Georgia’s House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today (Friday) on HB 1084, a bill to prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory, or any kind of teaching that promotes a worldview of “race scapegoating or race stereotyping.” Though the sentiment isn’t bad, the curative is terrible.
Even giving the bill’s sponsors the benefit of good intentions, trying to nail down something as complex as political opinion and worldview—the very lens through which all knowledge is viewed—is a fool’s errand. Just take a look at the twisted language of the bill’s preamble.
To amend Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to education, so as to prevent the use of and reliance upon curricula or training programs which act upon, promote, or encourage certain concepts, with exceptions; to provide for such exceptions; to require local boards of education, local school superintendents, and the governing bodies of charter schools to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race; to require that curricula and training programs shall encourage such employees not to judge others based on race; to provide for statutory construction; to provide for complaint resolution policies and procedures; to provide for promulgation of a model policy by the State Board of Education…
Digging in further, we read about definitions, exceptions to definitions, the meanings of words in the definitions, and paragraphs like this:
'Espousing personal political beliefs' means an individual, while performing official duties as part of his or her employment or engagement with a school or local school system, intentionally encouraging or attempting to persuade or indoctrinate a student, school community member, or other school personnel to agree with, adopt, or promote such individual's personal beliefs concerning divisive concepts.
I think eating broccoli is a terribly divisive topic, but I might be open to persuading a student to eat it, or the lunchroom to serve it. I know that’s a silly example, but when you craft a law that relies upon such language, you end up with the problem of leak prevention. If you can’t even define CRT in a law, how can any law prevent it?
Of course, there’s plenty of disinformation being spread on both sides of this issue—that Georgia’s legislators are white supremacist racists trying to prevent any kind of reconciliation, for example: “The Georgia General Assembly is now full of Southern white men bemoaning the threat to their children from class discussions of “divisive concepts” such as systematic racism.”
Pushing back, conservative groups like Heritage Action for America publish fact sheets to dispel myths about the law. They cherry-pick the worst examples of equity policies gone nuts and take quotes from national figures out of context. Again, I think the language of the bill was crafted to ban the egregious teaching of collective white guilt that some schools and curriculum programs use, but that’s like straining a gnat to find an elephant.
As the voters in Loudoun County learned, it’s hard to define CRT gone wild in writing. But, like obscenity, to quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.” And therein lies the problem trying to legislate against CRT.
If you’ll allow me a metaphor, have you ever read the Talmud? In that tome, you’ll find (as Tevye sang) problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes.
In American law, one sometimes hears the maxim “hard cases make bad law”: The more unusual and complex the case, the less suitable it is to serve as a precedent. The rabbis believe just the opposite: The law is never more fascinating to them than when it is difficult.
The Talmud is full of problems involving hypotheticals that seek to seal up all the “leaks.” The advantage possessed by the rabbis is that they all subscribe to the same general principles in the Torah as a worldview. In writing secular laws, this advantage disappears, and you’re left with mushy goo from your pretzel logic.
HB 1084 is nothing more than a complaint box in which to collect parent concerns and denouncements of teachers they don’t like, and curricula with which they disagree. It puts a formal process behind these complaints to ensure they are given maximum scrutiny and volume. That benefits lawmakers who can then cherry pick through the list and use it to prove “yes, there is an elephant!” when any sufficiently—even marginally—engaged parent knows CRT gone wild when they see it.
There are two much better answers to this kind of kneejerk political reactionist legislation. One is the simple act of voting out a school board that promotes and protects traumatizing kids with, for example, “runaway slave” exercises. That’s what the voters in Loudoun County, and heck, even San Francisco, did. The nation’s most liberal voters know when their school boards (who work for you, by the way) have shot themselves into orbit with stupid race identity politics.
If San Francisco parents (voters) know enough to deal with this problem, why does Georgia need a law to do it?
The second way to deal with this is to open up school choice, and have the state fund vouchers that allow parents to put their children in a school that teaches a curriculum they prefer. No, that doesn’t mean segregation and teaching that the KKK is a force for good. School boards and the state still set minimum standards and can deal with situations where private or charter schools teach kids to hate. And if liberal parents of white children want their kids to believe that their white skin brings with it a stain of guilt they can never wash away, honestly, I am okay if they believe that. They’re wrong, but they have a right to believe it.
Passing a law like HB 1084 is nothing more than a political firecracker, that invites lawsuits, promotes divisiveness in the name of preventing divisiveness, and makes political rain for the lawmakers who wrote and voted for it.
I hope the Georgia House votes it down.
All the sanctions, except energy
President Biden has joined the world to crack down on Vladimir Putin. Good. But, Biden refuses to add Russian energy products to the list of sanctioned items. Even though the U.S. has not in the last few weeks imported Russian oil. the Biden White House is resisting calls by lawmakers to ban them. Jen Psaki offered the ridiculous excuse that it’s to keep gas prices low at the pump.
Oil prices are high enough now to incentivize U.S. companies to increase shale oil production (which has a floor of about $60/bbl). Biden doesn’t want to do this, but he’s okay releasing tens of millions of barrels of oil from America’s strategic reserve. How backwards is that?
Even the Germans pivoted and got rid of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. They will pay a price for that, and will have to make it up with nuclear power (hopefully), by reversing their position on shutting down nuclear. The NRC, on the other hand, is still in the business of preventing nuclear plants.
Politically, it’s chic for both parties to call for banning Russian energy products, and given that it’s one of Putin’s biggest exports, doesn’t it make sense to do that?
One more thing about nuclear…
The Russians did shell Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. It’s all over the headlines. Some of it is Ukrainian propaganda. President Zelensky warned that an explosion at the plant would be “the end of Europe.” That’s highly unlikely. There are six reactors in the plant, and none of the Russian artillery shells landed close to them. Even if the Russians shelled the reactors directly, those domes are designed to survive an airliner crashing into them. It’s not like the (stupid) movies, where killer bees make a plant explode.
The Russians might not be smart, but they’re not that stupid. Plus, their goal is to take over the plant and shut it down, which it appears, they’re doing. Nuclear power has enough of an undeserved bad rap (if you haven’t read my post “50 years of lies to kill clean, green power”). This kind of stuff makes it worse.
I’m against everything Putin is doing in Ukraine. But let’s not go breathless on every headline. This war is going to go on for a very long time, I think. We’re going to see a lot of really bad things happen. Let’s resist fantasy bad.
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