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What Would Nellis Say?

To Hell With Facts and History- February 2023

The Republican war on education 


As a prelude to a presidential run, Governor DeSantis is dismantling Florida’s educational system on every level from preschool to what were prestigious universities throughout the state. He has banned any instruction or discussion of how racism has always been the original sin of our history and our society. He has had 41% of the elementary math texts removed from classrooms, claiming that the contents somehow “indoctrinated” students because they contained snippets of  “Critical Race Theory” like “Culturally Responsive Teaching” or “Social Justice”. 


Under state law, teachers are threatened with a five-year prison sentence if their students are exposed to any books found to contain references to or stories that tell the truth about slavery, the Civil War, the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights movement and the heroes who stood up for real democracy, the cruelty and injustice committed by the Europeans against Native Americans after they invaded this continent, the horrors of the holocaust (unless the book includes “alternative” narratives (Really?)), the internment of tens-of-thousands Japanese-Americans during the second World War, abortion, gender identity, unconventional lifestyles, or any subject that might make a white child feel bad about what their ancestors did to denigrate or subjugate minority groups in the past. 


Former students have reported that, during a brief stint teaching history at the Darlington School in Georgia in 2001-2002, DeSantis shared his belief that the South was justified in fighting the Civil War because black people owned by whites were just property that had value as assets of a business that they had every right to defend.


The Florida governor recently intervened in the production of a new elective Advanced Placement Course for high school students nationwide, claiming that Black History “has no historical value” and demanding that objectionable chapters and references be rewritten to his satisfaction. It has been reported that members of DeSantis’s staff were in direct contact for months with the College Board (which oversees Advance Placement instruction and testing for high school students) to stipulate drastic changes in the curriculum of the course. Students in every other school in the nation will be denied the truth contained in the original scope and depth of the class because the Board bowed to one bigoted governor.


His latest attacks have been leveled against the New School in Sarasota, Florida, a small (700 students) highly-regarded liberal arts state college with an open and diverse student population. He installed a new board of conservative extremists who fired the school’s president and eliminated all instruction on diversity, equity, and inclusion, is reviewing every professor’s tenure (based on their political and academic associations), and have every intention of replacing the current curriculum with “classic conservative religious” training that would appeal to white Christian students.


Extremist Republican governors and legislators in twenty-eight other states are mimicking DeSantis’s draconian efforts to outlaw any honest or truthful debate or discussion within public education on chapters of racism or anti-‘anyone who isn’t a white Christian’-isms from our history. 


The Texas school board, which has approval rights over many of the textbooks used throughout the country, has proposed replacing the term, “slavery” with “involuntary relocation” in an effort to keep those white youngsters from learning the truth about the crimes of their racist ancestors. The censorship and annihilation of our history is just getting started and it won’t stop until every child in the nation is taught to believe that white guys were glorious heroes and everyone else should have been eradicated. Oh, and the Earth is flat and the universe revolves around us.


In a House of Representatives committee hearing on how funds doled out to help businesses during the Covid crisis were wasted or stolen, Marjorie Taylor-Green insinuated that funds were used to pay for abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics, to support drag-queen story-hours for young children, and $5.1 billion dollars was sent to a public school in Illinois for equity training and instruction in Critical Race Theory (there’s that terrifying term again, which, if she could read, she would know is only taught on the graduate level in universities). The entire budget for Chicago’s public education system is just over $9 billion, so this elementary school must have been overjoyed by their good fortune. Like her accusations that California’s forest fires were caused by Israeli space lasers, none of her accusations were based on anything more than her own racist fantasies.


Which brings us to the question of why is this happening? What is the underlying threat that terrifies these white politicians and their supporters? Where did it start and how can we put an end to the glorification of ignorance and the culture of lies that flood our world every day? 


Our institutional racism started with a deal made to convince all thirteen colonies to join a revolt against the rule of George III, the King of England. In exchange for their participation, the Southern small-population colonies secured the continuation of slavery through key long-lasting Minority Governmental States’ rights and empowerments that were eventually written into the Constitution as another compromise to protect white Southerners owning African slaves.


The despicable industry continued for nearly a century before President Lincoln and his Cabinet of rivals spent three years struggling to gain the support of the Union’s huge majority of Americans to crank up its vast armaments manufacturing capacity to take on the secessionist South.


A much smaller and, initially superior, Confederate Army was spear-headed by troops who terrified opponents on the battlefield with a blood-curdling Rebel Yell and their career generals held their own until a devastating defeat at Gettysburg in 1863. After that rout, their army was worn down, overwhelmed, and crushed by a giant industrialized bear that rose out of hibernation. 


As history shows, the Confederates were defeated on the battlefield, lost major cities, and tens of thousands of soldiers, but during Reconstruction, state and local Jim Crow laws institutionalized blatant segregation and economic, educational, political, and social disadvantages for minorities for another century. The lynchings and murders of former slaves continued for decades and rarely resulted in criminal convictions.


Legal racism and second-class citizenship for most African-Americans persisted until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which terrified a wide swath of the white population and rearranged the political order to capture former Dixiecrat votes.


The riots that followed the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the appearance of groups of Black Panthers legally carrying assault rifles in public and touting ‘Black Power’ instigated a wave of paranoia that spread through bigoted white-working class America resulting in a huge increase in gun sales and the election of extreme right-wing Republican candidates running on a “law and order” and Second Amendment Rights platform, promising to stamp out racial protests by whatever means necessary.


The election of our first black president, Barack Obama, who campaigned on an intelligent, inclusive, populous platform drove millions more into the white-supremacist camp. Wealthy industrialists were motivated to invest billions in support of unqualified extremist “Tes Party” candidates, who entered service in Congress with a single mission - preventing any legislation promoted by Obama or the Democrats from passage. The Republicans have not proposed or passed meaningful legislation since.


As the white population in this country began a slow contraction over the last twenty years, the original group has been repopulated by candidates who claim to be fundamentalist Christians, play on ethnic fear and victimhood, and are far more extreme in their violent and racist pronouncements but no less obstructive than their mentors. Many of their campaign ads feature assault weapons and threats to use violence to eliminate anyone opposed to their goals or point of view. Tens of million of voters lined up to elect these lunatics to federal, state, and local offices.


Donald Trump depended on racial hatred to rally a huge portion of our society to support his fraudulent candidacy. He gave his audience permission to hate communally and targeted their wrath on his enemies, minorities, and fictional villains. While his influence has diminished, the faithful have embraced the bigotry and vitriol of his cult and transformed it into a movement fueled by absurd conspiracy theories, radical networks spewing hate, lies, and misinformation twenty-four hours a day, and a country-wide attack on our educational systems.


Dispensing with facts and critical thinking in the educational process will negate the ability of the next generation to distinguish between truth and lies or understand why the real unabridged story of our nation is so vital to our future. That lack of perspective will make it far easier for the radical right to manipulate an ignorant population into accepting extremism as the norm. It will guarantee tribal segregation of races and religions, the stratification of our society and institutionalized denigration of minorities, and a repetition of the worst instances of man’s inhumanity to man. 


All because the children of the next generation will never be given the opportunity to understand the truth about the violence and inhumanity that fills the pages of our history books, nor will they be allowed to learn how to question or argue or debate opposing points of view, and certainly never have the courage or inclination to stand up for human rights, dignity, or freedoms. The past will be what fascist censors say it is because we are allowing our history to be rewritten to glorify white nationalism and disguise the brutality of our ancestors.


Why are we, as a nation, permitting the demolition of our educational system by a tiny group of professional bigots? What started as a peculiar and revolting attack on education by a racist governor in Florida is spreading across the nation, an intellectual plague consuming the unquenchable quest for discovery and knowledge that made this country the nucleus of progress and advancement in the world. The desecration won’t cease unless we join together to demand an end to brainwashing our children and a return to promoting a legitimate understanding of our past as a guarantee for the future of our democracy.


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