Leahy: More lawfare from the right to counteract the lawfare on the left.

Swain: Yes. And we need our brilliant minds, we do have some brilliant minds to at least copy some of the tactics of the political left. Tie them up as well.

Leahy: That’s a very good point. For 2022, we’ve got the Tennessee General Assembly coming in and various folks have set forth agendas. Americans for Prosperity, which has traditionally been more of a conservative-libertarian outfit, asterisk I think there have been some changes in that. We’ll talk about that a little bit.

Swain: Of course, it’s money that drives everything.

Leahy: But our own Chris Butler has a report on what the Americans for Prosperity agenda here in Tennessee is.

(Chris Butler clip plays)

Leahy: Carol, when I listen to that agenda, most of those items I’m in favor of. What are your thoughts?

Swain: I don’t see any problems with that being their agenda.

Leahy: Well see. The Tennessee General Assembly is going to convene next week, and they’ll be addressing all these. You’ve been in education your whole career, mostly at the university level, right? Not so much at K-12.

Swain: Always at the university level.

Leahy: Always.

Swain: And now I’m involved with K-12 because of the current movement that’s sweeping the United States, where parents are standing up for their children and fighting back against the indoctrination that relates to Critical Race Theory.

Critical Queer Theory, Critical Gender Theory, and Critical Feminist Theory. The parents may not know it as these theories, but when they stand up and fight against the sexualization of their children, they are fighting against a critical theory.

And when they are standing up and fighting against the demonization of their sons, they are fighting against a critical theory. And so it’s more than race. And so I’m staying with those parents.

And I have, as a grandmother, have a vested interest in education, but we all should have a vested interest in education, public education as well as private and homeschooling.

Leahy: In Tennessee, we’re a conservative state.

Swain: Oh, really?

Leahy: I’m setting you up here.

Swain: Okay.

Leahy: We voted for Donald Trump overwhelmingly. How do all these issues stand in Tennessee public education, compared to the other states? Are we just as bad? Not as bad. How much work do we need to have done here?

Swain: Tennessee was part of the eight or nine states that passed legislation that attempted to block Critical Race Theory. And what has happened is that pretty much teachers do what they want to do. And if you don’t have a way of monitoring what’s taking place in the classroom, they will continue doing what they’re doing.

And they’ll call it something else. And with Tennessee, it may be a red state, but it doesn’t act like a red state, and it tends to elect senators and governors and people to office that are not strongly committed conservatives. They’re kind of wishy-washy.

Leahy: Yes. Well, that’s been a criticism of a lot of Tennessee Republicans. Traditionally, it’s been sort of Republicans from East Tennessee. That would seem to be that way. Lamar Alexander might be an example of that.

Former governor, Don Sundquist. He’s from West Tennessee, actually. But East Tennessee, the Howard Baker crowd, shall we say, way back when. But are there rock-ribbed conservatives that are standing up for Tennessee and Tennessee parents these days?

Swain: Well, I mean, I don’t know what everyone is doing because I’m more focused now on the national, international level. So I know that there are a few. But I tend to be disappointed very often with our leaders in Tennessee. And with Governor Lee again, you know, Governor Lee is a very likable person.

Leahy: He’s a very likable guy.

Swain: Yes. And so he’s my brother in Christ. But when it comes to his leadership, I feel like I’m deeply disappointed that he has appointed the wrong people. And when it comes to education, he’s not strong on that. And I know he means well, but he is not leading in the way that I would like to see him lead.

Leahy: We give him a hard time here on these things.

Swain: You got to speak the truth, and he’s a good man. And I say he’s a good man. So if he’s out there listening, it’s not too late to turn around. (Laughs)

Leahy: Governor Lee, I know you’re listening to us. We have a seat here right next to Carol. Come in next time Carol is here. We can have a nice conversation, and we’ll talk about what’s going on in K-12 education. I think I agree with Carol. It’s not going in the right direction here in Tennessee and we need some more leadership from Governor Bill Lee.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Carol Swain” by Carol Miller Swain.
















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