Stupiditas Omnia Vincit!

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After New Year’s Day, millions of schoolchildren from kindergarten to university will troop back into their education factories. There, the work of turning their heads to mush shall resume at the hands of their… ah, educators. This might seem a bit strident on my part; however, the truth is that events across the country (since the riots of the summer) continue to reveal ever-larger sectors of the nation’s intellectual life, which have been rotted by Critical Theory and other woke nonsense. Critical Theory is an academic exercise in mental sterility that reduces everything noble in human learning to mere “structures of power.” It is basically a Marxist analysis applied systematically to learning. As shown previously in our “Woke List,” it has devastated the universities. But an article in the December 27 Wall Street Journal indicates how deeply the rot has struck American primary and secondary education as well.

Entitled “Even Homer Gets Mobbed,” this scathing piece showcases the semi-literate style of “educators” who wish to junk the entirety of the Western Canon. This includes (but is not limited to) the author of The Odyssey, a book that was recently banned by Lawrence High School in Massachusetts, which boasts a graduation rate of about fifty percent. The article literally brims with worthless gems, like a quote from one dronette explaining the kinds of literature that must be excised from education. This includes anything where (in the judgement of these self-appointed mandarins) “racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm,” according to the breathless prose of children’s-book scribbler Padma Venkatraman.

Quoting further from an article by Miss Venkatraman in the School Library Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon points to the would-be commissar of literature’s attack on the Bard of Avon: “Absolving Shakespeare of responsibility by mentioning that he lived at a time when hate-ridden sentiments prevailed, risks sending a subliminal message that academic excellence outweighs hateful rhetoric.”

Mrs. Gurdon went on to reveal the existence of an organized campaign to purge such evil books from school bookshelves called the “#DisruptTexts campaign.” The witches’ coven that runs it includes one Lorena German, a teacher at the Headwaters School in Austin, Texas. According to the article, she was upset at the presence of old books in school curricula because “many classics were written more than 70 years ago: ‘Think of U.S. society before then, and the values that shaped this nation afterwards. THAT is what is in those books.” One Jessica Cluess, a writer of young adult fiction, responded on Twitter, “If you think Hawthorne was on the side of the judgmental Puritans . . . then you are an absolute idiot and should not have the title of educator in your twitter bio.” Despite the absolute truth of her statement, the hapless Miss Cluess was attack by an online lynch mob; despite making an abject apology, she was dropped by her agent.

Somewhat nauseated by all of this, I went to the website of the #DisruptTexts campaign. There I found its mission statement:

Disrupt Texts is a crowdsourced, grassroots effort by teachers for teachers to challenge the traditional canon in order to create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable language arts curriculum that our students deserve. It is part of our mission to aid and develop teachers committed to anti-racist/anti-bias teaching pedagogy and practices.

How do the harpies involved tend to do this?

Each week, join us for the #DisruptTexts slow chat on Twitter as teachers from across the country and world come together to apply a critical lens on a central text. We’ll discuss how to disrupt traditional pedagogies by suggesting alternative titles and approaches through thoughtful pairings, counter-narratives, and inclusive, diverse texts sets.

I then looked at the four person “team” that runs this particular sideshow. The coven comprises high school teacher Tricia Ebarvia who, amongst other distinctions, runs the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (part of the National Writing Project.) She was awarded a Heinemann Fellowship, which allowed her to “interrogate the ways in which readers’ varied and intersecting personal identities inform the ways in which students read themselves, texts, and the world.” Our friend Lorena German was also there, as were Dr. Kimberly N. Parker and Julia E. Torres. All have won awards from the mainstream educational-industrial establishment, and all are particularly connected with the National Council of Teachers of English, having held various responsible posts for that body or its affiliates, and having received awards and distinctions from it.

The NCTE was founded in 1911 as an advocacy group for teachers of English to aid their struggle against “overly specialized college entrance requirements.” They have come a long way since then; today, they have several specialized boards, awards, and programs. But they are thoroughly committed to the “woke” agenda. The theme for their 2021 Annual Convention is “Equity, Justice, and Antiracist Teaching.”

According to Valerie Kinloch, the 2021 program chair and president-elect of the NCTE, the conference will seek to

create equitable learning environments guided by justice requires that we engage in antiracist teaching. For Bettina Love, ‘An antiracist approach elicits the understanding that the work of living and learning is about the solidarity created through shared struggle. It is not just about acknowledging that racism exists but about consciously committing to the struggle of fighting for racial justice.’ Considering Love’s framing alongside Travis Bristol’s belief that ‘anti-racist teaching means a fundamental disruption of the way in which teaching and learning happens in our schools today.

So just what does this half-literate jargon mean in concrete terms? It means that, in the immortal words of the mental munchkins of a generation ago, “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s gotta go.” What makes this drivel all the more delicious is that, while the NCTE and its various derivatives and hangers-on are committed to banning the Western Canon from the pathetic classrooms presided over by their products, it maintains an “Intellectual Freedom Center” and gives out a Doublespeak award. Truly, the recipients of the latter should be strictly in-house.

But let us look once more at the villains in this case: the School Library Journal, Disrupt Texts, the National Writing Project, and, of course, the NCTE. What gives them their power to wreak havoc on the educational system and harry the independent-minded? It is, of course, their official standing. The poison they (and allied bodies) are injecting into the mental bloodstream of America must be stopped, and not only for aesthetic reasons.

The Classics are classics for a reason. They cover the range of human experience, and help all of us—though especially the young—to understand the adventure, the glory, and the shame of being human. They are witnesses to all that is best and worst in human nature, and reveal our unchanging nature, as well as illuminating the eternal values to which we all should aspire. Now, it is to be granted that the disciples of Derrida and his ilk who populate the halls of academe no longer believe in those things; but reality has never depended upon addle-pated academics for existence.

Ignoring this shift will have terrible results. Jon Del Arroz, “the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction,” was one of the few to rally to Miss Cluess’ defense, with the following statement: “It’s a tragedy that this anti-intellectual movement of canceling the classics is gaining traction among educators and the mainstream publishing industry. Erasing the history of great works only limits the ability of children to become literate.”

It is really a crime, and—0ne way or another—it must be purged from education. As Charles Dickens said in A Christmas Carol of the two children under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” Let us defund the pseudo-intellectual bodies here described. Interrogate your local school board to see if they or their teachers are at all connected with them. This must end!

[Image: Teachers protest in Chicago circa October 2019. Scott Heins/Getty Images]

Charles Coulombe

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Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine's European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan's Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.

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