For at least the past decade, pundits reporting on the steady degradation of American political life have argued that America’s far-too-apathetic polity wouldn’t act “until we hit bottom.”
I think we’re there.
Posts and comments to this blog regularly grapple with the widespread lack of civility–not to mention intelligence–in public life. There’s the in-your-face bigotry, the denial of science and evidence, defense of the ever-widening gap between the rich and the rest, and the daily assaults on democracy and democratic norms.
Those very unAmerican behaviors and beliefs have recently been joined by an all-out MAGA attack on public education. GOP legislatures have diverted education funding to fundamentalist religious schools, Republican administrations are banning books, and extremists have taken over an uncomfortable number of school boards.
I recently came across an NBC report detailing one such takeover, in Colorado.
Woodland Park, a small mountain town that overlooks Pikes Peak, became the first — and, so far, only — district in the country to adopt the American Birthright social studies standard, created by a right-wing advocacy group that warns of the “steady whittling away of American liberty.” The new board hired a superintendent who was previously recalled from a nearby school board after pushing for a curriculum that would “promote positive aspects of the United States.” The board approved the community’s first charter school without public notice and gave the charter a third of the middle school building.
Among other moves that especially alarmed teachers was the decision by the new superintendent not to reapply for the grants that covered the salaries of counselors and social workers. When challenged, he told staff members that he “prioritized academic achievement, not students’ emotions. We are not the department of health and human services.” When asked if taxpayers would get a say in these changes, he said that they already had — when they elected the school board.
Woodland Park offers a preview of how quickly a new majority can move to reshape a district — and how those battles can ripple outward into the community. Some longtime residents say that the situation has grown so tense, they now look over their shoulder when discussing the school board in public to avoid confrontation or professional consequences…
When asked to respond to criticism from school personnel and parents, Illingworth, the board’s vice president, replied in an email: “I wasn’t elected to please the teacher’s union and their psycho agenda against academic rigor, family values, and even capitalism itself. I was elected to bring a parent’s voice and a little common sense to the school district, and voters in Woodland Park can see I’ve kept my promises.”
As the school year winds down, many of the Woodland Park School District’s employees are heading for the exit, despite recently receiving an 8% raise. At least four of the district’s top administrators have quit because of the board’s policy changes, according to interviews and emails obtained through records requests. Nearly 40% of the high school’s professional staff have said they will not return next school year, according to an administrator in the district.
While Colorado is rapidly becoming a Blue state, Woodland Park is a mostly white, middle-class city of 8,000 people up a mountain pass from Colorado Springs. The community voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 2-to-1 a year earlier.
When teachers complained about Board decisions, the Board’s vice-president accused the teachers’ union of attempting to organize a “coup,” and issued a barely-veiled threat, instructing the Superintendent to make “a list of positions in which a change in personnel would be beneficial to our kids” and “help the union see the wisdom in cooperation rather than conflict.”
The article is lengthy, and much of what the new board has done is genuinely appalling. Case in point: the Board’s adoption of the American Birthright social studies curriculum referenced above, without any prior consultation with social studies teachers.
American Birthright materials emphasize patriotism, argue that the federal government should have no authority over public schools and say teachers should not encourage civic engagement, such as registering to vote or petitioning local lawmakers on issues students care about.
The curriculum was based on input from dozens of right-wing groups and activists, including the Claremont Institute, the Family Research Council and Moms for Liberty. Proponents defend it as a “bipartisan” alternative to coursework described as “hijacked by liberal concepts.” It’s heavily biased toward the right (for example, it includes Bill Clinton’s impeachment but not Donald Trump’s.)
The Colorado State Board of Education rejected American Birthright in October. The National Council for the Social Studies, a professional trade group for educators, issued a rare warning against using it.
You really need to read the whole thing.
If America hasn’t hit “bottom” I don’t know what bottom would look like…..
14 thoughts on “The Culture Warriors Are Coming For Your Schools”
Professor Suess-Kennedy: we are not, yet, at the bottom, but our aim is, at times, is heading there. The legions of us need to step up and stop this nonsense. You are an attorney and an educator and, I will bet that you ALWAYS taught the truth. All of us:teachers, steelworkers, parents, kids, sales people, doctors, lawyers, CPAs, Rabbis and Priests…all of us need to step forward and stop the madness. Thank you, my long time friend, for keeping our feet to the fire. Do not stop, please.
I watched our local Indiana school district fall to Fascist control as well. The takeover was due to a mass exodus of white schoolchildren to the county (racism) and administrative malfeasance. At first, the Tea Party applauded, but now they call it a Fascist takeover because they can’t get what they want. The black people got a chamber of commerce and a deputy mayor.
Because of the propaganda in the newspaper, the parents and taxpayers played along. Still, they turned the district over to a non-profit college with eyeballs on one specific school campus near its football stadium.
No lawsuits, protests, marches, nothing!
Watch what happens as a result of the debt ceiling collaborations. Will we see mass protests in the streets? Where in the hell are the unions?
Ha, the unions are now just a bureaucratic apparatus of capitalism – the oligarchy. There is nothing left but the ink on paper to make it official. Einstein called that in 1949, as well.
Meanwhile, the masses are being entertained on the giant screens in their homes on cable they can’t afford. Yo, democracy! Yo, capitalism!
We can no longer protect our children IN school; nor can we protect them FROM school. And too often we see headlines of school teachers arrested for sexual assaults on students, their gender identity is now under the control of school authorities and school boards, voucher students are required to participate in religion classes (but not prayers), the gradual mass renewal of segregation via the voucher system and public education money poured into charter schools which have proven not to provide higher quality education in most. These students are our future leaders who can only be led to the far-far-right and the loss of democracy as the caste system increases in the majority of American families.
Do we want our grandchildren and beyond to become the future Donald Trumps and Marjorie Taylor Greenes? “The Culture Warriors Are Coming For Your Schools” and the neo-Holocaust is coming for all who are not far-right minded in their politics and their religion. The bottom is rushing at us like a runaway train headed for derailment. Will 2024 be the end of American freedom or the beginning of a new Revolution to fight for our rights? Our schools hold not only our future leaders but the answer to the challenge to the American “experiment” in democracy.
So just looking at the map of the area, two things popped out to me.
Unaccredited but likely tax-exempt Their Colorado sister college is in Colorado Springs but there are many more nationally and internationally. Check their website.
Which is associated with Andrew Wommack Ministries. Likely also tax-exempt.
Andrew is a healer apparently….his wife with cancer and his son resurrected after being dead for 5 hours.
A very white school district…..teachers, school board, student body, you name it.
As Barnum said, ‘there’s one born every minute”
Sounds like the makings of a TV movie…..fictional of course…..
The culture warriors’ attack on public education is not limited to K through 12 schools. Witness what’s happening in the Ohio legislature. There, the Republican-controlled state senate just passed S.B. 83, which would have major impacts on public higher education in that state. They claim that higher education is dominated by liberals and want to force state universities to make their campuses safe for “conservatives.” The bill is now in the Republican-supermajority-controlled state house.
The Ohio Capital Journal, the sibling of the Indiana Capital Chronicle, has reported on it extensively: https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/ and has several recent stories on it. Go read what’s in store for Indiana soon.
For most of the last 20 years, Colorado Springs and its surrounding areas have been populated by right-wing ideologues in every area of the communities. It was once called the Vatican of the religious right with over 200 church sect headquarters located in that fair city. This has been fueled by the “friendly” encouragement by the Economic Development Council (I worked for them for a while) who gave huge tax breaks to the various evangelical churches to settle in COS. The most notable and egregious was Focus on the Family – which does not. It focuses on political ideology and the take over of public schools for the mission of turning them into bastions of their view of religion. James Dobson, Focus’ founder, is a dyed in the wool ideologue who forces his agenda on everything he touches.
I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems that the Woodland Park (A beautiful setting) and its school board are being run by one or more of these Focus acolytes. They really have no intention of doing anything but indoctrination. It’s their mission. And good luck to the district at hiring anyone but more Focus-oriented faculty. It was their plan all along.
BTW, Colorado Springs just elected a black “independent” as their mayor. The losing candidate, Wayne Williams, a long-time city councilman (Republican) said in his concession speech that “I guess Colorado Springs isn’t as conservative as it used to be.” Can you hear the dog whistles?
BTW, part II: Denver County, just 70 miles north of COS, voted over 80% Democrat in the last few elections and are about to elect their first female mayor, a Democrat. Then, there’s the district of the disgraceful Lauren Boebert…
Colorado as political psycho-drama… You can’t make this up.
The Piper must be paid. We didn’t care enough to learn about the candidates. We didn’t care enough to ask for policy prescriptions. We didn’t care enough to vote. Will we ever care enough, especially if it’s not convenient? The more questions I ask, the more questions I have. I don’t seem to have any answers.
Children are offered a free education, if their parents choose to purchase a “deluxe” private education, they must pay.
As far as whittling away American liberties, how far back in history do they want to go? Should women be wearing a Victorian Burlesque dress or maybe a stola.
Many are science deniers, how far back do the want to go? What about advancements in medicine or when they’re boarding a plane?
LGBTQ rights’ are the same rights afforded everyone else in the country. What are parents shielding their children against? They’ll soon be adults living and working in the real world.
And for the public school sharing a third of their space with a private school, will the wall off the hallways, playgrounds and parking lots? We have seen our large cities “walled off” and it hasn’t work out well.
Once again I recommend reading “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars” (Even When They Lose Elections) by Stephen Prothero. It doesn’t tell us we don’t have to work, but it might give you more heart to do the work.
It’s Nazism pure and simple. With the assault on education and educators, the press, the foreign residents, the infirmed, The hungry, and those who need shelter, plus, the hypocrisy of those pushing the agendas. As we can see, those pushing nationalist agendas are more flawed than those they are roiling against!
And don’t think all of these closet Nazis are not in lockstep with those making the changes. They are unified and goose stepping right down the boulevard!
Having children informing on their parents, having children informing on their teachers, That’s why they don’t want history taught!
When you roll back rights that were acquired in blood, what do you think the upshot to that is? When one out of every 100 Americans are incarcerated, when the mental health facilities are shutting down, when nursing homes aren’t given a second thought, More and more people end up on the streets! No compassion, no empathy, no loving God and loving your neighbor, just hypocritic hyperbole that means nothing. James 1: 27, take care of the widows and the children. Just make sure those kids can get a job at McDonald’s, when they’re 10 years old. And make sure there are enough bridge viaducts to live under.
Soon, you’ll have child labor laws rolled back, and there will be those trying to reconstitute the culture of slavery!
This stuff is frightening.
Gilead is not far off.
John: We are living in slavery today, albeit a modified form. Thus who says we must fit the definition of slavery by the rich and corporate class as being black and picking cotton (although black and other minorities continue to be disproportionally represented in present day modified slavery)?
An example > Equity and hedge funds are buying up real estate in America with a view toward monopoly and rental costs those on minimum or other ridiculously low wage rates cannot afford to pay, which will force government to provide housing for those in need, which will, as usual, be met by the class that is paying the next to nothing wages (via their politicians) to cry socialism! A familiar and time-tested refrain. . .
I could cite many other instances where the same forces and outcomes are the rule, a rule we could perhaps finally end with a modification of the ism under which we labor.
How about “The Culture Warriors Are Coming For Your Children?” Well,
it’s about the same thing. But, in Texas they are literally coming for the children!
We could easily be at, or near bottom. Bottomer (?) would be to see DeStopia
as POTUS! Based on recent elections around the country that may well not
happen, but the battle for POTUS/24, whether it’s the floridly crazed governor, or
TFG who runs, will take us down a few more pegs as a culture.
The fundamentalist GOP that accuses liberals of seeking mind control over our children wants to control school boards and university boards to do just that. It’s a time-honored strategy. Richard Nixon used to suspect and accuse Democrats of the things he was doing. Putin accuses Zelensky of being a dictatorial bigot. Trump the victimizer claims he’s a victim. Thank you Sheila for pulling back the curtain to expose these ‘wizards of Oz”.