Boldly Denying History

History can be useful. History can be used to make others frightened and angry. Just mention Nazis:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Tuesday used a Nazi-era comparison in opposing the Biden administration’s push to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, calling the individuals leading those efforts “medical brown shirts.”

Members of the paramilitary organization that helped Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to power were known as “brownshirts.”

Yes, they were. Know your history. And then misapply it:

Greene’s remarks, made in a tweet, came weeks after she visited the Holocaust Museum and apologized for previously comparing coronavirus face-mask policies to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.

“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people,” Greene tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “People have a choice; they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

That’s not what’s happening, but she is who she is:

Greene was responding to a speech earlier Tuesday in which Biden said, “Now we need to go community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oft times door-to-door – literally knocking on doors – to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

To Greene, that sounded like the Feds busting down doors and shoving needles into the arms of innocent crying babies, or weeping adults, and there was this:

It was not immediately clear what Greene meant with her reference to “a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved.” All three of the coronavirus vaccines in use in the United States were approved under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization last winter.

They work. Full formal approval is a matter of paperwork. That’s coming along nicely. But this woman often gets things mixed up:

In an interview and tweets in May, Greene repeatedly used Holocaust comparisons to criticize face-mask mandates that have been enacted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens — so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about,” Greene said in an interview with the online right-wing news outlet Real America’s Voice.

Days later, she compared a supermarket’s face-mask policy to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.

Then she visited the Holocaust Museum, and apologized, sort of:

At the same news conference, Greene declined to walk back other controversial statements she has made, including one in which she compared the Democratic Party to Hitler’s party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Who cares now? Some women make quilts. She does Nazi comparisons. Few pay attention. But there she is on Donald Trump’s arm several times a week. She’s now sort of his vice-president-in-waiting, and no Republican anywhere would question her judgment. The base would eat them alive. So would Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy wouldn’t dare to say a word about anything she says. Donald Trump would cut off his balls. Again. She’s safe.

So that’s that. Democrats are Nazis. History tells us so, and as David Moye notes, history also tells us this:

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany apparently decided the best way to defend America’s Founding Fathers was to lie about them.

McEnany was part of an all-white panel on Fox News Tuesday morning discussing Rep. Cori Bush’s (D-Mo.) July Fourth tweet, where she said that Black people are still not free in America.

All members of the panel were miffed by Bush’s tweet, but none more than McEnany.

“The haters never take a day off from hating, that is clear,” McEnany said. “And they never take a day off from getting the facts wrong. We know most of our forefathers, all of our main Founding Fathers, were against slavery, recognized the evils of it.”

Nope:

Though there isn’t a consensus on the exact number of Founding Fathers who owned enslaved people, historians have said the majority of men at the signing of the Declaration of Independence were slaveowners.

In response to McEnany’s claim, misinformation nonprofit Media Matters for America pointed out that George Washington enslaved hundreds of people, Thomas Jefferson enslaved more than 600 people, and James Madison enslaved over 100 people.

It’s time to straighten out a few things. It’s time to get history straight. The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson reports this:

The president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union is taking a strong stand against a recent spate of laws that restrict public-school lessons on racism, vowing legal action to protect any member who “gets in trouble for teaching honest history.”

That is a real problem now:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned in a speech Tuesday that conservative lawmakers, pundits and news sites are waging a “culture campaign” against critical race theory. The theory is a decades-old academic framework that asserts racism is woven into the history and thus the present of the nation, helping shape how institutions and systems function.

In her remarks, Weingarten said that critical race theory is not taught in U.S. elementary, middle and high schools. The theory is taught only in law school and in college, she said.

“But culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as critical race theory to try to make it toxic,” Weingarten told a virtual professional development conference for union members. “They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching our students accurate history.”

Yes, there will be none of that, but that means that there will be war:

Republican-led legislatures – driven by intense conservative advocacy and media coverage inveighing against critical race theory – have sought to restrict what teachers can say about race, racism and American history in the classroom. At least five states, including Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas, have passed bans on critical race theory or related topics in recent months. Conservatives in nearly a dozen other states are pushing for similar legislation.

According to Weingarten, her organization is already “preparing for litigation to counter these laws as we speak” – although her spokesman, Andrew Crook, said the union has yet to identify specific targets. Weingarten said that the American Federation of Teachers, which has about 1.7 million members, has “a legal-defense fund ready to go.” Crook said this fund – specifically meant for lawsuits related to critical race theory bills – totals $2.5 million and comes in addition to the $10 million that the American Federation of Teachers makes available to fund lawsuits annually.

So this really is war, continued:

The furor over critical race theory, which is rapidly consuming the nation as the latest front in America’s culture wars, has its origins in the summer of 2020 and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Many school districts nationwide were already pursuing equity initiatives when Floyd died. But his death – and subsequent national demonstrations against systemic racism – fueled a fresh round of efforts from school officials to promote racial justice by reexamining the role of police, holding bias trainings for employees and reconsidering the way that history is taught.

But it also generated a growing backlash. Conservative activists have seized on images of assignments or short clips of video classes to argue that teachers are indoctrinating students with critical race theory, which they call divisive and inappropriate for schoolchildren.

Pass the word. Protect the snowflakes:

Even those who acknowledge that critical race theory is not actually being taught to students warn that school systems’ attempts to grapple with concepts such as systemic racism and white supremacy will negatively affect children by trickling through to the classroom and teaching students to view one another solely in terms of race. Detractors also insist that White boys and girls in public school today are learning to hate themselves as historical oppressors.

But in her speech, Weingarten argues the opposite – that school systems will harm children by failing instruct them fully about the darker parts of America’s history. The new laws limiting what educators can say about racism will “knock a big hole” in students’ understanding of the nation and the world, Weingarten said.

“We want our kids to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are,” she said. “We want to raise young people who can understand facts, study the truth, examine diverse perspectives and draw their own conclusions.”

It’s just better to know stuff. Know as much as possible. And know this one thing too:

Weingarten’s advocacy comes shortly after the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, passed a resolution asking its members to “fight back against anti-critical race-theory rhetoric.” The resolution also declared that, in teaching topics including social studies and history, “it is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed” by critical race theory.

Know as much as possible. That’s what Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley and Thomas Chatterton Williams argued in the New York Times:

What is the purpose of a liberal education? This is the question at the heart of a bitter debate that has been roiling the nation for months.

Schools, particularly at the kindergarten-to-12th-grade level, are responsible for helping turn students into well-informed and discerning citizens. At their best, our nation’s schools equip young minds to grapple with complexity and navigate our differences. At their worst, they resemble indoctrination factories.

That seems to be what’s going on here:

In recent weeks, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa, Idaho and Texas have passed legislation that places significant restrictions on what can be taught in public school classrooms and, in some cases, public universities, too.

Tennessee House Bill SB 0623, for example, bans any teaching that could lead an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.” In addition to this vague proscription, it restricts teaching that leads to “division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class or class of people.”

Texas House Bill 3979 goes further, forbidding teaching that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.” It also bars any classroom from requiring “an understanding of the 1619 Project” – The New York Times Magazine’s special issue devoted to a reframing of the nation’s founding – and hence prohibits assigning any part of it as required reading.

So they would burn the 1619 Project, were it a book, but it’s digital now, everywhere. There’s nothing to burn. But it can be stopped. But that’s foolish:

These initiatives have been marketed as “anti-critical race theory” laws. We, the authors of this essay, have wide ideological divergences on the explicit targets of this legislation. Some of us are deeply influenced by the academic discipline of critical race theory and its critique of racist structures and admire the 1619 Project. Some of us are skeptical of structural racist explanations and racial identity itself and disagree with the mission and methodology of the 1619 Project. We span the ideological spectrum: a progressive, a moderate, a libertarian and a conservative.

It is because of these differences that we here join, as we are united in one overarching concern: the danger posed by these laws to liberal education.

Just look at them:

The laws differ in some respects but generally agree on blocking any teaching that would lead students to feel discomfort, guilt or anguish because of one’s race or ancestry, as well as restricting teaching that subsequent generations have any kind of historical responsibility for actions of previous generations. They attempt various carve-outs for the impartial teaching of the history of oppression of groups. But it’s hard to see how these attempts are at all consistent with demands to avoid discomfort. These measures would, by way of comparison, make Germany’s uncompromising and successful approach to teaching about the Holocaust illegal, as part of its goal is to infuse them with some sense of the weight of the past and (famously) lead many German students to feel anguish about their ancestry.

But that’s okay:

Any accurate teaching of any country’s history could make some of its citizens feel uncomfortable (or even guilty) about the past… What’s more, these laws even make it difficult to teach U.S. history in a way that would reveal well-documented ways in which past policy decisions, like redlining, have contributed to present-day racial wealth gaps.

An education of this sort would be negligent, creating ignorant citizens who are unable to understand, for instance, the case for reparations – or the case against them.

But wait, there’s more:

Because these laws often aim to protect the feelings of hypothetical children, they are dangerously imprecise. State governments exercise a high degree of lawful control over K-12 curriculum. But broad, vague laws violate due process and fundamental fairness because they don’t give the teachers fair warning of what’s prohibited.

Other laws appear to potentially ban even expression as benign as support for affirmative action, but it’s far from clear. In fact, shortly after Texas passed its purported ban on critical race theory, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a list of words and concepts that help “identify critical race theory in the classroom.” The list included terms such as “social justice,” “colonialism” and “identity.” Applying the same standards to colleges or private institutions would be flatly unconstitutional.

So it comes down to this:

Censorship is the wrong approach even to the concepts that are the intended targets of these laws.

Though some of us share the antipathy of the legislation’s authors toward some of these targets and object to overreaches that leave many parents understandably anxious about the stewardship of their children’s education, we all reject the means by which these measures encode that antipathy into legislation.

Fine, but it’s more than legislation. NPR covers the frustration that led to this:

Less than a week after trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill belatedly voted to grant tenure to New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, Howard University announced Hannah-Jones will instead be joining its faculty.

Howard, the prestigious historically Black university in Washington, D.C., also announced it is hiring writer and Howard alumnus Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me.

It was time to walk-away from the nonsense down south and do something useful:

Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her “1619 Project,” will also establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy, which the university says will train aspiring journalists in “the investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing.”

The news is a blow to UNC, which has had its reputation damaged by its handling of Hannah-Jones’ appointment to an endowed professorship at its journalism school. For months, trustees declined to consider granting her tenure, a highly unusual move considering the relevant academic leaders backed her tenure.

The trustees were old White politicians, and this guy:

Some of the opposition came from Walter Hussman, an Arkansas newspaper publisher and alumnus whose $25 million donation to the UNC’s journalism school led to its being named for him.

Hussman said “he was given pause by some prominent scholars’ criticism that Hannah-Jones distorted the historical record in arguing that the protection of slavery was one of the Founding Fathers’ primary motivations in seeking independence from the British.”

She had said that was one of the Founding Fathers’ primary motivations – but not the only motivation. The British had soured on slavery. They’d finally ended it. We still relied on slavery at the time, to kept our economy humming. She wasn’t wrong. People knew that:

Amid the turmoil, other Black faculty members at UNC said they were considering leaving the university, and students protested on behalf of Hannah-Jones.

Lamar Richards, the university’s student body president, penned an open letter last month to the UNC community, saying the school is unprepared for the reckoning that’s required and “until this rebirth occurs, Carolina is not deserving of your talents, aspirations, or successes.”

Hannah-Jones had said she would not accept UNC’s offer without tenure, which UNC’s trustees finally approved in a 9-4 vote.

But the messy and contentious process spoiled it for her.

“Look what it took to get tenure,” Hannah-Jones said, noting that every other chair of the position dating to the 1980s had been granted tenure, and that all were white. Hannah-Jones received unanimous approval from the faculty during the tenure process.

“And so to be denied it, and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal – it’s just not something that I want anymore,” she told CBS This Morning.

This had become a matter of pride:

Hannah-Jones said she never wanted her hiring to become a public scandal – she was simply hoping to give back to her beloved alma mater. And instead, she said, it became “embarrassing” to be passed over for tenure. She said she was never told by UNC-Chapel Hill’s chancellor, provost or trustees why her tenure was not taken up in November or January…

“I’ve spent my entire life proving that I belong in elite white spaces that were not built for Black people,” she told CBS. “I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. Black professionals should feel free, and actually perhaps an obligation, to go to our own institutions and bring our talents and resources to our own institutions and help to build them up as well.”

She said she won her battle for fair treatment at UNC, “but it’s not my job to heal the University of North Carolina. That’s the job of the people in power who created this situation in the first place.”

But who will heal America?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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