Throughout history, power grabbers have tended to find their way into classrooms. I assume the goal is to indoctrinate the next generation to their way of thinking and being. I call it a thinly closeted mind control movement to benefit the few and serve even fewer. To enhance a catchphrase, if you want to know who they are you can follow the money and privilege.
Sad and True.
Historically, our public education was comprised of part facts, part bullshit. Textbooks celebrate the white power structure elevating it to hero status, and even using inaccurate imagery of a non-physical God while villainizing the rest of us non-white, non-male humans. I was fortunate, my elementary school teachers told us our textbooks were filled with lies, racism, and white supremacist leanings. And once the age of enlightenment hit, (the 60s, not the other one), we began to recognize the flaws in what we passed off as public education.
One example of how miseducation manifests is ignorance. In the 1980s, a co-worker from the Midwest said to me, “Well no Black person has ever made a real contribution to history.” I told him otherwise and wanted to slap him with one of many books listing African American patents and contributions to science, medicine, technology, and engineering—dating back to the 1700s. He, like most, went to public schools with textbooks that intentionally left out inventions or discoveries by any number of non-white people or women.
One Step Forward, Two Back
Advancements happened. School districts opened their curricula to expose children to the value of “others.” But like a devilishly persistent Ground Hog Day, we’re back to white male worship in public schools. I don’t have anything against white males. As I’ve said before one of my grandfather’s and a few exes were white males—I just don’t appreciate the manipulation of facts that make children believe they walk on water and own all knowledge and wisdom on the planet. These efforts are more than the politicization of education, they are attacks. Governors such as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott are weaponizing public education to both undermine the institution and devalue non-white, non-male people. They are part of a group that, like trump, works to spin positive attributes and actions into negatives. These extremists glorify ignorance and vilify truth.
They Are Throwbacks to the Worst of Times
Nelson Mandela called education, “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I’ll add to that, in either good or horrific ways.
In 1740, South Carolina passed the first laws prohibiting slave education. It was illegal to teach an enslaved person to write. This is the wording of their state assembly: "Be it therefore Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all and every Person and Persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any Slave to be taught to write, or shall use to employ any slave as a Scribe in any Manner of Writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such offense forfeit the Sum of One Hundred Pounds current Money.”
Slave owners considered literacy a threat to the institution of slavery. They claimed that learning to read or write would make enslaved people dissatisfied and rebellious. Newsflash: not one enslaved person was ever satisfied with providing free labor to enrich some other family. Not to mention the rapes, murders, and brutality at the hands of slave owners.
Women in the U.S. were denied access to education as a means to control their minds and movements. Women were barred from higher education until the 19th century. Sadly the United Nations reports that 130 million girls around the world today are denied access to education.
Book bans are part of the arsenal to limit access to education and information. Reportedly, the first U.S. book ban was in 1637. We can tell from the accounts of it by the Smithsonian that fear, power, and control were the basis for that ban. Anglican lawyer Thomas Morton who sold firearms to Indigenous Peoples, published The New English Canaan harshly criticizing the colonizing Puritans, their treatment of the Native Americans, and the society they were building. The Puritan government fought back by banning his book.
Florida and Texas have the dubious distinction of being the states that have banned more books than any other, more than 600. States banning books are in the company of Nazis who banned books like Call of the Wild by Jack London, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I intentionally did not write the reason for those bans because it doesn’t matter. Attempts to suppress knowledge under the guise of protecting children fall flat when the content being banned serves to support the propaganda of those imposing censorship.
Attacks on school boards around the country have been conducted by openly white supremacist groups fighting books about non-whites, LGTBQ, and women. Among their tactics are to infiltrate school boards by running for seats on the boards whether they have children in the districts or not. They use school board meetings as a forum to intimidate teachers and parents who are not in agreement with them. Before school board meetings became the battleground for weaponizing education and knowledge, they were considered boring and uneventful.
I know many parents who, like me, supplemented their children’s education with information not provided in schools. Learning about many cultures and people teaches children to respect and value people. Learning the truth about inhumanity inspires children to be empathetic. The sad reality is that the extremists who are using education to suppress and oppress are not motivated by what’s best for children or our communities. They are pushing an agenda of discrimination and exclusion based on bigotry.
Attempts to hide or manipulate information and truth are not new. This is the weapon of choice by those who want to control the minds, actions, finances, and lives of others. Like the slaveowners of the past, they fear knowledge will inspire dissatisfaction and insurrection. But no matter the gains they make, efforts to hide the truth are like trying to hold running water in your hands; it may feel as if you’re succeeding, but your hands are not full, they’re just all wet.
We need to recognize the end game of book banners and those who want to re-write history to their liking; this is not about education, it is a war of control. Unfortunately, the major weapon in this war is the miseducation of our children.