The ongoing national campaign to stoke the fears of white voters over issues of race and public education hit a new low in Johnston County recently when the local school board adopted a new policy that purports to tell teachers how they should instruct students in American history. As Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress reported yesterday, the move came in response to a threat by county commissioners to withhold just under $8 million in funding.
Supporters of the new policy say it prohibits the teaching of an obscure university-level discipline known as Critical Race Theory.
Dale Lands, founder of Citizen Advocates for Accountable Government, a group that has opposed CRT and the district’s mask mandate, said the policy revision is intended to ensure students are taught “regular history, regular math.”
A closer look at the actual language of the policy, however, reveals it to be an illogical mishmash that will only serve to confuse and intimidate educators, administrators, parents, and students. Consider the following language from the policy:
Balance & Fairness
When discussing a controversial topic, which may arise out of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, the staff member shall remain neutral and present the information without bias. These topics must include multiple and varied viewpoints, in an effort to stimulate thought, without persuasion or outside pressure, among students. (Policy 5170, 2205)\
All people deserve full credit and recognition for their struggles and accomplishments throughout United States history. The United States foundational documents shall not be undermined. No employee of Johnston County Schools will make any attempt to discredit the efforts made by all people using foundational documents for reform.
No fictional accounts or narratives shall be used to invalidate actual objective historical events. All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture. (Emphasis supplied).
Setting aside the fact that the next-to-last sentence might have a salutary effect on our study of the 2020 election, what in the world — particularly that last sentence — does this mean? One supposes that the intent is to put up a big roadblock to those who might try to inform students that many of the nation’s founders — Washington, Jefferson, et al. — enslaved other human beings, but that’s far from the only implication or way to read it.
How about Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee? Did they “contribute” to American society? Davis was a U.S. Senator and Lee served honorably for years in the U.S. Army. Does this mean that they can only be “recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture.”
How about Aaron Burr? He served as Vice President of the nation, so does that mean the unpleasantness with Alexander Hamilton if off-limits?
FDR was indisputably one the nation’s great presidents, but he also allowed the internment of American citizens based on hideous racial stereotypes.
Richard Nixon built international bridges but was forced to resign from office because of Constitution-endangering corruption.
The list, of course, is endless. There are thousands of important historical figures who “contributed” to society at one time or another in their lives, but who were also responsible for many distinctly unheroic, backward-looking and destructive acts.
The bottom line: American history is an enormously complex and important subject full of complicated human beings. And as is almost always the case when politicians try to micromanage subjects in which they have no expertise, the efforts in Johnston County to censor and whitewash that history will ill-serve both our children and the truth.