Gene Nichol: The absurd practical effect of Johnston County’s school curriculum censorship policy

Gene Nichol

Be sure to check out this morning’s on-the-mark op-ed from UNC law professor Gene Nichol that’s featured in Raleigh’s News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer. In it, Nichol details an important recent federal court ruling on the issue of race-conscious admissions at the University of North Carolina and how it illustrates the utter absurdity of a curriculum policy recently adopted by the school board in Johnston County.

As Nichol points out, in the court’s “findings of facts and conclusions of law,” it took note of the testimony of an historian that:

“UNC ‘has been a strong and active promoter of white supremacy and racist exclusion for most of its history. Over the centuries, the University’s leaders have included the State’s largest slaveholders, the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, the central figures of the white supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900, and many of the State’s most ardent defenders of Jim Crow in the twentieth century.’”

How does relate to Johnston County? Well, as you may recall and Nichol reminds us, the new board policy (adopted as part of the ridiculous national right-wing campaign to instill fear in white voters over the concept of “critical race theory”) includes the nonsensical directive that “all people who contributed to American Society be recognized as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture.”

But of course, such a policy makes absolutely no sense given that American history is chockful of complicated and decidedly unheroic figures who still, by any fair estimation, “contributed to American society.”

Like, for instance, many of the leaders who built and led UNC down through the decades.

Here’s the outstanding conclusion to Nichol’s essay:

Failure to comply with the absurd, dishonest, and incomprehensible policy “will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.”

…That means, I’d guess, that any teacher or librarian in Johnston County who asked, or allowed, Judge Biggs’ thoughtful and dead-on accurate opinion to be read by students could be fired. If past is prologue, lots of Johnston County students will decide this year whether they’ll attend Chapel Hill. If a counselor helps them understand what that entails – what Carolina is and has been – she’d better not direct them to Biggs’ challenging phrases. Too risky. Johnston County’s out to deceive its kids, not teach them. North Carolina can’t be far behind.

Click here to read Nichol’s essay and here to learn more about the federal court ruling.

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