To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Observercast

GOP Syllabus Anti-Education

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Ignorance is bliss, according to Republicans. More specifically, they advocate ignorance in education, indoctrination over inquiry and investigation. They are afraid of facts and those who wield them.

Bad enough that they sit zombie-like in front of Fox Faux News’ absorbing the lies of fascists trying to destroy the republic. Worse that they want to inflict their deliberate ignorance upon future generations.

Those who delight in calling people who advocate civility over hate speech “snowflakes” are most fragile themselves when dealing with historical issues such as slavery and racism.

In December, KFOR-TV reported, “A bill has been filed at the Oklahoma State Capitol that would limit how professors and teachers can teach about racism and slavery.”

Filed by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Sallisaw, HB 2988, he says, “insists upon in teaching it in balance and in context.”

His plea for “balance” is reminiscent of the move in a Texas school district to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust. “It doesn’t prohibit anybody from teaching that America had slavery,” he said at that the time. “It doesn’t prohibit teaching that we’re better for not having slavery.”

Except that the bill includes very specific restrictions about what can and cannot be taught on the subject. Commissars could not be more restrictive in twisting history to their own ends.

Academic Freedom? How about free to be dumb [silent] while dumbing down Oklahoma students?

Then, following GOPQ tactics of creating a straw person to attack, Olsen claimed, “I don’t know about Oklahoma, but there are some that teach that the whole purpose in the founding of America was to initiate and perpetuate slavery and, you know, that’s not true.”

Out there somewhere, somebody is up to no good. Trust him? I prefer documentation, maybe a percentage of offenders.

And, of course, the founding of America could not “initiate” slavery since that deplorable affront to humanity had been around 156 years before our founding. And, no, perpetuating slavery was not the “whole purpose” of our independence. But our founders were presented the option of abolishing slavery at that time and chose not to do so. Fact – as uncomfortable as it is.

Others occupied that moral high ground at that time. Just as there were always those among our ancestors advocating for better and fair treatment of Indians. We “annexed” the American Southwest and California from Mexico after winning the Mexican-American War that was precipitated over the southern boundary of Texas. [Thoreau spent a night in jail protesting the “war tax.”]

The point is that even when a majority chose dishonorable courses of action, there were others among us who tried to push toward a higher ethical standard. One of my favorite professors, who taught American foreign policy at the time of the Vietnam War, was later forced out of his position. We could hope that more of his ilk might have been on many more campuses – that they might have taught enough people enough to prevent the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Philosopher George Santayana most likely originated the notion, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” though it has been attributed to [and appropriated by] others. Teaching a sugar-coated historical fable about this country constitutes a deliberate forgetting of our mistakes and increases the likelihood of their repetition.

Skewing the past is not sufficient mischief for Republicans. Oklahoma Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Hamilton cites other “anti-education bills dirtying up the legislature this session.”

SB 1174 “would prevent the discussion on current events or controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.”

SB 1142 “would remove social-emotional-learning from the classroom.” KFOR-TV’s Austin Breasette explained in January: “The classroom is generally a place where many students learn self-control and relationship skills.” After two years with pandemic limitations and distance learning, many more students could probably use the extra help in re-entering society.

There is not much that fascists prefer to a good book-burning. SB 1142 would permit a “school district-wide book banning by a single parent on topics that address sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” But that is not enough for anti-education Republicans. The bill would also criminalize teachers and librarians who might run afoul of their censorship.

That’s right. One parent controlling the entire curriculum. And we can bet the know-nothings would organize to object education itself right on out the school door.

Factor in low pay as well the Republican-controlled state’s official anti-education stance and it should come as no surprise that Oklahoma has a severe teacher shortage. The educational future in the state is so shaky that KOCO-TV reported in January that, “Oklahoma City University is no longer turning out elementary teachers. The university was left with no choice but to suspend its early childhood and elementary education program in the spring of 2022 because of the low enrollment.”

Who can blame the reluctance of young adults to enter a field despised, under-funded and viewed with suspicion by state leaders who even threaten teachers’ health and well-being with their anti-science stances.

And true to Republicans’ backward thinking, another Oklahoma lawmaker filed SB 1161 which demands, according to KFOR-TV, that any elective religious courses on ”Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament” use only the King James Bible. Certainly. There have been no scholarly advancements in the past 400 years.

The bill’s author, Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, repeated the old lie that the founding fathers – many of whom were assailed as atheistic deists in their own day – “relied heavily upon the scriptures in the formation of our country, and the Bible they used was the King James Bible.”

How an old, flawed translation might help today’s students is beside the point of pandering to the church crowd. And while current regulations on teaching Sunday School on the public dime require “teachers for such courses to be certified in social studies or literature, SB 1161,” KFOR points out, “would allow school districts to choose an ordained or licensed member of the clergy to teach the courses, as long as they teach as a non-compensated volunteer.”

Proselytizing, anyone?

Anti-education Republican propaganda has cost several hundred thousand American lives during the coronavirus pandemic, and the deleterious effects persist. White-washed histories – out of sync with reality – can only perpetuate societal fractures. But that suits anti-education Republicans just fine. They view divisiveness as a wedge to be used against our democratic republic. And, if they can help it, their autocratic agenda will never be discussed in schools.

Gary Edmondson
Gary Edmondson
Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democrats. He lives in Duncan, following a sporadic career as a small-town journalist, mostly in Texas, and as an editor of educational audio-visual materials. Some days he's a philosopher/poet, others a poet/philosopher.