The real reason the Democrats won’t stand up for teachers against anti-CRT and “groomer” attacks

[Note: I wrote this piece at the invitation of a major publication, but they ultimately rejected the submitted draft. After a couple failed attempts to find it a new home, I am publishing it here, mainly out of respect for the time of my interview subjects, but also because I think that — whatever it faults as an op-ed — the basic point I am making is true and important.]

At a time when the pandemic has prompted a new appreciation of the work teachers do, we have also witnessed a sustained conservative attack on teachers and public schools. Beginning with the crusade against so-called “Critical Race Theory” and escalating in the recent attempts to squelch discussion of homosexuality and trans issues, state-level Republicans have increasingly sought to police teacher’s speech and micromanage curriculum.

These measures have been accompanied by a campaign of outright demonization against teachers, accusing them of indoctrinating children, seeking to make white children hate themselves, and even implying that teachers who speak with students about homosexuality or trans issues are pedophiles who are “grooming” our nation’s youth.

These increasingly unhinged and dangerous attacks have been met with virtual silence among Democrats. A recent viral speech by Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow, who forcefully denounced Republican Senator Lana Theis’s attempt to tar her and other Democrats as “groomers,” has only highlighted most elected Democrats’ failure to push back on a campaign of racism, homophobia, and transphobia.

What is going on here? Certainly part of the problem is Democrats’ habitual cowardice in the face of culture war attacks. But I believe the response in this case goes beyond political tactics. There is a deeper dynamic here, an ideological commitment to the view that teachers are not to be trusted. The recent Republican anti-teacher legislation puts a new, distinctively conservative spin on a decades-old effort to undermine the qualitative work of teaching through relentless quantitative assessment. Again and again, Democrats have joined their Republican colleagues in undermining teachers’ ability to function as the caring professionals they are.

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No One Is Afraid Of Big Bad Science (When It Agrees With Them)

It transpires that well know conservative philosopher Roger Scruton is giving the Gifford Lectures this year with the title ‘The Face of God’ – the basic gist being popular science is wrecking everything. As Scruton demures “By understanding the world in the way of popular science we fortify those destructive tendencies in our culture which are wiping away the face of the world”. In an essay ‘The Sacred and The Human‘ Scruton gives a preview of what will be said. Scruton begins with a tour of reductions of religion in secular in Hegel, Schleiermacher, Feuerbach, Freud, Frazer and Durkheim, then he ends up at René Girard who ‘wins’, by proving a theory of religion that is positive about the role of Christianity as a unmasking of the problems of mimetic violence and proving a solution to it in positive imitation (of Jesus and of God) and the end of sacrificial violence. Contrary to Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens then, religion in general but monotheism and Christianity in particular, is not in essence violent but a refutation of most forms of violence – “Religion is not the cause of violence but the solution to it”. This though is problematic for what Scruton wants, and maybe reveals one of the philosophical problems of our time, highlighted to me at last week’s conference in Dundee and Adam’s recent highlighting of a post on the use of evolutionary psychology in the study of literature. He is attempting to refute one (social) science in the name of another.

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