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American Schools Are the Next Battleground Against Republican Fascism

Republicans don’t need to wait until they hold a congressional majority again to wreak havoc on democracy.

We needn’t look further than state-level legislation tailored specifically to criminalize First Amendment-protected free speech, suppress voting, and stifle press.

But how does a political ideology extend beyond the legislative realm into the milieu of thought?

How does a political party successfully indoctrinate individuals mostly uninvolved and disinterested in politics?

How does it accomplish getting people to believe what it wants without their even realizing it?

How does it solidify its fascist ideology for the next generation?

They do it through poisoning the education system.

Most American students are ineligible to vote.

They may not be aware of or care about a racist filibuster.

Healthcare, Social Security, taxes, are subjects for their parents to be concerned about.

But they all have to take history in school.

And it is there republicans have a captive audience.

Back in September, two months before losing the election to Joe Biden, when Donald Trump was repeating the fallacy either he win the election or it’s “rigged,” Trump announced the formation of the “1776 Commission,” a retaliation against The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project,” dedicated to chronicling the country’s history beginning the year Europeans shipped the first enslaved Africans to American shores.

At a speech at the National Archives, Donald Trump proclaimed:

“Leftwing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. [T]he crusade against American history is toxic propaganda [that] will destroy our country…Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”

Just because Trump lost the election does not mean this jingoism disappeared.

In April, Senate Minority Leader Mitch “The Grim Reaper” McConnell led 39 Senate republicans in demanding Education Secretary Miguel Cardona retract a “divisive” education proposal to emphasize history and civics lessons about slavery and Black Americans’ contributions to the country as well as remove the 1619 project from federal grant programs.

As you read this, republican-led state legislatures are trying to make sure American schools teach how “great” America is by glossing over the history of slavery, critical race theory, colonialism that led to the Indigenous American holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, and anything else deemed “controversial,” like systemic racism.

Earlier this month, Arizona republicans voted to impose a $5,000 fine on teachers and anyone who “knowingly aids another person” in teaching “controversial” topics.

What is “controversial”?

Rep. Michelle Udall’s amendment to Senate Bill 1532 does not clarify.

What it does do is prohibit school districts, charter schools, or state agencies from requiring educators to teach controversial public policy or social issues that promote that “race, ethnic group or sex is inherently morally or intellectually superior to another race, ethnic group or sex.”

It also bars teaching “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

In other words, “implicit bias” and “systemic racism” must never be uttered in classrooms.

The bill also compels teachers to present both sides of controversial topics, which sounds fair at first until we consider it would mean yielding equal weight to arguments for or against slavery, the Holocaust, and segregation.

Do we really want to give Holocaust deniers and white supremacists a platform?

They’re American classrooms, not 4Chan.

Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have either passed or seek to pass similar legislation.

The education system is particularly vulnerable at the moment with the COVID-19 pandemic having relegated students to “virtual,” or hybrid, instruction.

As charter-school darling Betsy DeVos exploited her position heading the Education Department to weaken public education, Trump’s propaganda campaign was another weapon against educators, predominantly Democrats, who are, according to republicans, “forcing Marxist critical race theory into our children’s schools.”

Although Donald Trump, thankfully, did not win another term, the party that to him has sold whatever it had left of its soul after 40 years of decline is ensuring future Americans are even more ignorant of its racist colonialist past.

If we don’t acknowledge our history we are condemned to repeat it, as George Santayana said.

The history the republican party wants to condemn us to repeat is the white ethno-state it took a civil war to break.