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Apparently, Discussing White Privilege with High School Students is "Indoctrination" and "Anti-White"



At least they didn't quote Brother Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. out of context.

Schools are one of the primary places where political socialization takes place in a given society. They are indoctrination centers that reproduce the values of a culture. Most folks do not want to think of "education" in that way.

In "post racial" America this poses a dilemma: do you teach young people the truth about this country's history and the semi-permanence of the colorline? As an educator, do you discuss how American society is structured hierarchically and where race, class, and gender over-determine life outcomes?

It would seem that  if you are a teacher at Delavan-Darien High School in Wisconsin, you should not dare to broach such questions.

Over the last few decades, there has been an Orwellian turn in American education. It extends from grade school to the university level.

What counts as educational content is being dictated by the logic of the capitalist marketplace, teachers are being subjected to onerous surveillance and harassment, intellectual freedom is being made subject to the political aims of outside actors, and the value of teachers is being undermined by destroying public unions, eliminating tenure, and forcing college professors into a permanent contingent labor force.

In total, the response to Delavan-Darien High School's course "American Diversity" is indicative of the impact of hyper-conservatism on public schools. Ultimately, the students (and by extension all of us) lose because they are not being given the critical thinking tools to be active, reflective, and engaged citizens.

Ideally, any controversy over teaching students about an obvious fact--such as how "race matters" in American society--should be dismissed as silliness.

However, conservatives are prone to authoritarian thinking and a binary worldview that is highly resistant to change and new information. Any critique of their personal mythologies--such as the idea that America is a true meritocracy--is bound to cause howls of complaint, and cries of "indoctrination." When personal mythologies intersect with self-serving narratives about colorblindness, Whiteness and Conservatism cannot help but to overreact in the form of a manufactured crisis.

The Fox News story about Delavan-Darien High School's discussion of White Privilege is also a rich object lesson in the magical thinking and anti-intellectualism which has infected the Right, and America's public discourse, more generally, since the Culture Wars of the 1990s (and which reached a fever pitch with the election of President Obama in 2004 through to the present).


Conservatives have repeatedly complained about the nefarious field of "anti-white" scholarship known as Critical Race Theory. However, they cannot define its range of study. Nor, have those on the Right likely done any vigorous research about its intellectual terrain or scope.

Moreover, there is a deep suspicion of the Academy and "intellectuals" by those on the populist Right. Hostility to Critical Race Theory is really about an unwillingness to discuss racial inequality coupled with a disdain for any type of trained expertise in matters of the mind or intellect.

The ability of outside agitators such as the Tea Party, Young America's Foundation,  David Horowitz, and  the Koch Brothers to monitor educational content, to bully and harass teachers and professors with whom they disagree, and to interject their "learning materials" into classrooms, is part of a decades-long project  to remake education (on every level) in the service of a neoliberal, far-Right agenda.

The lie of false equivalency, where all sides of an argument are considered legitimate and of equal merit, is a product of a corporate news media entertainment complex that has rejected any responsibility for truth-telling. Fox News has become a professional outlet for distorted information that is legitimated under the guise of being "fair and balanced."

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