TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 2021
Anthropological insights: As we noted yesterday, critical theory is hot.
More specifically, a hot discussion now surrounds the teaching of America's racial history in our public schools. How should that brutal history be taught, and should "critical race theory," whatever that is, be somehow involved in the process?
These questions are very hot. Because the primary question is very important, there's no reason why they shouldn't be.
That said, a certain problem has appeared in Our Town, according to leading top experts. As this general topic is discussed in our leading newspapers, Our Town's thought leaders are all telling the story in Exactly The Same Approved Way.
"This is typical human behavior," one despondent scholar told us. "Our brains are wired to induce us to behave in such unhelpful ways."
This anthropologist then disappeared into his cave; loud moaning would soon emerge. This very morning, another column in the Washington Post illustrates what this skilled expert said.
The column was written by Gene Robinson. It's the fifth Post column in recent days to focus on the general question of teaching racial history in the public schools.
Yesterday, we noted the fact that all three columns in Saturday's print editions dealt with the American history / critical theory question. As of today, the number has risen to five. We offer all five links:
Colbert King (June 26): In D.C., critical race theory is simple truth-telling
Alexandra Petri (June 26): I'm for free thinking...about the things that I believe are correct
Alyssa Rosenberg (June 26): Ken Burns is an optimist. But he's very worried about America
Karen Attiah (June 28): The challenge for educators: How do you fight hot air?
Gene Robinson (June 29): The truth about the GOP and critical race theory
For the record, all five writers are regular Post columnists. There's not a guest essay in the bunch!
Everyone's offering his or her thoughts about critical theory and the schools. The problem is this, according to experts—to the extent that their thoughts can be said to be thoughts, their thoughts are all just the same.
As is often the case at such times, Our Town's thought leaders are all saying the exact same things about the current dispute. At the Post, they're all saying this:
There is no possible problem here. The whole thing's a GOP scam.
To what extent are the Post's thought leaders working from tribal script? We've shown you the headlines on their columns as they appeared in the Post's print editions. But here are the headlines on the most recent columns, as they appear on line:
Karen Attiah (June 28): The challenge for educators amid the critical race theory backlash: How do you fight hot air?
Gene Robinson (June 29): The cold truth about Republicans’ hot air over critical race theory
Every day, subscribers are hit with the increasingly undisguised mandated tribal assessment. The controversy is a bunch of "hot air" from The Others. It's a bunch of hot air, full stop!
Almost surely, there is a certain amount of hot air coming from Republican pols with respect to the current debate. But as Robinson starts his column today, he displays the air of total certainty with which this belief is being asserted here in the streets of Our Town.
ROBINSON (6/29/21): Republicans’ hissy fit over critical race theory is nothing more than an attempt to rally the party’s overwhelmingly White base by denying documented history and uncomfortable truth.
This manufactured controversy has nothing to do with actual critical race theory, which, frankly, is the dry and arcane stuff of graduate school seminars. It is all about alarming White voters into believing that they are somehow threatened if our educational system makes any meaningful attempt to teach the facts of the nation’s long struggle with race.
The Republican state legislators falling over themselves to decide how history can and cannot be taught in schools—and blowhards such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who warn that children are being taught “every White person is a racist”—know exactly what they’re doing. They seek to create a crisis where none exists in hopes of driving up GOP turnout in next year’s midterm elections.
It’s a cynical ploy...
Concerns and complaints being voiced by The Others are just "a hissy fit." The debate's a "manufactured controversy," but also a "cynical ploy."
The Others "seek to create a crisis where none exists"—and they "know exactly what they’re doing." They're trying to "drive up GOP turnout in next year’s elections." They're just trying to rally the GOP’s overwhelmingly white base
Given the way those voters are, the pols can do this by staging a fit any time our public schools "make any meaningful attempt to teach the facts of the nation’s long struggle with race." And that's all there is to this debate, full and complete total stop.
There's no suggestion in Robinson's column that there could be any valid concern about the way history is possibly being taught in the public schools. The whole thing's a cynical ploy. There's nothing more to notice.
Human tribes have always thundered in such ways as they've made their way towards war. Or so we're told by the despondent experts with whom we consult most nights.
Robinson thunders loudly today. In some ways, Karen Attiah's Monday column offered some comic relief.
When she offered her overview, she started where these columns always do—with the observation that the dummies in the other tribe don't even know what CRT is!
To the extent that it matters, that certainly could be accurate. But Attiah provides some comic relief as she continues from there:
ATTIAH (6/28/21): For all the conservative outrage about critical race theory, few GOP lawmakers can define what it is. It’s not as if the theory is widely taught in the K-12 schools—we’re talking about an advanced framework developed by scholars interested in interpreting America’s systems through the lens of race and civil rights. The Texas law doesn’t even use the words “critical race theory.” The vagueness is clearly intentional, as is the paranoid bluster that critical race theory is not only unpatriotic, but also designed to make White kids feel bad for being White. Fighting it is like fighting the hot air of this blazing Texas summer.
Very few of The Others even know what CRT is! Making matters even worse, they didn't even mention CRT in the proposed state law against which Attiah rails—and as usual, the ploy was intentional!
The Others are danged if they mention it, danged if they don't! This is the way we humans have always behaved, disconsolate experts insist.
The New York Times has also been offering columns about this topic. Three regular columnists—Douthat, Krugman and Goldberg—have tackled this topic in recent days. In the process, Times subscribers have been offered much more balanced fare than their counterparts at the Post.
This morning, Michelle Goldberg even suggests that there may be a tiny germ of a minor problem floating around in this stew. She spends a few paragraphs floating this thought, then finds her way back to her senses.
Tomorrow, we'll show you how the tribal imperative conquers all, even in a column like this. But could there possibly be real problems, or valid concerns, lurking inside this tribalized food fight?
Readers, please! Of course there could! To her semi-credit, Goldberg tiptoes toward that fact today, even as the proselytizing continues at the Post.
Tomorrow: Ever so briefly, she swerves off the road
Still coming: Complaints from an actual school