While Idaho legislators have been debating over K-12 and higher education budgets, terms of “social justice” have surfaced and become the reason that these education budgets have failed. Having been in the education arena for the past 24 years, it is disheartening to watch the latest low some of our Idaho legislators have sunk, in order to give public education bad publicity. In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, leaders in Idaho should reach out and support and thank educators for their efforts. But in contrast, some of our legislators have found ways to belittle and make unfounded accusations on our public charter and traditional schools. Idaho has led the country in reopening and getting students back into the classrooms for full-time, in-person instruction, and communities have done their best job under these extreme circumstances. In the midst of these remarkable efforts, we have witnessed bill after bill to reduce our funding tools and watch our lawmakers vote down bills that would help students in Idaho. Instead of championing public education, the legislature is reinforcing rhetoric about “social justice” and “indoctrination” being taught in our educational system.
As a former history teacher, one of the mantras we discussed with students was “learn from the past so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.” These appropriations bills are being voted down on baseless accusations and reasoning that has little-to-no reality to them. I have participated in multiple curriculum acquisition for numerous districts and have yet to see or hear of programs brought into a district to “indoctrinate” students. World History and current events often have ties to deep religious beliefs. When instructing students on World Wars, we will talk about racism, religion, and unless we would like to cut out the 20 century, communism will be discussed. The education taking place is not indoctrination, it is a critical understanding of what led up to historical events that have taken place with the hope our leaders will not make the same mistakes. These recent attacks and accusations claiming educators are indoctrinating students with Critical Race Theory, Communism, and Marxism are not only offensive, but also mirror mistakes made in our past.
When Sen. Joseph McCarthy rose to fame in the late 1940s and early 1950s, his actions as a United States senator dealt with attacks and accusations on hundreds of Americans being accused of communism or being a communist sympathizer. The Americans accused were blacklisted, lost their jobs, and ruined their families. McCarthy made accusations against anyone that would help bolster his popularity and political power. His accusations were later proven false and the majority of Americans accused had zero ties to the Communist Party. This practice of making accusations of subversion or treason with little to no evidence became known as McCarthyism. This process brought the “Red Scare” to the forefront of America and dictated policy built on unfounded attacks, unfounded accusations, and fear. Today, the term McCarthyism is used as a general term to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, and demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.
When legislative priorities are driven by accusations and attacks that are unfounded, fear becomes the driving factor and not sound data. My hope is that we can learn from our past and not make the same mistakes. We need to continue to support our public schools, both traditional and charter. They have had a trying year and our educators have stepped up to meet the needs of their communities during a global pandemic. Let’s support and move our students forward, not stifle or downgrade the educational processes through fear and false accusations to push a political agenda.