A progressive, a moderate, a libertarian, and a conservative write an op-ed in The New York Times. That may sound like the opening of a dorky joke that won’t travel far beyond a dreary Zoom cocktail hour for dull New York media types, but the day after our real Independence Day four C-list public intellectuals ostensibly answering to those descriptions — Kmele Foster, Jason Stanley, Thomas Chatterton Williams, and David French — did exactly that in a painful co-authored piece in the former paper of record.
Masquerading as a "cross-partisan group of thinkers" all four are, in fact, deeply ensconced within the homogeneous, socially liberal, anti-Trump east coast intellectual milieu.
They wrote in opposition to laws banning the use of concepts associated with Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public education. Five states have already passed such laws, with at least 15 more currently considering them.
Contrary to the Gang of Four’s hysteria, none of these laws prohibits the teaching of any factual material about American history or society, including any aspect of slavery, racism, the civil rights movement, or contemporary issues of race.
They merely prohibit assigning to children race, gender, or class-based blame, psychological discomfort, and personal responsibility, or requiring knowledge of purported learning materials that do so, such as the deeply flawed and factual inaccurate "1619 Project," which was originally published by — surprise, surprise — The New York Times.
If CRT or other applications of critical theory do not do this, as some unconvincingly suggest, then they would not be banned under any of the laws under discussion.
Unfortunately, as is so obvious, CRT does do this and, consistent with federal anti-discrimination laws, can, is, and should be banned.
Way down in their op-ed’s penultimate paragraph, the Gang of Four admits that passing state laws prohibiting CRT or any other pedagogical concept is, in fact, quite legal.
Indeed, there are laws and other measures that ban pornography, profanity, and prayer in public schools — despite any implications for free speech.
As well behaved petit bourgeois types, our earnest editorialists presumably approve of them. Nevertheless, at the same time they believe that banning CRT is an unacceptable "speech code," and therefore un-American, and even a "danger" to what they believe liberal education should be.
Confusingly, however, they simultaneously argue that it would be "wiser" for aggrieved parties to avail themselves of existing federal anti-discrimination laws if they believe CRT-inspired doctrine cause them to suffer discrimination.
They are likely well aware that federal civil rights lawsuits can take years to resolve and easily cost as much as a quality private education.
In any immediate context, they thus offer no meaningful remedy to any student whose teacher informs him that he is a racist because of the color of his skin, and then requires him to embrace that smear while continuing to educate him as the legal challenge wends its way through our slow and inefficient federal judiciary.
Our self-referential pundits also miss the larger point that successful federal litigation over CRT could easily lead to what they most fear — comprehensive bans, albeit imposed by the judiciary rather than state legislatures.
But then perhaps they prefer rule by judicial activism by judges who are like them to rule by representative democracy by red state residents whom they are unlikely ever to meet.
It is hard to imagine what the biggest joke is in this scenario.
Perhaps it is that the Gang of Four expected — without a trace of irony — to be taken seriously by making a case for free speech in The New York Times, the same paper that just last year unceremoniously pushed out the op-ed page’s editor James Bennett and its star writer Bari Weiss because they advocated free speech over the objections of colleagues whose civil rights sensibilities end where their enormous capacity to be offended begins.
It might also be that their pretense of ideological diversity ignores the 58% of Americans who disapprove of CRT and agree with the legal bans on its racist and degrading precepts.
That they now face well deserved legal challenges at the state and local levels is a heavily precedented exercise in democracy that a true liberal should champion.
But these liberals don’t.
Instead they prefer the disempowerment of local people and communities in favor of what they and other administrative-managerial caste ideologues feel would be best.
Foster and Williams were among those who last summer signed that milquetoast letter published by Harper's, which half-heartedly defended free speech as long as the speaker shared the signatories’ disdain for President Trump and refrained from expressing any ideas that they found to be "illiberal."
What is truly illiberal, however, is to assert their peculiar brand of authoritarian idealism on a country that — however fractured — neither needs nor wants it.
The more they whine, the less likely it is that The New York Times will save CRT.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. Read more — Here.
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