Speaking of indoctrination, a State Board of Education member wants new social studies standards to teach students that America is great

[Editor’s note: This post appeared originally on Parmenter’s website, “Notes from the Chalkboard.”

Indoctrination has been a hot topic in North Carolina education policy discussions lately.

Last month the NC House of Representatives passed a bill entitled “An Act to Ensure Academic Transparency” which would require teachers to post their lesson plans and details about all instructional materials online for public review.

In defense of their support for the new legislation, which passed almost entirely along partisan lines, some Republican legislators cited the need to prevent indoctrination of North Carolina students.

Iredell County Representative Jeffrey McNeely said, “Hopefully we’re just gonna teach the kids. We’re not gonna try to indoctrinate ’em or teach ’em in a certain way to make ’em believe something other than the facts.”

At its meeting last Thursday, the North Carolina State Board of Education reviewed glossaries and unpacking documents related to new state social studies standards which will be implemented in school year 2021-22. (Unpacking documents are overarching documents intended to help teachers understand how the standards should be taught).

During the discussion, board member Amy White expressed her view that the standards unpacking documents needed to ensure North Carolina teachers are teaching their students that America is a great nation.

Audio is fairly poor quality, so I’ve included a transcript below it.

One final question. Several months ago in our discussion about standards, I made a comment from the table about the foundation of our social studies curriculum being anchored in the thought and the premise that America is a great nation. And is there any place for inclusion in that foundation as a preamble to all of these documents together that we are educating our students about our history both positive and negative but that through our challenges through sacrifices through our triumphs that America is a nation today that we should be proud of and blessed to live in?

In an effort to help our students better understand about their role as future leaders in this nation. And I really think that a document or a statement underlining that fact that our teachers teaching in the public schools should be making every effort to help our students understand our history as it impacts the socioeconomics, diversity, economic development and future development of this country. It’s important that we undergird that with the idea that we live in a tremendously prosperous land.

The board agreed to take Ms. White’s suggestion under consideration and bring it back for additional discussion at next month’s meeting.

Whether or not you see America as a great nation depends on how you and your ancestors have experienced life in the United States.

But the larger point here is that social studies classes should not be a place where students come to learn that their country is great. It should be a place where they can learn the truth about their own history and the history of others and then develop their own views based on the facts.

I trust that Representative McNeely will be reaching out to Ms. White in order to express his disapproval.

Stock wealth boomed during pandemic for wealthiest 1%

For people who derive most of their wealth from stock equity, it has been a very good financial year. In turn, massive stock market gains in the middle of a global pandemic have widened inequality along both wealth and racial lines.

Although the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on job loss and wage fluctuation have been felt personally by many North Carolinians, the pandemic’s effect on company stock ownership may be less obvious to the average resident. This is largely because those in the top 1 percent of the wealth index own more than half of all corporate equity and mutual fund shares in the United States, whereas the bottom 50 percent own less than 1 percent. Despite this, changes in share value during 2020 have had a significant impact on economic inequality.

Stock and mutual fund wealth fell off by roughly 23 percent during the first quarter of 2020 when the stock market was first feeling the effects of COVID-19. However, by the end of 2020, equity ownership had not only returned to pre-pandemic levels, it had also surpassed them by over 17 percent. In the last fiscal quarter before the pandemic (Q4:2019), the top 1 percent held $15.10 trillion in stock and mutual funds, which had ballooned to nearly $17.8 trillion by the end of 2020. Last year, the richest 1 percent in the U.S. acquired $2.7 trillion in stock and mutual fund wealth while the poorest half of Americans saw less than $0.03 trillion in this kind of equity wealth growth. A typical household in the top 1 percent amassed around 4,500 times more new wealth in stock and mutual fund growth during 2020 than the average household in the bottom 50 percent.

Barriers to access to stock ownership mean COVID-19 also widened the racial disparity in equity wealth. Black people own only 1 percent of corporate equity and mutual fund shares, while an overwhelming 89 percent of shares are owned by white people. As a result, the growth of the stock market over the last year has exacerbated the pre-existing economic inequality between Black and white workers, further concentrating wealth in a small number of rich bank accounts.

Emma Cohn is an intern at the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

Speakers at conservative think tank seminar denounce Nikole Hannah-Jones hire, reporting on tenure controversy 

Peter Wood of the conservative National Association of Scholars speaks at Monday’s event (YouTube screenshot)

The John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank, held an online seminar on the Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure controversy on Monday at which speakers lambasted the work of journalists covering the case and the decision of UNC-Chapel Hill to hire Hannah-Jones in the first place. 

Hannah-Jones was hired as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC Hussman — the university’s journalism school. Conservatives have long criticized her work on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which centers American history around the institution of slavery. 

The panel, which included no people of color, debated the accuracy of Hannah-Jones’ work and whether slavery was the primary foundation of the United States. 

Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal — another conservative think tank, criticized the “sensationalism” of the reporting on the tenure debate and claimed that many news outlets got the story wrong by saying she was “denied” tenure. 

“An organization here in North Carolina, later found out that the position was untenured and incorrectly assumed that it was because of conservative criticism,” Robinson said. 

It’s worth noting that Policy Watch did not use the word “deny” to describe the board’s action when it broke the news that Hannah-Jones would not be receiving tenure. Several national news outlets, such as the New York Times, did use the word “deny” in their stories. Policy Watch’s article also did not make the claim that Hannah-Jones not receiving tenure because of conservative criticism, but did feature multiple Board of Trustees members who said the decision not to grant tenure was because of politics. 

As Policy Watch reported, the Board of Trustees at UNC did not take a vote on tenure for Hannah-Jones after faculty and administrators completed a rigorous recommendation process. Last week, Hannah-Jones threatened legal action against the university if it did not hold a vote on tenure by Friday — a deadline that has now passed. 

While it is technically inaccurate to say Hannah-Jones was “denied tenure” because the Board of Trustees did not vote on tenure, the trustees have repeatedly resisted calls to hold a vote on the matter, which effectively produced the same result.

Panelists at today’s event also repeatedly claimed Hannah-Jones did not have the academic merit needed to be awarded tenure, without mentioning that every previous Knight Chair at UNC had comparable academic experience to Hannah-Jones and was hired with tenure. 

“She’s an academic celebrity, seemingly without the academics,” Matthew Spalding, Vice President for Washington Operations at Hillsdale College said. 

Hannah-Jones has garnered national publicity for her work on the 1619 Project. She also received her Master’s Degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Spalding was the Executive Director of former President Trump’s Advisory “1776 Commission,” which produced a report that argues 1776 was the true, original founding date of the United States. 

“What is great about America is that a nation which included slaveholders could begin the nation by saying that all men are created equal,” Spalding said. “And that the playing of those principles ultimately led to abolition.”

Panelists frequently cited alleged historical inaccuracies within the 1619 Project as evidence that Hannah-Jones was undeserving of tenure. Perhaps most notably, critics have cited a claim made in one 1619 Project essay that identified the preservation of slavery as a primary motivation of colonists in waging the American Revolution. 

The Times later amended the story to say that “some of the colonists” fought to preserve slavery. This from that statement:
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Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson: Pregnant women — even victims of rape and incest — lose right to control their bodies

Lt. Gov. Robinson

The highest ranking Republican in North Carolina state government, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, has made a large number of absurd and outrageous statements since his meteoric/accidental rise to political prominence last year, but he may well have outdone himself this past weekend at the 2021 state Republican Convention.

As reported by George Martin of the East Carolinian, Robinson addressed the issue of abortion rights and made clear that he believes women should not have any whatsoever under any circumstances.

This is from Martin’s story:

Raising a child is important, Robinson said, and people who decide to have children must take the job seriously. He said the biggest decision in anyone’s life is when they decide to have children and he said once a woman is pregnant, “it’s not (her) body anymore.”

Abortion is a topic that Robinson said he will not budge on. He said the main question he is asked on his pro-life stance is on cases where a woman gets pregnant through either rape or incest. He compared the pro-choice stance of abortion in the case of incest and rape to arguments on seat belt enforcement that he had when he was younger.

“You know what that argument (abortion in cases of rape and incest) reminds me of? It reminds me of the argument about seatbelts. I can remember this as a young man when we were arguing whether or not we should be required to wear seatbelts or if we should wear seatbelts. I can always remember there would be one person who would say ‘what if I get stuck on the railroad tracks and my seatbelt won’t come off.’ Number one, if you are stuck on the train tracks, that is (Charles) Darwin, that’s not any of my concern, that is Darwin. I cannot help you.”

You got that? In his rambling/borderline incoherence, Robinson pretty clearly appears to be saying that once someone becomes pregnant — by any means and presumably from the moment of conception — they should surrender control of their body to those who hold Robinson’s extreme view of reproductive rights.

It is a frightening and abhorrent statement that ought to outrage all caring and thinking people.

Tulsa, Namibia, Hitler, January 6: A scholar warns that history matters

Image: Oklahoma Dep’t. of Libraries

“I wish I had the flexibility to teach a lot of things.” That was the response of my tenth-grade history teacher to my request to learn more about black history.  It was February of 1968. The civil rights movement was still going strong.  Two months later, Dr. King would be assassinated.  Significantly, I was raising my question in my home at the time, Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of one of the deadliest racial massacres in American history. That two-day frenzy of racial terror by a white mob abetted by law enforcement had occurred in 1921, a mere 47 years earlier. Yet, I had not then heard of it and I doubt that my history teacher had either—so complete has been the whitewashing of American racial history.

Three decades before Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, German colonial officials in southwest Africa (now called Namibia) began a four-year campaign to eliminate the native Herero and Nama peoples. The campaign forced native people into the desert to starve and then sent many of them in locked freight cars to work camps where they were knowingly worked to death on projects to benefit the colonizers.  Most of the native people did not survive this genocide. Some of the survivors were forced to remove the skin from the skulls of their murdered brethren before the skulls were transported to Germany for use in research attempting to prove white racial superiority. These practices presaged the genocidal practices of the German Nazi state.

That recent history was not taught to the Germans who came of age in the early part of the twentieth century, the citizens who later supported or acquiesced to the Nazi regime. Without this historical knowledge, these Germans were not asked to come to grips with the racism in their society, the impact on its victims, the moral implications for those who benefited and went along. If they had, how might things have been different in Germany and the wider world? Would Hitler and the Nazi party still have succeeded in convincing German citizens of “Aryan superiority”, and the acceptability of scapegoating and dehumanizing Jews, persons with disabilities, gay people, the Romani and socialists? Would there even have been a second world war?

Likewise, what if people of my generation and others had been taught about the Tulsa massacre, or for that matter, the racial massacre and coup d’etat in Wilmington, North Carolina, the lynchings, the details about the treatment of native Americans, the systemic racism in home ownership policies, education, voting, etc.? Would we still be able to tell ourselves that conditions, opportunities and thought processes today are unaffected by the decisions and actions of years past? Would so many of us be susceptible to the political hucksters stoking white resentment and hostility with coded language? Would most of us white people still be so unpracticed in thinking about and discussing race with an open heart that we cannot even discuss or acknowledge racism without extreme defensiveness? Would we still tolerate a major political party’s refusal to allow a bipartisan inquiry into the January 6 attack on our Capitol by a white mob carrying Confederate battle flags and lynching equipment?

Just as the experience of Germany is a cautionary tale, it offers hope. After World War II, Germany dismantled its monuments honoring Nazi political and military leaders. It replaced them with public reminders of the victims of Nazi atrocities. It included more complete historical accounts in its textbooks. Germany is now also acknowledging and apologizing for its earlier genocide in Namibia and discussing the amount and form of reparations. The recent rise in support for the far-right in Germany shows that the work of truth-telling and reconciliation there is not complete. Yet, Germany has a more diverse and inclusive society than could have been imagined in the 1940s. People can handle the truth without hating themselves, their forebears or their country. With an honest and mature acknowledgment of the good and the bad of our history and its continuing repercussions, we too can move toward racial justice.

Roger Manus is retired from the Campbell Law School Clinical Faculty and is a leader of racial justice study trips.