The GOP’s ‘critical race theory’ obsession isn’t about ‘transparency’ — it’s about ‘intimidating teachers’: journalist
All over the United States, Republicans in state legislatures have been pushing bills and laws that forbid the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools. Proponents of such laws argue that they are promoting “transparency,” but in a biting op-ed published by the Daily Beast on Valentine’s Day 2022, journalist Jonathan Friedman argues that their goal isn’t “transparency,” but rather, “intimidating teachers.”
“Just as opposition has mounted to Republican proposals to enforce gag orders on teachers and ban books from schools, right-wingers have shifted tactics, adopting a new policy objective under the spurious umbrella of ‘transparency,’” Friedman warns. “Don’t be fooled by the neutral-sounding language. By any other name, this is an effort to monitor teachers that echoes the worst urges of McCarthyism and feels like Orwell’s Big Brother brought to life.”
Friedman continues, “Transparency is a good thing in a democracy. It’s important that citizens, organizations and journalists have opportunities to file open records requests, to investigate corruption in school boards, or to examine curricular documents at a state or school board level. But what’s being advanced is a radical form of teacher surveillance that would place enormous burdens on educators and chip away at the freedom to learn, teach, and share ideas and perspectives. Constraining educators in this way will only harm students in the process.”
The journalist goes on to lay out some reasons why it is “deeply disingenuous” for Republicans pushing anti-CRT laws to claim that their primary motivation is “transparency.”
“Backers of these bills have claimed that they are simply advancing ‘parents’ rights,’ helping parents and taxpayers know what’s taught in schools, or supporting teachers’ planning,” Friedman notes. “But everyone knows that this ‘transparency’ movement comes at the tail-end of a year-long campaign in which many conservative activists and Republican legislators have introduced educational gag orders to prohibit discussions of so-called ‘divisive concepts’ in schools, playing into a national panic over critical race theory.”
Ty Masterson, Republican leader of the Kansas State Senate, has described critical race theory as an “ideological worldview that embeds itself in all types of curriculum,” saying that his goal is “curriculum transparency.” But in fact, critical race theory isn’t even being taught in K-12 schools in Kansas or any other state in the U.S.
CRT, a field of academic study that is offered at some colleges and universities, argues that the racism of the past affects U.S. institutions in the present. And isn’t something that one finds in public grammar schools, middle schools or high schools, although many Republicans are acting like it is.
“Regardless of how benign some of these bills seem on the surface, this censorious intent lies just below,” Friedman observes. “These are proposals that come out of an authoritarian playbook: ways for the state to monitor and inspect teachers’ day-to-day work with unprecedented precision, and with punitive measures attached. The aim is clearly to intimidate teachers, to make them second-guess everything they say, to politicize and police what they do.”
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