To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Observercast

Walters Schools Teachers On Fascism

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Last week State School Supt. Ryan Walters continued his campaign against public education in Oklahoma [there’s an Oklahoma standard for you] by showing “a taxpayer-funded ‘propaganda’ video that educators viewed as a threat to their safety and livelihoods,” according to CNHI’s Janelle Stecklein.

Jennifer Palmer at Oklahoma Watch reported the video shows “teacher unions as enemies and the state Education Department as [the] students’ savior, escalating his incendiary rhetoric against teachers and their professional organizations.”

She explained, “The dramatized production contains foreboding music interspersed clips of Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters’ appearances on Fox News with sound bites of National Education Association President Becky Pringle, Vice President Kamala Harris and others.”

One clip, Palmer says, includes “[s]peakers at a National Education Association convention … advocating for supporting students of all identities.”

It is likely the video did not include this from the NEA’s mission statement:

“Public education is the foundation of our democracy, and educators believe in a strong, inclusive public school system that ensures all students can succeed, regardless of their ZIP code. Private school vouchers – and similar schemes like tuition tax credits and education savings accounts – take scarce funding away from public schools and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public.”

There’s that dangerous inclusiveness, of course, but NEA and Oklahoma teachers’ opposition to stealing taxpayer funds for private education and religious indoctrination is the heart of Stitt and Walters’ attacks on education.

In their world, political debate does not exist. Opponents must be demonized.

This is textbook fascism, according to Lawrence Britt’s “14 Characteristics of Fascism.” No. 3 on his list is the “identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.”

What makes public school teachers “enemies?” Their desire for proper funding for starters. Then, too, many of them recognize that actual state of the world with its diversity of people and ideas. This runs afoul of the fascist “disdain for the recognition of human rights” – another identifying trait, according to Britt.

If there’s one thing Walters, his puppet-master Gov. Kevin Stitt and their idol Donald Trump oppose it is treating all people with equal dignity. Attacking minority populations and ideas is a key to their campaigns.

With Walters having called teachers’ unions “terrorist organizations” earlier in the month, there were some teachers present at the meeting. Stecklein caught up with Allyson Helm, an OKC teacher – and registered Republican – afterwards:

“There were tears,” she said. “People were shaking …. And it is nothing less than propaganda. It reminds me of wartime propaganda.” She added, according to Stecklein, that the video tried to “draw an insulting line between pedophiles and pornography and educators.”

Jami Jackson-Cole of Duncan told Stecklein her first thought was “this is fixin’ to get someone killed.”

Rightwing Republican rhetoric is constant inspiration for some of their less stable followers.

And, lest we forget, teachers were among the first targets when Franco’s Falangists advanced into new territory. Teachers were guilty of educating students away from Spain’s 19th century social order.

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.