Indoctrination task force posts higher ed-focused agenda, changes it twice

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin exchanges words with task force member Laura Van Voorhees during the June 24, 2021 meeting. Nik Streng/Idaho Education News

New developments: The task force shifted gears to higher ed Thursday. Click here to see what happened. 

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s education indoctrination task force will meet for the third time Thursday with a newly posted lineup of speakers and a new focus: alleged leftist teachings in Idaho’s higher education institutions.

The group will hear from a conservative political pundit from New Zealand, a task force member who once ran for the Legislature as a Republican and a Boise State University professor of social work, among others, according to an amended agenda posted to McGeachin’s website.

The agenda appears to use the same mold it did for the first two task force meetings: a set of presentations mixed with discussion by group members; a lack of representation from state education policymaking agencies; and no speakers with obvious or publicly-stated intentions of dissenting from the task force’s self-described aim of protecting “young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism” in Idaho schools.

Three versions of the agenda, including two amended versions, have now been posted since Tuesday. The second iteration added a presentation by McGeachin on a proposed equity policy being considered by the State Board of Education, and replaced a talk by “various” unnamed higher education students on their experiences with a video on student experiences.

Elaine King speaks during the first meeting of the Education Task Force on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at the Idaho Capitol. Nik Streng/Idaho Education News

The third draft, current as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, removed all references to student experiences. It also added a presentation on recommendations related to critical race theory by Elaine King, a task force member and former teacher who ran for the Idaho House as a Rexburg Republican, on what reported was an anti-Common Core platform.

Here’s the original agenda:

Here’s the second version:

Of five presenters on the latest slate, Trevor Loudon of New Zealand holds perhaps the most name recognition and will speak for an hour on the “Equity Discussion Within American Institutions of Higher Education.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center described Loudon as “a far-right conspiracy theorist.” The center said he “is known for seeing communist infiltrators everywhere and claims the political left are working with so-called Islamists to overthrow the United States.”

Loudon gained traction as a conservative pundit in U.S. politics when media giant Glenn Beck backed him, the New Zealand Herald reported. Loudon has also railed against critical race theory in The Epoch Times, a far-right media company, where he’s a contributor.

Task force member Laura van Voorhees initially asked Loudon to present; he accepted and will fly to Boise “on his own dime” to attend, she said at the task force’s June meeting.

“We’ll be really anxious and looking forward to hearing from him,” Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin said at the meeting. McGeachin founded the task force and is running for governor in the 2022 Republican primary.

A professor of social work hired by Boise State University in January, Nafees Alam, will speak about a “Point-Counterpoint Teaching Philosophy,” according to the agenda. But BSU President Marlene Tromp, frequently targeted for BSU’s alleged “indoctrination” of students through left-slanted teachings, is notably absent from the list, as are administrators from all Idaho colleges and universities.

Presidents of Idaho’s four-year institutions jointly responded to questions from the task force but will not attend, BSU spokesperson Mike Sharp and University of Idaho spokesperson Jodi Walker, wrote by email.

Tromp is currently out of town, Sharp said. Though U of I President Scott Green won’t attend, he was invited, Walker said.

The universities appear to be following in the footsteps of the State Board of Education and the Idaho School Boards Association, both of which declined to send a representative to the task force last month. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s office also said she was on vacation during last month’s meeting and couldn’t attend. State agencies offered written responses to questions from the task force, too.

With higher education administrators absent, McGeachin will present on the university presidents’ responses.

McGeachin intern Brooke Berry will present on college and university accreditation processes, Berry told EdNews by phone Tuesday. Berry spoke on State Board curriculum policy in June when officials declined to attend the meeting.

The group will meet at 1 p.m. in the Lincoln Auditorium inside the Idaho Capitol on July 29. The meeting is scheduled to run for four hours.

After Thursday, the task force only has one more meeting planned, in August, when McGeachin said policy proposals will be made and live public comment will be accepted. Both would be first-time occurrences since the group’s inception.

Check back with EdNews throughout the week for full coverage of the task force and a live blog of the meeting.

Idaho Education News reporter Nik Streng contributed to this report.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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