Gadfly on the Wall: Public Schools Are Not Indoctrinating Kids About Racism. Voucher Schools ARE
Republican frenzy has reached a fever pitch with attacks in at least 16 states on schools that allegedly teach Critical Race Theory.
Right-wingers claim public schools are indoctrinating America’s youth in lies and deception about race and racism – namely the “lie” that these things remain problems.
They grudgingly concede that racism was a (slight) problem in this country before the civil rights movement, but then Rosa sat down and Martin stood up and – POOF – racism was over.
End of story. Let’s move on.
However, there are several things wrong with this besides its basic reductivism.
First, no public school actually teaches Critical Race Theory.
Second, racism is not over in the US, and talking about the facts of history and how they led to our current situation is not indoctrination. It’s education – the job of public schools.
And finally, if you really want to see taxpayer funded indoctrination, look at private and parochial schools accepting taxpayer funding through voucher and tax credit programs.
Let’s start with Critical Race Theory.
It is entirely absent from public school curriculum.
Critical Race Theory is a legal framework that’s been taught for decades in law schools around the country. And just like torts, contract law, civil forfeiture and a host of other valid topics in law school, the K-12 public schools really don’t cover them much.
But right wing lawmakers and the billionaire funded think tanks that provide their
propaganda ideas want to turn Critical Race Theory into a scare tactic to close down discussions of race and racism in America’s classrooms.
Which brings us to the second point – racism is not over in America.
Facts are facts.
In a country where the average Black worker earns just 62% of what the average white worker makes, and where black people are 3.23 times more likely than white people to be killed by police – racism is not over.
One out of every three Black boys born today can expect to be sentenced to prison, compared to 1 out 6 for Latino boys, and one out of 17 for White boys.
Black people are convicted at higher rates and given longer sentences than white people for the same crimes – 5% of illicit drug users are African American, yet Black people represent 29% of those arrested and 33% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. Moreover, African Americans and White people use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of White people.
And on and on.
One has to live in a factually neutral bubble to insist that racism no longer exists in this country, but that’s exactly where these right wing lawmakers are coming from.
The GOP is terrified they might actually have to protect voting rights or provide equitable school funding for black kids up to par with white kids, so they have to keep creating scary monsters to frighten the populace into believing their bogus world view.
After all, their base is almost exclusively White. If they can’t find something to rile up these people and make them feel unduly put upon, they won’t come to the polls. And nothing gets people more eager to vote than fear and anger.
Except maybe ignorance.
Which brings us to the third point – indoctrination doesn’t happen at public schools; it happens at taxpayer funded voucher schools.
The last decade has seen a steady, incremental increase in taxpayer funding in most states for private and parochial schools as public school budgets have been robbed and raided to pay for it.
In some states, this comes from outright school voucher programs. In others like Pennsylvania, this comes from tax credit programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs.
In essence, they all do the same thing. They take taxpayer money that was (or would have been) put aside for public education and funnel it to parochial or private schools.
The schools that accept this money have little to no oversight in how they spend it nor do they have to follow any of the rules that public schools do.
And many of these schools actually do indoctrinate their students into untruths about science, history and politics. On our dime.
How do we know that? We know which books they use in their curriculum. And many of them are filled with factually incorrect bigotry and bias.
For example, here’s a few justifications of slavery from America: Land I Love, an A Beka Book:
“The slave who knew Christ had more freedom than a free person who did not know the Savior…”
“…Although the slaves faced great difficulties, many found faith in Christ and learned to look to God for strength. By 1860, most slaveholders provided Christian instruction on their plantations.”
“To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity of Christian praise. Through the Negro spiritual, the slaves developed the patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is from the bondage of sin…”
And here’s a defense of the kindness of most slave owners from United States History for Christian Schools published by Bob Jones University Press (BJU):
“A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well.”
And here’s another excerpt from the same book teaching that black people were just as responsible for slavery as white people and that white people suffered from slavery just as much:
“The story of slavery in America is an excellent example of the far-reaching consequences of sin. The sin in this case was greed – greed on the part of the African tribal leaders, on the part of the slave traders, and on the part of slave owners, all of whom allowed their love for profit to outweigh their love for their fellow man. The consequences of such greed and racism extended across society and far into the future. It resulted in untold suffering – most obviously for the black race but for the white race as well.” (emphasis mine)
Here’s another excerpt from the same book about the benefits of the KKK:
“[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”
Meanwhile, the Teacher’s Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools published by BJU wrote this about how liberal Democrats and desegregation were bad:
“While the end was a noble one – ending discrimination in schools – the means were troublesome. Liberals were not willing to wait for a political solution.”
As bad as these excerpt are, they focus only on racism.
The books are riddled with counter factual claims and political bias in every subject imaginable such as abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act, which one labels a “radical social agenda.” They disparage religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures other than those descended from White Europeans.
They teach that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, some dinosaurs survive into the present day (i.e. the Loch Ness monster), evolution is a myth disproved by REAL science as is the claim that homosexuality is anything but a choice.
Teaching these things in school is not just educational malpractice, it’s exactly the kind of indoctrination the right is claiming without evidence happens at public schools.
And this kind of brain washing is common at voucher schools.
Along with publisher Accelerated Christian Education, A Beka and BJP are being used in countless taxpayer-funded schools. Nearly 6 million students attend private schools in the United States and about three-quarters of those are Christian schools. And that doesn’t even count the roughly 1.7 million American children who are homeschooled many of whom use these texts.
These books are used almost exclusively at religious schools or through homeschooling. However, that’s the majority of the school voucher program – even the tax credit scholarship programs.
Nearly 80 percent of scholarship students attend religious schools, and most of those institutions are Christian, according to an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel. The books mentioned above all come from a Protestant point of view. However, roughly 16 percent of scholarship schools are Catholic and use their own curriculum as do other schools including Islamic or Jewish institutions (which combined make up about 5 percent of the schools).
It is clear then that this controversy is worse than a tempest in a teacup.
It’s misdirected anger.
Political indoctrination IS going on in the United States, but it is not happening at our public schools.
It is happening at our private and parochial schools through school voucher programs.
If we ban anything, it shouldn’t be Critical Race Theory – It should be school vouchers.
For more on this subject, see the short documentary film, “School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry and Bias” by Rachel Tabachnick.
July 13, 2021