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The Closing of American Children’s Minds

A high school classmate of mine once told a horrifying story: Back in kindergarten, she and some other White girls had a Black classmate. They got hold of her and tried and tried to scrub her skin, because, she said, they assumed her color meant she was dirty.

Remember this, the next time you hear a MAGA-tized Republican politician or other Trump supporter ranting about “wokeness” and the evil divisiveness of “Critical Race Theory,” because that is the world they want for all American children. It was a signature issue for the successful campaign of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, the hedge-fund asshole anointed a “moderate” by virtue of his ability to smile winningly and shoot backyard hoops in TV ads. As soon as he took office, he set up a dedicated email address for constituents to snitch on public school teachers they believe to be imparting the dreaded “CRT” to innocent White students. This “hotline” set up by the Commonwealth of Virginia, at public expense, has evidently attracted such a vile shitload of unfiltered racism that the governor’s office refuses to release the messages it has received, despite two lawsuits. I guess the fear is that hypocritical “anti-racist” moderate White suburbanites might be nauseated by the content, and become inoculated against further Republican race-baiting.

MAGA Republicans have enjoyed tremendous success with their nationwide campaign to inflict ignorance about racial and sexual orientation issues on America’s schoolchildren. In between “active shooter drills” in which the kiddies are to learn how to hide from rage-filled young men whom the GOP has armed with military-grade weaponry, they are not to read about the history of slavery and racial discrimination in this country, and they are not to be permitted to know about the very existence of LGBT people. This campaign is hardly restricted to Texas, and, as in other countries where the night of totalitarianism is falling, panicked librarians are doing much of the censoring themselves, anticipating the fascists by pulling “controversial” texts off the shelves. In Virginia Beach, meanwhile, the fascists are sending up a trial balloon to see if they can get the courts to ban such books for everybody. If the Very Stable Genius does come back and abolish the federal Department of Education, as he has promised a cheering mob, it will merely be to place a symbolic seal on the new, willed ignorance.

Back in 1987, the late University of Chicago philosopher Allan Bloom wrote an unexpected bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind, lamenting what he saw as academia’s takeover by relativism. This was immediately politicized by Reagan-era conservatives, who saw it as a useful cudgel with which to beat the already down-and-out liberals. The assumption that liberals are all relativists as opposed to being tolerant of and open to different viewpoints was highly questionable, but it fed into the American right’s already rampant persecution complex, because in their view, justice demands that their ideas and values shall be proclaimed unquestionably supreme over all others. Thirty-five years later, they’ve concluded that it’s best to simply abolish public schools and make American children illiterate, if at all possible. As the Very Stable Genius himself boasts, “I love the poorly educated!”

The hell the MAGAs say, they want a color-blind society. They want a society full of White children so ignorant they will scrape their classmates of color bloody and raw, trying to racially cleanse them.

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