Remember George Carlin's seven dirty words? Education's new dirty word is racism.
Fred Klonsky in Retirement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Remember George Carlin’s seven dirty words?
Carlin was a great social critic who focused on society’s rampant hypocrisy.
In 1972, comedian Carlin released an album, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television". It contained a monologue in which he identified these words. Carlin was arrested for disturbing the peace when he performed the routine at a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 1972.
In 1972 Carlin’s seven dirty words referred to sex.
In 2022 the dirty words are about race, gender and class.
Teachers who mention them can be fired or worse.
In Florida a law against making white people uncomfortable is seriously being debated.
What started in early 2021 as a campaign by Republicans to use Critical Race Theory as an election wedge issue has now become actual laws that prevent teachers from talking about racial inequality in this country, both current and in our history. The movement has exploded into over 60 state bills that make illegal the teaching of race, gender or class reality.
The debate triggers a memory for me.
I remember sitting in high school social studies class in the early sixties reading from a three inch thick text book. A section in the book on the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union compared what it described as the democracy of U.S. capitalism versus the totalitarianism of communist Russia.
I wanted to talk about how my father had been arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced under the Smith Act. The Smith Act was a law that legally banned the teaching or advocating of socialism.
A vestige of McCarthyism that remained alive and well in American classrooms.
I raised my hand, but there would be no discussion allowed.
What we have is the new McCarthyism. Many Smith Acts.
In Florida, a bill would ban teachers from saying “racial colorblindness” is racist. In South Carolina, a bill would ban teaching that “equity is a concept that is superior to or supplants the concept of equality.” In New Hampshire, “promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America” could become illegal, if a bill were to pass.
In Virginia, newly elected Trumper Governor Glen Youngkin created a tip line that encourages parents to anonymously report any teacher who teaches uncomfortable or divisive subjects, like critical race theory.
The opponents of teaching history claim it is asserting parental control.
That’s a lie.
This is as top down a control of school curricula as it gets.
In this atmosphere parents have no more control than that day when I tried to raise my hand in social studies.