The Weekend Jolt

Education

Resetting the Honesty Meter in the Critical Race Theory Debate

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting which included a discussion about Critical Race Theory, in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Trying to keep up with every half-baked, hyperbolic piece of trollery on social media is a futile charge, but these strands do matter when they start to interlock to form a narrative.

Here’s one narrative taking shape: Those who don’t want critical race theory (CRT) taught in the schools would prefer that lesson plans default to a supposed status quo of covering up the national stain of slavery and the raw struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.

As Joy Reid recently put it: “What do you WANT taught about U.S. slavery and racism? Nothing? Or what?” This accompanying tweet also made the rounds: “Currently, most k-12 students already learn a kind of Confederate Race Theory, whereby the Daughters of the Confederacy long ago imposed a version of history wherein slavery was not so bad and had nothing to do with the civil war, and lynchings and violence never happened.”

Not sure what schools she attended. Dan McLaughlin correctly labeled this “nonsense.”

But it’s nonsense that has legs, and that will continue to coarsen an already-vitriolic debate until some measure of honesty is restored. The notion that America’s public schools simply don’t teach about these momentous eras in American history keeps popping up, implying GOP-led state efforts to curtail CRT or related instruction are conspiring to keep it that way. Here’s one meme that riffs on this idea. And here’s The Daily Show quipping that those states have made it illegal to teach about Juneteenth. It’s just a meme. Yes. It’s just a joke. Yes. But this coincides with an increasingly regnant narrative that CRT critics want to suppress basic history — here’s an example of this seeping into news coverage — and that it’s secretly funded, non-organic astroturf anyway.

Charlie Cooke explains why that’s simply not the case:

[T]he New Yorker’s Jane Mayer suggested last week that the escalating pushback against critical race theory “has all the red flags of an dark money astroturf campaign.” We are stuck, it seems, in Stage One of the Kübler-Ross Scale of Progressive Political Grief.

If they wish to, figures such as Mayer can spend the next few years insisting that the resistance to critical race theory that we are seeing from parents across the country is little more than a mirage. . . . Sneering, scoffing, and laughing off the revolt, they can submit in anger that those complaining about the development are suffering from “white fragility” or are engaged in a “moral panic” or are just trying desperately to prevent their kids from learning about slavery and civil rights.

What they can’t do, however, is make any of that true.

Our editorial elaborates:

The merest glimpse at public meetings on the topic, and the raw emotions of concerned parents, should disabuse anyone of the progressive notion that this is a concocted “Astroturf” movement put up by shadowy right-wing billionaires. It turns out that ordinary Americans and first-generation immigrants want their children to learn American ideals instead of Ivy League faculty-lounge jargon.

As for the argument that lawmakers and parents are confusing CRT for run-of-the-mill equity instruction, Charles counters:

America’s insurgent parents are worried about the pedagogical consequences of critical race theory, rather than about the existence or minutiae of critical race theory itself. . . . As Columbia’s John McWhorter has observed, there is nothing at all wrong with alarmed parents describing as “critical race theory” the key premises to which they object, given that those presumptions are “descended from” the “teachings” of critical race theory, and that “their architects openly bill themselves as following the tenets of CRT.”

Public-education curricula are not perfect. In some cases, they’re not even adequate, and that is surely the case for certain districts’ teaching of civil rights and civil war in America. But improving them starts from the baseline of not misrepresenting the current state of instruction, or this debate. Students are taught about slavery, about its role in causing the Civil War*, and about the Civil Rights Movement.

CBS last year published the findings of an investigation into how black history is taught, reporting: “While most state standards do directly mention the teaching of two defining moments in American history, slavery and the civil rights movement, what states expect their students to learn about these topics can vary drastically.”

In 2017, National Council for the Social Studies published an essay noting that “the legitimacy of K-12 Black history as an academic subject for schoolchildren is largely unquestioned,” that one survey found civil-rights topics are among the most popular, and that several states have passed black-history-education mandates. The same essay lamented how instruction nevertheless can be superficial or spotty and offered a number of suggestions (for instance, “enslavement should not be the first contact school children have with Black history”).

Both reports, and others, show clear room for improvement — including by ensuring students learn the fundamental detail that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War (*districts are not necessarily as consistent on this as they should be) — but also make clear these subjects are, of course, being taught in the schools now. To suggest otherwise is just plain nonsense.

Accuracy about this, and about what’s being proposed, would help. Intentional or not, this Post report correctly describing Florida’s efforts was a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, NR has endeavored to cover this issue thoroughly. Cameron Hilditch has a helpful “reader” on the matter — with highlights from this publication and others, from all sides. And in case you missed them, Ryan Mills and Rich Lowry both published detailed accounts earlier this month of curriculum fights at the local level. Ryan posted a fresh account of Loudoun County’s this week. Which brings us to the newest issue of NR — and the cover story on CRT, by Michael Brendan Dougherty. You can read it here.

Here’s more, on subjects CRT and otherwise, from the week.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The newly announced infrastructure “compromise” is taking the GOP for a ride: Republicans Shouldn’t Fall for Biden’s Infrastructure Charade

Biden’s crime-fighting plan is really a gun-regulation plan: Biden’s Unserious Crime Proposal

The moratorium on evictions is no longer justified on public-health or economic grounds: End the Moratorium on Evictions

New York City’s future, after a stretch of Democratic leadership, is uncertain, and it remains to be seen whether the next mayor can correct course: What Next for NYC?

ARTICLES

Phil Klein: U.S. Public Schools Lost 1.3 Million Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

John McCormack: Senate Democrats’ Filibuster Hypocrisy

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Will Trump 2024 Really Happen?

Nicola Williams: The Problems with Laurel Hubbard’s Qualifying for the Olympics as a Woman

Dominic Pino: The Tax Milton Friedman Supported and Bernie Sanders Won’t Raise

Alexandra DeSanctis: The ‘Right to Choose’ What, Jen Psaki?

Rich Lowry: How to Decimate Police Forces in Two Easy Steps

Zach Evans: School Board Meeting Cut Short, Parent Arrested after Fiery Speech on CRT, Transgender Policy

Andrew Follett: Biden’s Final Frontier for NASA Is Identity Politics

Charles C. W. Cooke: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lesson in Invisibilization, Unlocking Doors with Keys, and Other Cardinal Sins

Caroline Downey: Seattle LGBT Group Speaks Out against Pride Event Charging White Attendees ‘Reparations’

Bradley J. Birzer: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Work Transcends ‘Wokeness’

Jimmy Quinn: China Silences Hong Kong’s Biggest Pro-Democracy Newspaper  

Jim Geraghty: Head of U.S. Intelligence: We May Never Know COVID-19’s Origin

Kyle Smith: Eric Adams (Probably) Defeats Socialism in New York City

Kevin Williamson: The Heights of Stupidity

Mario Loyola: Missouri Defies the Feds on Gun Control

Jack Butler: Mumford & Sons Banjo Player Forced Out over Andy Ngo Support

Andrew McCarthy is running a five-part series on leak investigations. Parts 1–3 are here and here and here. Be sure to look for the concluding articles this weekend.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Jessica Melugin argues that the new FTC chairwoman has trust issues: When Antitrust Is Anti-Consumer

Jacob Huebert sees some twisted incentives in the stimulus package: Should All States Tax and Spend like California? President Biden’s Stimulus Plan Could Make It So 

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

After the establishment of a federal holiday for Juneteenth, Armond White recalls Ralph Ellison’s overlooked masterpiece: The Juneteenth Everyone Forgot

Brian Allen checks out the Clark Art Institute’s new exhibition, Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway. He’s impressed, and the spectacularly vivid images curated here show why: Norwegian Magic and Memories, at the Clark Art Institute

FROM THE NEW JULY 12, 2021 ISSUE OF NR

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Why the Fight over Critical Race Theory Matters

Jay Nordlinger: Witness from Syria

Ramesh Ponnuru: Threat Inflation

David Mamet: The Tug of Peace

Sarah Schutte: The Beauty of Bird-Watching

COME FOR THE DAD JOKES, STAY FOR THE PIERCING ANALYSIS

Here is the opening of the aforementioned MBD story on CRT and the backlash we’re seeing in the schools:

Moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt. I’ll say it again, moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt against critical race theory, “anti-racism,” the introduction of the 1619 Project into high-school curricula, and the suddenly invasive demands of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants who are being hired by their school districts. Although progressives wish, in vain, that this movement were an Astroturf operation run by shadowy right-wing donor networks, it has been springing up in school districts in reaction to initiatives led by administrators themselves.

Tatiana Ibrahim stood up in front of the Carmel school board in Putnam County, N.Y, and denounced what she termed the “communist values” that teachers and administrators in the district are promoting. “Stop indoctrinating our children. Stop teaching our children to hate the police. Stop teaching our children that if they don’t agree with the LGBT community, they’re homophobic,” Ibrahim demanded. “You have no idea of each child’s life,” she said, before announcing, in an only-in-America moment, that she is a Christian and her daughter is a Muslim.

She’s far from alone.

Kyle Smith breaks down why Eric Adams’s performance in the NYC mayoral race is a warning to the socialists:

The never-ending quest to find some actual workers who support the socialist agenda crashed into the following number [Tuesday] night in New York City: 46–17. Those two figures are from the Bronx, the poorest, least white, least-educated, and hence most proletarian borough of New York City. Ex-cop Eric Adams, preaching the gospel of law and order, won 46 percent of the first batch of votes tallied in the Bronx. Lawyer Maya Wiley, an MSNBC socialist campaigning on defunding the police, got 17 percent. Adams also trounced Wiley in Staten Island, the borough that for decades has been New York City’s redoubt for the white middle class and working class. In Staten Island, Adams beat Wiley by a score of 31–13 in early tallies.

Socialist heads are spinning, but New York City advances a trend seen elsewhere in the country, in which some of the least-affluent minorities are moving right even as affluent whites are moving left. Just as South Florida Latinos don’t want to hear about socialism, neither do Bronxites. (The Bronx is the only majority-Hispanic borough of the five that constitute New York City; a 2013 survey estimated the non-Hispanic white population to be 10 percent.)

The socialists just can’t seem to process enough white people through Oberlin to get themselves to a majority, even in their intellectual capital, New York City.

There have been some salient examples lately of the Left devouring its own (like this) with unrelenting enforcement of ever-changing standards of conduct . . . but this takes the cake in the intramural culture wars. Caroline spotlights a Seattle LGBT event charging “reparations” to white attendees:

In the city of Seattle, an organization called Capitol Hill Pride hosts an annual festival to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Capitol Hill Pride’s leaders say their goal is to create a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life in Seattle, so when they learned that an LGBT event — set to take place in the city’s Jimi Hendrix Park on Saturday — will bar white people unless they pay “reparations,” they sent a letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission demanding an ethics investigation into what it said constituted “reverse discrimination.”

Organizers of the black-exclusive event, coined “Take B(l)ack Pride,” advertised that “white allies and accomplices are welcome to attend, but will be charged a $10 to $50 reparations fee (and given a wrist band as proof of payment.” The ad suggested that the funds raised will go towards subsidizing black and brown trans and queer members as well as performers at the parade.

In an interview with National Review, Capitol Hill Pride Director Charlette LeFevre confirmed her group’s rejection of the initiative and clarified their own mission: “We’re all inclusive, not exclusive.”

Meanwhile, not even Middle-earth is safe from the mind-bruising vocabulary of the woke. Bradley J. Birzer lets the discussion titles for the Tolkien Society’s upcoming annual conference speak for themselves (while speculating that an upcoming Amazon series is the reason for this bizarre exercise):

Discussions, as listed at the website, include: “Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings”Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings”; “The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism”; “The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’”; “Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!”; and, most enigmatic, “‘Something Mighty Queer’: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien.”

While I have yet to read the papers and know only the titles for reference — some of which are so obscure and obtuse that I remain in a state of some confusion — let’s, for a moment, consider “Pardoning Saruman? The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In what way is Saruman, an incarnate Maia angel, sent by the Valar to do good in Middle-earth (Saruman really fails at this), queer? Is he in love with himself? True, with his immense ego, he might very well have been. Is he in love with Orthanc? Perhaps, but there is nothing in the text to support this. Is he in love with Radagast the Brown? No, he considers him a fool. Is he in love with Gandalf the Grey? No, he’s jealous of Gandalf and had been from their first arrival in Middle-earth. Is he in love with his bred Orcs? Wow, this would be twisted. Is he in love with Wormtongue? If so, nothing will come of it, for the lecherous Wormtongue has a leering and creepy gaze only for Eowyn. And, so, I remain baffled by all of this. Nothing about a queer Saruman seems to make sense. . . .

Still, aside from simply being woke and employing outrageous jargon, the Tolkien Society is anticipating a successful Amazon.com series. It’s trying to get in front of the series and influence it.

To end with some economics, here’s an important explanation of how “relief” measures really work, from the editorial on the eviction moratorium:

It is not much justified as an economic measure — and never really was. Our left-wing friends talk about landlords as though they were all twirling their mustaches like Snidely Whiplash when not rolling in piles of gold ducats like Scrooge McDuck. In reality, many landlords are small businesses or individuals, some of whom have low incomes. Low-income landlords tend to derive a greater share of their household incomes from rent than do higher-income landlords, meaning that eviction moratoria do not prevent economic hardship but merely transfer it from one party to another.

Shout-Outs

Chris Stirewalt, at the Dispatch: Mountaineers Are Always Free: Celebrating the creation of West Virginia

Theodore Dalrymple, at City Journal: The Degeneration of Public Administration

Hugo Gurdon, at the Washington Examiner: Woke militants blunder into a parental buzz saw

Teresa R. Manning, at Law & Liberty: Make University Administrators Pay and Watch Things Change

Honorable Mention

Check out our own Daniel Tenreiro on the Capital Record podcast, talking media bias, Big Tech, and more with David L. Bahnsen.

CODA

Time to get a little bit weird. This sign-off segment has focused in recent weeks on jazz and folk, but the penman behind the WJ has proclivities for much more insufferable genres (heard of math metal?). And one of the more insufferable things this writer does in furtherance of his insufferable interests is to make a point of visiting a local record store whenever setting foot in a foreign country, and picking up something representative. So one long weekend in Reykjavík, this habit led to the discovery of an Icelandic band called Sólstafir. Atmospheric, haunting, bracing, yet desolate . . . these are all adjectives conjured by this cover art, for an album that contains this title track, “Ótta,” to which all those same adjectives apply. As might one of those waves on the cover (and by the way, waves in Iceland are serious business, responsible for tourist deaths much like bison attacks in Yellowstone), the song takes you away. . . .

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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