Some days ago, as RedState reported, The New York Times ran a joint op-ed in which David French, Thomas Williams, and two others penned a scathing rebuke of states that have sought to ban Critical Race Theory in schools via legislation.
As I wrote at the time, their downplaying of the threat CRT poses and their insistence on filing lawsuits was clearly meant to be a losing strategy because, for Conservative Inc. and company, the losing is the point.
Lawsuits produce narrow outcomes, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and often take years to reach their conclusion. The far more effective means of stopping CRT is by having state legislatures, which already set school standards, take action. That states like Tennessee, Florida, and others have done so incensed French and his cohorts. By their telling, such legislation quells the marketplace of ideas, something that is profoundly irrelevant in discussing K-12 public schools.
Writer, filmmaker, and senior fellow at Manhattan Institute, Christopher Rufo responded, noting that the Times piece’s entire premise, i.e. that state legislation was too broad and went too far, was based on either a complete misreading of the law in question or was purposely lied about.
Their article was predicated on an absolute falsehood, claiming that Tennessee had banned any material that "could lead" to distress, while the bill actually bans teaching students directly that they "should feel" guilt or shame because of their race. pic.twitter.com/f5I6mhwHN1
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) July 10, 2021
As you can see, French’s description (I’m gonna assume he did the legal breakdown in the joint op-ed, given he’s a lawyer) of the Tennessee law is simply false. The law does not ban kids from feeling discomfort or guilt if they are taught about slavery, for example. Rather, it bans teachers from teaching kids they should feel discomfort or guilt, which would be an ideological assertion, not one based on just teaching history. Yet, French set up a strawman by misrepresenting the law and then proceeded to beat it to death.
Rufo was having none of it in his rebuttal.
But in practice, they are enablers of the worst ideologies of the Left and would leave American families defenseless against them. Their three core arguments — that critical race theory restrictions violate “free speech,” that state legislatures should stay out of the “marketplace of ideas,” and that citizens should pursue civil-rights litigation instead — are all hollow to the core.
In reality, they would usher in the concrete tyrannies of critical race theory, which explicitly seeks to subvert the principles of individual rights and equal protection under the law. Despite the superficial ideological differences between the four authors, they serve a single function: to prevaricate, stall and run interference for critical race theory’s blitz through American institutions.
This is correct, in my view.
Again, as I wrote in my original critique of the Times article some days ago, the losing is the point for these people. That’s why their arguments are so obviously disingenuous. There is no conservative or libertarian principle that says it’s wrong for state legislatures to set school curriculums. In fact, it has often been a conservative baseline that bureaucracies should not go unchecked, and the public school system is such a bureaucracy.
There’s also no threat to free speech involved, as public schools are not meant to be experimental labs for free speech. Rather, curriculums are set and students follow them. Teachers teach those curriculums and do not have the freedom to deviate, nor should they. The most direct way for parents to influence what is taught to their children is via their elected representatives.
The authors’ primary error is framing the debate as a question about free speech. This is bizarre. The First Amendment was designed to protect citizens from the government, not to protect the government from citizens.
Public schools, which have the power of compulsion, are pushing toxic racial theories onto children, teaching them that they should be judged on the basis of race and must atone for historical crimes committed by members of their racial group.
Critical race theorists, of course, have the right to express their beliefs as individuals, but voters and taxpayers are not obligated to subsidize their speech and include it in the public school curriculum.
Here’s the reality that libertarians like Williams, and supposed conservatives like French, refuse to acknowledge — school curriculums are a zero-sum game. Someone is going to set them. They will either include CRT and other racial essentialism — or they won’t. There is no third option where public schools either cease to exist or exist as a “marketplace of ideas.” The authors of the Times piece want to argue in a bubble that doesn’t represent reality, because if they admitted otherwise, their entire argument would be moot and they know it.
Rufo’s op-ed is extensive, and I’ve only shared a few snippets here. I would highly encourage everyone to go read it. It is a thorough, well-thought-out takedown of his bad-faith critics, who seem to be more worried about losing gracefully than actually protecting children. There is nothing more important than preventing the negative indoctrination of children.