By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist
There is a war-of-words waging in Wyoming and across the nation. For decades, it was a cold war played out in the halls of academia.
Last summer it went hot as riots erupted in the streets of major US cities. Most recently, an offensive from the U.S. Department of Education called, “Proposed Priorities-American History and Civics Education” put every local school board in the crosshairs.
Wyoming’s Superintendent, Jillian Balow, fired back. On May 4, she released a Statement on Proposed U.S. Department of Education Rule Prioritizing Critical Race Theory Curriculum in K-12 Schools. It calls out the Proposed Priorities, among other things, for the “alarming move” to encourage “districts to use curriculum related to divisive author Ibram X. Kendi and the New York Times ‘1619 Project.’”
This she said, “should be rebuked across party lines.”
Every Wyoming parent should be grateful for Balow’s vigilance and leadership. But we should not let her fight alone. A general can only be as successful as the troops that are marshaled behind her. Every Wyoming parent needs to get educated and engaged in the battle. Wyoming’s children are at stake.
One factor that keeps parents sidelined is sheer bewilderment. It is hard to join in the fray when the smoke and noise of battle conspire to obscure the truth. The Proposed Priorities are an incomprehensible word salad, designed to bewilder. It lobs flash-bang grenades like “antiracism” and “systemic racism.” Then it rolls out undefined terms like “linguistically responsive” and “equity” (not to be confused with equality). Like smoke bombs, these hide what’s really happening.
The confusion caused by such language is intentional. Constantly changing terminology and the invention of new words are meant to keep you out of the fray. But common sense can cut through the distractions to provide clarity. When you are unable to decipher what people are proposing, simply ask: what are they opposing? This cuts through the fog of war.
The Proposed Priorities implement Executive Order 13985, which was signed by Joseph Biden his very first afternoon in the Oval Office. It revokes EO 13950 Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping, and commands agency directors to scuttle any changes that it accomplished. Next, it canceled EO 13958 Establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission, and scrubbed its Report from the Whitehouse website.
Clearly, the Proposed Priorities do not want to combat race and sex stereotyping. Also, they treat the 1776 Commission as hostile to the new federal priorities. In fact, the priorities are designed to award government educational contracts on the basis of racial and sex stereotyping, and to teach the New York Times’ discredited 1619 Project in opposition to the Report of the 1776 Commission. No wonder Superintendent Balow raised the alarm!
To understand what is at stake, simply read the short 1776 Commission Report. “Above all else,” it concludes, America’s founding “principles recognize the worth, equality, potential, dignity, and glory of each and every man, woman, and child created in the image of God.” Why would anyone want to cancel that language?
Last January, Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) carried the flag of 1776 by sponsoring HB 177 Education-Understanding federal and state government. Balow weighed in to support the concept of Haroldson’s bill. Sadly, the Education Committee did not send it to the floor.
Part “(a)” called for every school district to provide “instruction that prepares students for informed, engaged citizenship,” and named 11 content areas. More importantly, part “(b)” required transparency. It would have allowed “any parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the school district” to inspect the curriculum and materials used to teach the child American history, government and civics.
The need for parental inspection of educational materials was highlighted just this week by a controversy in Cheyenne. The Laramie County School District #1 hired Western Education Equity Assistance Center (WEEAC), an out-of-state company aligned with the ‘1619 Project,’ to administer a survey to Cheyenne’s kids. It looked like a “push-poll” designed more to influence young minds than to gain useful knowledge.
When parents asked to inspect the survey before it was administered, they were told that that WEEAC considered its materials “proprietary,” and would not allow parents to preview them. Enough parents raised alarm that the school board postponed the survey at the last minute, promising to replace it with materials that parents could inspect ahead of time.
Like mold and mushrooms, poisonous ideas thrive in the dark. Healthy ideas, like green plants, enjoy the sunshine. You can help to let in the light. Support Superintendent Balow by supporting your local school board. Attend its meetings. Listen to what is going on. Talk to the board members. You might even run for a seat yourself! Wyoming’s children need your voice to keep them out of the crossfire.