As a School Board candidate, there is one question of overriding concern: and it’s so hot-button and controversial right now that we avoid talking about it.
Down in Florida, as has been widely reported, an extremist Governor is banning books, and has gone so far as to threaten teachers with arrest merely for possessing certain books in their classrooms. And that ain’t right! That’s what Fascism looks like. The DeSantis approach is absolutely, completely unacceptable. In America, we pride ourselves on being a free and democratic society. We believe in the freedom of inquiry. We do not ban books. (Well, we shouldn’t ban books, is what I’m trying to say.) Banning books is antithetical to our core values: and I have tried to make my opposition to censorship a core plank of my platform in this campaign.
Meanwhile in California, public school students are required to take a mandatory class in which they must identify either as oppressed or as privileged oppressors. And that ain’t right, either! Look, education should be the foundation of opportunity in a modern economy. We must teach children to overcome obstacles. But when we shame children for who they are and how they were born; or, conversely, when we teach children to cultivate a victim mentality: then we discourage them from even attempting to succeed in life. We create a “Generation Whine,” remarkable only for their ability to complain about everything but trained never to materially address problems because trying to fix things would be “solutionism.”
Here in Oregon, right here in Silverton, my child is currently taking a year-long History course deliberately structured so as to portray a political narrative. And that ain’t right. The Supreme Court ruled in the 2006 case Garcetti v. Ceballos that teachers are speaking in an official capacity on behalf of the district, and therefore teachers have a legal responsibility to clearly distinguish their own personal opinions from official school policy. But really, we shouldn’t need the courts to tell us the obvious! Public schools must not endorse political dogma. It’s as simple as that. We wouldn’t want our opponents to do it; so therefore, if we are to live with integrity, then we must be very careful to live up to our own standards.
As I recently posted on Facebook, the course curriculum in question is designed to give the appearance that “imperialism” is somehow a phenomenon unique to Western Europeans of the past few hundred years. And that narrative is simply false.
Currently, China occupies Tibet and claims Taiwan: that’s imperialism by a non-Western culture, right there. Going back in time, China itself was unified in ancient times at the end of the Warring States period through a process that can only be described as imperialism.
The Mongols under Genghis Khan and his successors were consummate imperialists who destroyed and slaughtered their way through modern-day Afghanistan, and eventually built the largest empire in the history of the world. That’s the empire my child’s History teacher refused to so much as briefly mention: apparently because historical facts contradict a specific one-sided political narrative.
Likewise, imperialism was practiced in ancient Japan; and (based on findings discussed in the documentary “Lost Cities: Ghost City of the Pacific”) appears to have been practiced by the Polynesian Saudeleur Dynasty centered at capital city of Nan Madol on Pohnpei Island in modern Micronesia. Imperialism was practiced in ancient Cambodia; in ancient India; by the Aztecs of ancient Mesoamerica; by the Incas of ancient Peru; and by the ancient Mali Empire of sub-Saharan Africa: among many, many others, all around the world and throughout time. Imperialism is not limited to any particular culture. Imperialism is a human behavior.
Extremist political partisans are promoting a false narrative about the supposedly uniquely evil Western Europeans, for the purpose of making us feel ashamed of our heritage, undermining our social cohesion, and paving the way for a Marxist revolution. That’s what this is really about.
You didn’t see that coming? Perhaps you think the only people who use the word “Marxist” must be Fascists? I understand: you have been indoctrinated. We all have. It’s not just you. It’s very difficult to open your mind to new ideas once you have accepted a certain viewpoint; and we generally adopt our viewpoints based on assumptions and associations: not as a result of careful study and detailed analytical reasoning. As humans, we make most of our decisions emotionally. We tell ourselves that we are rational creatures; but careful observation reveals the opposite. In fact, we employ rationalization to explain why we made emotional choices.
This larger debate is not really about any particular “theory” at all. A proper philosophical theory can be discussed and debated by reasonable people; whereas the so-called “theory” we’re talking about here allows no debate: you either preach it, or you get canceled. That’s not a theory: that’s a religion.
This is really a debate about how much influence a certain extremist social movement should wield in our modern society.
The social movement in question employs subversive tactics, especially disinformation: which makes these discussions confusing as hell for anyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time studying the intricate details. The social movement in question generally declines to name itself, and rejects the labels applied to it by its opponents (“Cancel Culture” and “woke” being the most common). The social movement in question even delights in denying its own existence and activities: for instance, one hears its adherents make claims such as, “There’s no such thing as Cancel Culture” and “No one is teaching CRT in schools.” Baloney. This movement exists; it is extremely powerful; it is currently influencing or even dictating school curriculum policies in many public schools; and most worryingly, it is systematically removing from positions of influence anyone who dares to question its extremist ideology, and replacing them with partisan ideologues. That should be deeply concerning to anyone who believes in freedom and democracy.
At the outset of my current campaign for School Board, I made my views on this subject known to a local activist whose opinion I deeply respect. This person advised me in the strongest terms to keep my thoughts to myself. Her advice was well-intentioned. It’s exactly the same sort of advice that political consultants often give to candidates. The priority is to unseat the incumbent, and to replace him with someone who will favor the SFEA (teachers’ union) in future contract negotiations: and I am clearly the stronger candidate for this seat in that regard. Her concern was that if I spoke out on controversial issues then I would alienate the liberal base; and that’s a well-founded concern. So I took that advice when I spoke at the Candidates Night forum at the Silverton Grange, and it was my decision to take that advice: but I now deeply regret taking that advice. In retrospect, I believe that by taking her advice, I failed to be true to myself. “Silence is complicity,” as the extremists like to say. By staying silent on these matters in my most high-profile public statement, I may have appeared to endorse something that I strongly oppose. That’s an approach that Machiavelli would have approved of; but it’s not an approach that suits my self-identity as a person of integrity. Eventually, the cognitive dissonance was too much for me, and I posted my views on Facebook. The backlash was swift and terrible: I was accused of sounding “like a Republican,” and people close to me furiously told me that my Facebook post misrepresented beliefs that they hold dear. But I cannot apologize for speaking the truth as I know it. I can only apologize for not speaking out sooner; and I advise you to seek out the true facts of the matter, which I only have time to very briefly summarize here.
Briefly, then, “Critical Race Theory” is just one branch of a sweeping extremist postmodernist dogma that chiefly emerged in University settings in the past two decades or less, based on a confluence of various schools of thought with violent revolutionary Marxism at its core. Other branches of this philosophy include “Intersectional Theory” and “Colonial Theory.”
The only really unchanging principle of these various theories is the idea that everything about American society, economics, and government, including the foundational principle of equality under Constitutional law: according to this theory’s proponents, it’s all a system of structural oppression, fundamentally and inescapably racist and discriminatory, and the only real solution is its violent overthrow. As Ibram X. Kendi puts it in How to Be an Antiracist, (in the chapter titled “Class,” on page 163 of the hardcover edition): capitalism and racism “shall one day die together from unnatural causes.”
Beyond that, the increasingly wild claims made by these various “theories” are incessantly self-contradictory: and that’s by design. If you study the subject closely, you’ll notice that extremist movements of all flavors often require followers to espouse whatever doctrine they are told to repeat. This explains why one sees so many conspiracy theories in extremist forums online. Extremists reject objective truth in favor of group cohesion. Anyone who questions the current narrative (or points out its fallacies and self-contradictions) is seen as heretical, and must be punished or excommunicated: hence, not just Mussolini’s famous Brown Shirts, but also the comparable behavior for which “Cancel Culture” has become best known. It’s basically the same thing.
For more in-depth analysis on this subject, please read the excellent, insightful, and exhaustively researched book, Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay; and, for an impassioned and eloquently argued view written by a brilliant African-American professor of linguistics, listen to the audio book of Woke Racism by John McWhorter, which is available on the Libby app through the Silver Falls Library.
As for the evolution of my own views:
At this campaign’s outset, I posted my objections to the “Critical Theory” movement, right here on my website (on my Policies page and in this blog post). In other words, I have not gone out of my way to hide my views. Quite the contrary. I have posted my views publicly where anyone could see them.
The problem was at the Candidates Night forum hosted by the Silverton Grange. At that event, at least one very angry community member asked in the Zoom video chat how the candidates feel about teachers who teach CRT in their classrooms. In answer to that question, I said:
“So, the role of teachers in divisive times, I know this is kind of on everybody’s minds right now; and not all of our teachers agree about everything: and they shouldn’t be expected to. And it’s not the Board’s job to write, you know, the nitty gritty [ audio is muffled, something about policy ], as Dixon was saying earlier: the Board hires the Superintendent, and the Teacher’s Union takes care of all the sort of internal stuff. So what we need to do is support them all, and recognize that these are divisive times: that we’re not always going to agree with each other, but that we can listen, that we can get along, be civil with one another, that we can treat one another like neighbors, and I feel that’s really important.”
Yeah, that’s all true, so far as it goes; but it was a bit evasive, and I regret that. I didn’t really answer the question. Actually, I didn’t really know how to answer the question, until I did some more research into Supreme Court rulings regarding the essential distinction between First Amendment protected speech, and official policy communications statements made by a public employee.
I am the sort of person who engages in this sort of self-critical reflection. It’s very important to me that my own beliefs should be internally consistent, and that my actions and my beliefs should remain in alignment. As your elected representative, I can guarantee I would continue to reflect on the best way to serve the community, and to be forthright in acknowledging any shortcomings, and working towards continuous improvement.
Subsequent to my initial Facebook post on this subject, I have posted several follow-ups. In response to one of those posts, a community member offered the reasonable objection that individual teachers don’t set course curricula, and can’t be expected to change their course outlines every time an irate parent sends them an email. Fair enough! But if the course curriculum in question is in fact the standard at the school, and not merely the product of one activist educator: then that’s worse. That would mean this is not an outlier, but rather a symptom of institutionalized indoctrination.
As a community of people who love our public schools, it is essential that we demand balance: not bias.