Home > Essays > Profiteers Amplify Controversies in Public Schools to Market Their (Ahem) Demographic Advantages

Profiteers Amplify Controversies in Public Schools to Market Their (Ahem) Demographic Advantages

June 2, 2021

The reliably insightful and provocative Jeff Bryant wrote an article for Alternet describing the REAL reason the right-wing is seizing on Critical Race Theory (CRT)… and it has nothing to do with disputes over educational philosophy or the desire for CRT advocates to look at the past through a different lens. It has to do with money:

(Executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education James)Ford views these attacks on “woke” indoctrination in schools are “unequivocally related to efforts to privatize education,” and he points out that many of the same people orchestrating these new laws targeting public education are strong proponents of school choice. “Historically, there is a pattern connecting race issues and privatization,” he says.

Numerous studies have found evidence supporting Ford’s argument, but it’s not at all hard to imagine that an effective strategy for pushing white families out of public schools is to raise fears that their children are being indoctrinated with values and beliefs that could divide them ideologically or emotionally and draw a wedge between them and their families and neighbors.

Nor is it a stretch to believe that families of color, seeing white families become enraged about the teaching of structural racism, would consider fleeing a public school to find a privately operated alternative that would be more culturally affirming for their children.

And it will be no surprise to readers of this blog to know that the national and coordinate effort to criminalize the teaching of “divisive topics” is at the root of this movement to divide public school parents. And Mr. Bryant’s article underscores a chilling reality that comes to the fore when “divisive content” is forbidden: children are not only separated from each other, they are separated from a whole host of uncomfortable truths. He opens the article with the description of a NC Teacher of the Year who was invited to give testimony in the NC legislature on the challenges of hybrid learning. When he appeared before a House Committee, though, the topic changed. Instead of being asked about remote learning he was grilled on his presentation of a controversial subject: air pollution. 

And that kind of McCarty-ism is what makes teachers shudder when legislation like the “divisive topics” bills make their way through state legislators. There are still parents who oppose instruction on evolution, business leaders who see lessons on water and air pollution and land use “divisive”, and many parents who see CRT as “indoctrination”. James Ford sees what is going on and he is trying to make everyone in NC aware:

The real target, Ford explained, is “divisiveness.” For the people who criticize teachers and promote these bills, Ford believes, there can be “no nuance at all” in discussing “matters of religion and customs and the values of rugged individualism and free-market ideology.” There can be no challenges of assumptions and no revising of long-standing mythologies about America and American society.

According to Ford, these people see education as a process about “making kids assimilate,” and “simply talking about a subject like pollution takes on a heightened sense of alarm about society being undermined.”

Proposed laws against “divisiveness” in schools prompt Ford to question, “Divisive for who?” and he notes that the people behind all these bills are overwhelmingly white, wealthier folks who have generally benefited most from the nation’s education system.Ford suggests they may be provoking white resentment against public schools because schools are now more populated with Black and Brown children who may express doubts about a prevailing narrative about the country that may not include people who look like them.

Ford also finds it ironic that people who are intent on outlawing school “indoctrination” have chosen to impose their own agenda by attacking critical thinking and questioning of cultural norms, which, to him, is what truly sounds like indoctrination.

Jeff Bryant makes the point that enforcing these laws will be difficult, especially given the vague definition of “divisive content”. He senses that teachers will self-censor to an extreme, and he may be right. As one who had to push back on a few occasions when parents felt some books assigned were “inappropriate” for their children, I can see where parents who don’t like a book or topic will be emboldened to appear before the school boards across the country to protest a given book or topic a teacher is offering. And it is not too difficult to see the politicization of topics like CRT, pollution, and the labelling of toilets leading to divisive and contentious school board elections in the years ahead. 

And here is what is especially sad to me: given the choice between unity and profit, businesses are siding with their commitment to shareholders… and given the choice between unity and power, at least one political party is choosing power. 




Categories: Essays Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: