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Schooling For Totalitarianism

Ibram X. Kendi's theories of 'antiracism' are partly driving Loudoun County's rush to soft totalitarianism (CBS This Morning)

Here’s a story about why voting for Donald Trump will not stop wokeness — and through no fault of Trump’s.

Education policy is set primarily by state and local leaders. This is, in my conservative view, a good thing. What works for students in Brooklyn might not be right for students in Tyler, Texas. The people whose kids are going to have to live with their decisions should be the one’s closest to making those decisions.

This is why, though, Trump (and any president) is largely powerless to stop wokeness at the institutional level

Over the weekend I had a conversation with a reader who works in an educational institution, and who is in hot water because he voiced opposition on social media to Critical Race Theory. Good thing that teacher doesn’t work for Loudoun County (Va.) Public Schools, which serve children in Virginia’s wealthiest county. If the school board adopts a proposal coming up for consideration at its October 12 meeting, no employee of the system will be allowed to criticize CRT ever, not even in private — and employees will be required to snitch on each other. You think I’m kidding? I am not kidding. Read more:

The proposed change would cover all communication by Loudoun County Schools’ employees, on campus or off, by telephone, in person or on social media.

According to the draft policy, employee speech that “will not be tolerated ” includes anything that district leaders believe could be perceived as “undermining the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements” of Schools Superintendent Eric Williams or the school board.

These comments could “disrupt the operations or efficiency of LCPS,” the policy argues.

Per the policy, LCPS employees would have a “duty to report” their colleagues alleged free speech violations to the school administration.

The policy acknowledges that employees have a “First Amendment right to engage in protected speech” but says it “may be outweighed” by LCPS interest in “promoting internal..and external community harmony and peace” and  achieving Williams’ “directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”

Here are the key lines:

Notice that the words “Critical Race Theory” do not appear in the draft policy. They don’t have to. Here is the Loudoun County School system’s “Detailed Plan To Combat Systemic Racism” — which, of course, is based in part on the work of Ibram X. Kendi, the “antiracist” guru who teaches that anything that is not “antiracist” (in his definition) is therefore positively racist. And here is the “Comprehensive Equity Plan”.

Very little of this is straightforwardly presented. A parent who didn’t understand the jargon would have no idea what is actually being proposed for a vote. Reading this, it would even be possible to think, like debate moderator Chris Wallace and Democratic candidate Joe Biden, that this is only about “racial sensitivity training.” In fact, it’s about something far more radical — and the policy will include firing people who publicly disagree with it in any way, ever. 

If you follow those links and dig deep into the bureaucratese, you’ll find that the “Equity” plan involves manipulating passing grades and school suspension rates to achieve “equity” — that is, to reward or punish people based not on their conduct and accomplishments, but on their race and ethnicity. Equality means giving everyone an equal chance; equity means guaranteeing an equal outcome, or at least a demographically proportional outcome. Look:

This is bureaucratic woke speak for “we’re going to indoctrinate your children in left-wing identity politics.” And look at this:

If your kid goes to a church that is not progressive and LGBT-affirming, she better shut up about her religious views at school, or she will be expelled. If you kid won’t consent to calling a trans student by that student’s preferred pronoun, that could be the end of him at Loudoun County public schools. Anything that the left identifies as a manifestation of “white supremacy” — and these days, what isn’t? — makes students who hold it targets of the system. What if a high school student believes that on balance, Robert E. Lee was a noble, if tragic, figure, and said so in a history class? He would have to fear that Loudoun County public schools, in the state of Virginia, would punish him as a white supremacist.

All throughout the Loudoun County Public Schools documents they talk of “equity” without ever defining it. People not familiar with the way the woke use this word might think of it as neutral, or even positive. Wrong. James Lindsay, in his invaluable Translations From The Wokish dictionary, writes in part:

Notice that, in Critical Social Justice, the meaning of “equity” takes pains to distinguish itself from that of “equality.” Where equality means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, equity means “adjusting shares in order to make citizens A and B equal.” In that sense, equity is something like a kind of “social communism,” if we will—the intentional redistribution of shares, but not necessarily along lines of existing economic disparity but in order to adjust for and correct current and historical injustices, both as exist in reality and as have been drawn out by the various critical theories (specifically, Theory—see also, critical race Theoryqueer Theorygender studiesfat studiesdisability studies, and postcolonial Theory).

The example given (above) of providing a wheelchair user with privileged access to an elevator is one that few people would find unfair. However, within Critical Social Justice conceptions of the world, specifically disability studies here, invisible systems of power and privilege are understood to hold some people back in often invisible ways because of their racegendersexuality, or other marginalized identity factors. Therefore, “equity” requires giving some identity groups privileges in order to redress the perceived imbalance.

In common parlance, this is the difference between attempting to force equality of outcome by enforcing some resource allocation system and equality of opportunity, which Critical Social Justice regards not only as myth but as a harmful ideology that upholds injustices like “white supremacy.”

Because of the blank slatism and simplistic ideas of power and identity found within Critical Social Justice worldviews, all imbalances of representation in desirable areas of work are held to be caused by these perceived power dynamics. Equity is the intended remedy to this problem, and it is made applicable only (and especially) to positions of status and influence. For example, there is no equity program that attempts to increase the number of female sanitation workers, though there are equity programs that seek to increase the number of female doctors and politicians, and these endure even in high-status positions that employ more women than men. Of particular concern are positions that have influence where power is concerned, including in terms of shaping the discourses of society.

For this same reason, the measurement for equity is wholly on assessing the most superficial aspects of outcomes and then ascribing any differences from either demographic parity or parity adjusted upward to “correct” for historical exclusion to systemic bigotry. That is, in practice, an equity approach is almost wholly unconcerned with the root causes of disparate outcomes and merely seeks to identify where they occur and then artificially “correct” them, perhaps through preferential hiring, grading, promotion, pay, etc., by eliminating measurements that reveal disparities like standardized testing, by open, secret, or tacit discrimination against “dominant” group members, or even by installing quotas and specific guidelines for how outcomes must come out, regardless of what leads to them. In that sense, it is a very impoverished theory that is unlikely to achieve any of its stated goals (and will probably hurt most those it claims to help).

Read it all — it’s fascinating. Basically, deep-blue, wealthy, predominantly white Loudoun County in suburban Washington, DC, is going to ruin its public schools by turning them into ideology factories. You’d want to get your kids out of those schools now, if you can — but what about the people who can’t afford private schooling? Their kids are going to be indoctrinated. Anyway, you may send your kid to a Loudoun County private school, but what if the staff there are also woke? The reader with whom I talked over the weekend works as a well-regarded private school which a woke mob within is trying to make it just as progressive as Loudoun County.

The Loudoun County school board paid over $400,000 to diversity consultants to come up with this tyrannical policy, including its provision to threaten people with firing if they criticize it, and its requirement that teachers and staff inform on others who do. It is possible that if the board affirms this policy, they will run afoul of President Trump’s executive order forbidding critical race theory from being taught. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Loudoun County has come under fire for spending $422,500 on diversity training inspired by critical race theory, which claims racism is inherent in nearly every aspect of America. The school district also received backlash from teachers and parents for teaming up with the Southern Poverty Law Center to create a “social justice” curriculum for kindergartners.

President Donald Trump has promised to defund public schools that promote critical race theory. He also signed an executive order banning federal contractors from doing certain kinds of diversity training.

Manhattan Institute scholar Max Eden told the Free Beacon that the school district’s speech code should not be permitted given the Trump administration’s recent executive order. “If President Trump gets a second term, I think we could expect strong federal action against such totalitarian initiatives,” Eden said. “If Biden is elected, however, I expect that he will use the power of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to coerce school districts to adopt [critical race theory] initiatives.”

I’m honestly not sure how much power Trump has over local school board decisions — and frankly, I don’t want this or any POTUS to be in the position of ordering local school boards around. Yet I do expect Biden to accelerate woke indoctrination throughout the public schools.

In any case, if this isn’t in your public or private school now, get ready, because it’s coming. You are going to have a hell of a fight on your hands with the proponents of this stuff. The fact that in Loudoun County, its advocates want to fire anybody within the system who disagrees, and compel employees to rat each other out, tells you all you need to know about this totalitarian garbage.

In Live Not By Lies, I quote Hannah Arendt as saying the destruction of the institutions that made civilization possible — like, I would say, good schools — was part of the pre-totalitarian madness in Russia and Germany:

Arendt’s judgment of the postwar elites who recklessly thumbed their noses at respectability could easily apply to those of our own day who shove aside liberal principles like fair play, race neutrality, free speech, and free association as obstacles to equality. Arendt wrote:

The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it.

That’s what we are seeing in Loudoun County Public Schools. And not just there.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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