How to Think or What to Think? The Culture Wars Come to K-12

by James C. Sherlock

I was challenged after my last posting to give examples of the capture of the most prominent educational schools by critical theory activism.  

Critical theories of education posit that educational systems are either complicit in oppression or that these systems are a powerful mechanism for ensuring that social inequality persists. Under either interpretation, there must be a plan for emancipatory action (what they deem “praxis,” the practical application of a theory) through education.  

I took 61 pages of notes of examples among the “top 15” education schools before I realized that I was working to defend myself against the charge of “accusing” them of something of which it turns out they are profoundly proud.  

It is clear from pressing past the home pages of those schools and drilling down into the course descriptions, the writings of the instructors of those courses and the course reading assigned that many are deeply committed to critical theory. 

In this essay, I will demonstrate how critical theory has left the campuses of the education schools and made its way into America’s largest teachers union and many American K-12 classrooms.  

We will start with a first-hand account from a parent in New York City.  Then we will take a brief tour of the National Education Association’s positions that reflect critical theory.   

Finally, we will examine the widespread negative effects of the American “histories” written by Howard Zinn of Boston University.

Reading this, you will appreciate the role of school boards as a breakwater against this threat more than you ever did.  

Critical theory in grade school classrooms

I urge you to read When the Culture War Comes for the Kids by George Packer in the October 2019 issue of The Atlantic.

It is the brilliant and scary recounting by a liberal parent of trying to do right by his children while navigating New York City schools. It is utterly captivating. Some excerpts:

At times the new progressivism, for all its up-to-the-minuteness, carries a whiff of the 17th century, with heresy hunts and denunciations of sin and displays of self-mortification. The atmosphere of mental constriction in progressive milieus, the self-censorship and fear of public shaming, the intolerance of dissent—these are qualities of an illiberal politics. 

Adults who draft young children into their cause might think they’re empowering them and shaping them into virtuous people (a friend calls the Instagram photos parents post of their woke kids “selflessies”). In reality the adults are making themselves feel more righteous, indulging another form of narcissistic pride, expiating their guilt, and shifting the load of their own anxious battles onto children who can’t carry the burden, because they lack the intellectual apparatus and political power. Our goal shouldn’t be to tell children what to think. The point is to teach them how to think so they can grow up to find their own answers.

“The fifth-grade share, our son’s last, was different. That year’s curriculum included the Holocaust, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. The focus was on “upstanders”—individuals who had refused to be bystanders to evil and had raised their voices. It was an education in activism, and with no grounding in civics, activism just meant speaking out. At the year-end share, the fifth graders presented dioramas on all the hard issues of the moment — sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, gun violence. Our son made a plastic-bag factory whose smokestack spouted endangered animals. Compared with previous years, the writing was minimal and the students, when questioned, had little to say. They hadn’t been encouraged to research their topics, make intellectual discoveries, answer potential counterarguments. The dioramas consisted of cardboard, clay, and slogans.”

Lest readers think this is some strange new alien world occurring only in New York City, the rest of this article will focus on the National Education Association.  

The National Education Association

We will look at three examples of the NEA leading the way in trying to turn the K-12 educational system into a reeducation camp by specific applications of critical theory methodology.

NEA: Cultural Competence for College Students: How to Teach about Race, Gender and Inequalities

“Educators must coach students beyond their individualized world-view and help them gain self-reflexivity in the context of social realities. “ 

(As an aside, the writings of ed school critical theorists may form the biggest threat to the English language since the Spanish Armada.)

Self-reflexivity is a key concept of critical theory. All critical theories assert that at least some aspect of society shouldn’t be reproduced. That was not enough for the 19th century critical theorists who saw it as pessimism. 

Self-reflexivity turns introspection of the flaws in society, say capitalism or racism, into action, to emancipatory purposes.

“In Marxist theory, society consists of two parts: the base (or substructure) and superstructure. The base comprises the forces and relations of production (e.g. employer–employee work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations) into which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life. 

“The superstructure determines society’s other relationships and ideas to comprise its superstructure, including its culture, institutions, political power structures, roles, rituals, and state.” 

The capture of the superstructure, education in this case, is a Western Marxist focus.  Soviet-style Marxism focused on the base.

NEA: “Amplifying Our Voice: Leading Boldly for Our Students, Our Professions, and Our Union”


Take a look at the books suggested for: 

K-2, The Youngest Marcher Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be. Through her we see the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

3-5, Joelitos Big Decision (Grades 1-5) Joelito didn’t understand why a missing backpack was so important until he learned about the low wages paid to his friends’ parents. Joelito chooses to stand in protest and skip his delicious hamburger tradition.

5-6 One Crazy Summer Three young sisters are sent for the summer to the mother that left them behind. The girls have to find their own breakfast and lunch, served by the Black Panthers.”


Angel’s Multicultural Books

Teaching Tolerance Reading Diversity Checklist How to Choose Outstanding Multicultural Books


EdChange Resource Spotlight: “Find your favorite radical tunes in our collection of Social Justice and Protest Songs.”  The link is to 

Zinn Education Project:  “The Zinn Education Project is my compass in a sea of corporate textbooks, packaged common core curriculum and standardized testing. My entire curriculum is based on lessons that can be found on the Zinn Education Project.” Chris Buehler High School Social Studies Teacher, Portland, Ore.  

Some of the other Zinn teaching materials provided include:

     The (Young) People’s Climate Conference: Teaching Global Warming to 3rd Graders . 

    About those Columbus statues being toppled “

NEA: Fresh Eyes on History

By David Bonecutter II, High School Teacher, Florida. Found in: Social Studies, Critical Thinking.

“Here are some unique ways to approach the study of social studies, designed to fully engage students in their exploration of the past:

If you can locate old textbooks, compare and contrast content as it was taught then and is taught now. How does the time period in which something was written influence how it appears in student materials? Does the passage of time offer clarification or confusion?

Explore the Zinn Education Project, whose goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. The site offers free, downloadable lessons organized by theme, time period, and reading level.

Be prepared for your eyes to be opened as you read the non-fiction book Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. In response to his survey of high school American History textbooks, the author wrote this retelling of our history supplying much that is left out of current high school texts.”

Howard Zinn

You see Howard Zinn touted more than once above as a resource by the NEA.  

Zinn at various points in his career described himself as a Marxist, a socialist, a democratic socialist and a revolutionary. He hated the United States. His books were polemics to the necessity of its destruction.

You really owe it to yourselves to learn about Howard Zinn and his two best selling text books. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was first published in 1980 and has sold 2.6 million copies. Against that hateful standard, A Young People’s History Of The United States is worse given its target audience.

“A People’s History of the United States … is a synthesis of the radical and revisionist historiography of the past decade, incorporating many of the strengths and most of the weaknesses of that highly uneven body of literature. Zinn’s America is not a land of liberty but a land of relentless exploitation and hypocrisy. The traditional treatment of U.S. history is turned upside down. Zinn might well have borrowed the title of a novel by Jack London (which he cites on p. 315), People of the Abyss. That would be a fair summary of the story that Zinn relates.” Washington Post, March 23, 1980. Michael Kammen, professor of American History and Culture at Cornell. 

I also urge you to read “How Zinn Gets In: Road to a National Curriculum” by Stanley Kurtz. 

Mr. Kurtz describes how the College Board, sponsor of the controversial 2014 and 2015 AP U.S. history (APUSH) frameworks, is “largely replacing states and localities as the shaper of both textbooks and teacher training at the high school level.”  

Reading Howard Zinn has been made a necessary step to get a good grade in AP U.S. History.  

Then there is the College Board.  An attendee at an AP teacher-training seminar based on the newly redesigned APUSH curriculum said the course primed teachers to blame America for the problems of the world, while overlooking its influence for the good. Howard Zinn was cited in the training more than all other authors taken together.

As of September 2018, 84,000 teachers had downloaded lesson plans from the Zinn Education Project.    

Read American Concentration Camps? Where Would AOC and Other Millennials Get Such an Idea? by Mary Grabar.  

The answer to the question posed in the title of Ms. Graber’s essay is Howard Zinn.

Virginia schools 

I have done a reasonably deep dive into the curricula and available course materials in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Richmond and Portsmouth schools. I am happy to report that I did not find the radical outcomes described in New York and advocated by the NEA or the revisionist history texts of Howard Zinn in Virginia K-12 courses.  

Pretty unlikely that with of millions of textbooks sold and almost 100,000 downloads of lesson plans that none of it is around in Virginia, but there is no official sanctioning that I can see from my survey.

That reflects well on Virginia parents and the school boards they elect.

We will have to remain vigilant. The leftist culture warriors have captured the highest peaks of the “superstructure” and they are both wrong and relentless.  No concession will ever be enough.

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33 responses to “How to Think or What to Think? The Culture Wars Come to K-12

  1. I would be interested if anyone has produced a good list of questions for School Board candidates from the perspective of those who want the rights of parents in the education of their children to be a top priority.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Mr. Sherlock we lost. This conversation needed to take place 10 years ago. It is too late. I have just retired from the front lines. The left has broken thru and there are no fall back positions that can be held. In Virginia I have seen a dramatic reorganization of the history curriculum. Don’t even get me started on rules, consequences, and high standards. We lost all of those too. Most teachers I once called colleagues are all about RED FOR ED. Look at them now. They are putting their foot down about returning to the classroom in the fall and they are going to win that fight too. Conservative minded parents must separate from public education institutions. It is the only viable path I see.

    • James – what is RED FOR ED?

      re: “Conservative minded parents must separate from public education institutions. It is the only viable path I see”

      One would think this given the continuing strident condemnation of public schools by Conservatives… One might think that public schools would be added to the list of other things they feel have been corrupted – K-12, Higher Ed, the Media, history, etc and support alternatives more to their liking.

      For as long as I can remember, the Catholic Church has done schools. I attended one myself for a number of years… had to wear a uniform and all that.

  3. I once said that MSWord is curse. For every conjecture on the NYC schools there is in practice a Kansas or a Texas.

    The greatest danger to schools was well documented by Richard Feynman.

  4. And the battle for the schools continues. As a counterpoint to Mr. Sherlock’s concerns about what today’s students are being taught, a recent op-ed in the RTD by Charles Bryan, the retired executive director of the Virginia Historical Society, is enlightening. For those readers who do not subscribe to the RTD and are blocked by its paywall, I quote one passage from a high school textbook of the late 1940s that Bryan found in a box of old books in his attic and which is representative of the history texts I had in elementary school:
    “Plantation life in the South was very pleasant. The master of the house spent his time in overseeing the labor of the slaves, in hunting, in taking long rides through the country on his fine, thoroughbred horse, or entertaining at his home. … The women spent their time in sewing … and in entertaining at the great balls which were frequently given in their grand plantation house. The slaves usually led a happy life. … They had good food and warm clothing. When their daily work was done they were allowed to go to their cabins. … There they could sing and dance, and enjoy themselves in other ways. … Except that they received no pay, their lot was much like that any other servants.”

    It was claptrap propaganda of this sort that Zinn and other historians of the 1970’s were rebelling against and endeavored to rectify. I want to clarify that Zinn is not without his many critics among other historians. In addition to the Michael Kammen quote provided by Jim Sherlock, see:

    It is not the NEA that decides what textbooks students use and what is in those textbooks. It is the states. Two states in particular, Texas and California, have an outsize influence due to their size and the number of textbooks bought by those states. For a comparison of the politicized differences in the same textbook put out by the same publisher for the two states, see

    The author of one of the articles cited by Mr. Sherlock, which he encouraged us to read, is outraged at the “revisionist” ideas championed by Zinn that are making their way into modern culture. One of those outrageous ideas is that the United States operated “concentration camps” in World War II for American citizens of Japanese descent. Zinn was not the first to make that comparison. U.S. Supreme Court Frank Murphy, in his opinion in the Korematsu case in 1944, said the American policy resembled “the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy.”

    The author was also quite upset by this passage from the Zinn Educational Project: “Today’s border with Mexico is the product of invasion and war.” Again, Howard Zinn was not the first to question the legitimacy of the Mexican-American War. In late 1847, a freshman member of the House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling on President Polk to inform the House “whether the particular spot of soil of which the blood of our citizens was so shed” belonged to Mexico or the United States. He challenged the President to present evidence that “Mexico herself became the aggressor by invading our soil in hostile array.” When the president did not respond, that member of Congress later supported a resolution that stated that the war had been “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally” initiated by the United States. That freshman of Congress was Abraham Lincoln.

    Along with its many great attributes, the United States has warts. We should not reject outright those historians who dare to point those warts out.

    • Dick, it’s best to read a book before commenting on it based on an op-ed in the RTD. Roger Kimball who actually read Howard Zinn’s book and much else, opines: “Zinn’s book has probably done more to poison the minds of high school students than any other work of history … (it’s) one of the chief intellectual frauds of our times.”

      Why is this?

      All history of humankind is full of ugly events and actions, given the craven and fallen nature of us all. Thus, any irresponsible historian can easily cherry pick his way through any litany of human events (or accusations accumulated over time) and arrange them unleavened so as to smear any civilization, nation, group or person within any era of recorded history.

      That is precisely what Howard Zinn did with his book. He distilled ugly events into poison that could be injected into unsuspecting children without defenses.

      Now highly politicized ideologues push his fraudulent book into public school systems where pedagogues (witlessly or knowingly) use it to poison children.

      This poisoning is easy to do, because we’ve allowed it. Children who are attacked by Zinn’s book do not have the accumulated learning, perspective, judgement, and maturity to defend against it. This is why Zinn’s history book has been used so successfully by ideologue teachers to slip through children’s innocence, using it as a loophole through which to poison their minds, emotions, and the legacy they critically need to stand on and succeed.

      Thus Zinns book is the opposite of good education. It’s destroys the chance for kids to learn and succeed as healthy, full grown well rounded and educated adults.

      Good history instruction builds in kid’s minds the stuff of real learning: hard knowledge infused with perspective, balance, judgement, empathy, nuance and understanding. Zinn’s book does the reverse. It turns kids into hateful ideologues whose legacy has been destroyed in their own minds. Thus Zinn’s book through those children has poisoned large parts of America, our society, our Republic and Western Civilization on which it must stand.

      For more see this book: Debunking Howard Zinn, Exposing the Fake History that turned a Generation against America, by Mary Grabar, published in 2019.

      • Reed, the RTD op-ed by Bryan had nothing to do with Zinn. I was using it an illustration that other generations had their own highly biased versions of history.

        You label Zinn as “fraudulent”. Can you give me some examples of anything in his book that was false? He does concentrate on the dark sides of American history and I noted that he has many critics among his fellow historians.

        • Read Zinn. Read the book I referenced regarding Zinn. You are beginning to remind me of a few others on this blog, all opinion, no homework or knowledge on the subject. Do your own homework.

    • Consider good education in lieu of Howard Zinn’s poison. Here is a brief example:

      “Was it Good Fortune to be Enslaved by the British Empire? by Bruce Gilley

      1619 was a year of terrible cruelty in the world. In Europe, the French king imprisoned his mother in a rural chateau and had her tortured in conditions described as no better than in the Bastille. The horrific Thirty Years’ War began in Central Europe: before it ended, it would take eight million lives and reduce the population of parts of Germany and France by over half. The bubonic plague was sweeping India and millions were dying from famine in Ming China, both places ruled by decadent god-kings that saw mass deaths as a natural part of the cosmic order. In the Americas, the governor of Bermuda was replaced after having a man hanged for stealing a piece of cheese.

      My own Scottish forebears were being rounded up by the Scottish king for duties in New Scotland (Nova Scotia). The king preferred to settle this new colony with ne’er-do-wells, criminals, and “Brownists”—Protestant followers of Robert Browne, the same radicals who would people the Mayflower in 1620. Most died in the 1620s from freezing, starvation, or scurvy. The expedition leader described the latter condition in a 1629 letter as “a nasty and lazy disease with swelling of feet, legs, and thighs, with shoots the colour of the rainbow, with sores falling off the hair, a canine appetite, even til death much discontent.” Further down the North American coast, “20. and odd Negroes” were put ashore at Jamestown, slaves stolen from a Portuguese ship which had loaded them at Angola in southwest Africa.

      For all such groups – Bohemian rebels, Bastille prisoners, Chinese and Indian serfs, Caribbean settlers, Scottish malcontents, and African slaves – life was nasty, brutish, and short around the year 1619. The Reformation was only a century old and had yet to achieve its moral revolution in the world. The Industrial Revolution, through which capitalism generated unprecedented human welfare, was over a century away. None of us would choose to have belonged to any of these groups: canapés and an honest Grenache at Versailles for me, please. But if one were forced to make a choice, a plausible argument could be made for the good fortune of the “20. and odd Negroes”, not just compared to the other unfortunates but also compared to the millions of slaves of African and Arab owners that they left behind.

      The Jamestown 20-odd were likely part of the plunder from a war a year earlier between the dominant Ndongo kingdom in Angola and a Portuguese-led alliance of African rivals, dissidents, and mercenaries. While slaves were always part of war plunder in Africa, most slaves in Africa were a result of market transactions not war. The Jesuit chronicler Pero Rodrigues wrote in 1594 that the number of “slaves taken in war are nothing compared to those bought at feiras [markets], at these feiras the kings and lords and all Ethiopia [i.e. east Africa] sell slaves.” Those who ended up in Jamestown were headed for the Caribbean and would otherwise have ended up in east Africa or the Middle East.

      The Spanish and Portuguese believed they were doing African slaves a favor by rescuing them from cruel local tyrannies, and that they would fare better as slaves under Christian masters, their souls saved. Hence the hasty baptism of slaves about to be shipped from Angola, including probably those who ended up in Jamestown in 1619. The glimmer of a push for equality and emancipation from the ethical resources of Western civilization was already present on those beaches.

      None of this made their enslavement “right.” But then little of what happened to the wretched of the earth in that era was right by contemporary standards. There is a historical bait and switch when contemporary critics charge European colonialists with all sorts of modern crimes: stealing land, owning slaves, shooting lions. These charges appeal to norms and expectations that emerged later from Western civilization itself, and only from Western civilization. Stealing land, owning slaves, and slaying wildlife were, after all, the national sports of pre-European contact African, Arab, and native American cultures.

      In the event, the life chances of those enslaved under the British empire improved markedly compared to what they would have been in Africa even as freemen, and certainly compared to other slave colonies in the Americas. Within a flourishing capitalist system, the value put on slaves meant that slave owners had every interest in keeping them healthy. That is why black slaves in the United States were healthier than British marines or French or Italian peasants. It is also why U.S. slave population expanded more rapidly than elsewhere through natural increase.

      The Jamestown 20-odd were dropped into a particularly idealistic part of the West, where Protestant notions of emancipation and the equality of all men would develop faster than elsewhere. As time passed, the moral revolution against slavery that began in Britain would sweep the United States. From 1619 until the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the moral revolution was building. Slave traders were increasingly held accountable for the humane treatment of their slaves and their legal rights. Where else would there have been such a protracted legal process as at Newport, Rhode Island in 1791 for a captain accused of throwing a slave woman overboard because her smallpox threatened to kill everyone on his ship? The case went on for five years before a lengthy opinion acquitted him on the grounds of emergency measures. All this for a single slave woman. Nowhere else in the world was human life treated as so precious.

      The moral awakening against slavery took place in Europe, not in Africa, and certainly not in the Islamic world. Throughout Africa, the British used antislavery treaties as the basis of their influence. A full 10 percent of British naval resources were assigned to anti-slaving duties in the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the 1840s. Brazil and then the U.S. joined in the abolition of slavery, and then in the latter half of the 19th century the abolition spread to Africa. When the British expanded their influence to northern Nigeria, it was experienced as a liberation from native tyranny. “The Europeans don’t like oppression but they found a lot of tyranny and oppression here, people being beaten and killed and sold into slavery,” recalled a woman of the Habe ethnic group of the British advent in 1900. She had grown up in the slave-based Sokoto Caliphate, a creation of the Fulani ethnic group which had defeated and subjugated rival tribes in a series of wars between 1804 and 1808. “We Habe wanted them to come, it was the Fulani who did not like it,” she recalled (her story was published in 1954 as Baba of Karo). “In the old days if the chief liked the look of your daughter he would take her and put her in his house; you could do nothing about it. Now they don’t do that.”

      The greater the moral awakening in the West, the more it came in for criticism. In 1892, the British had persuaded the king of Benin to sign a pledge to eliminate human sacrifice and slave trading. He did not comply and in 1897, when British troops conquered the world’s worst tyrant, the King of Benin, they witnessed an African scene that was one of the accounts used by Conrad for his Heart of Darkness: “Huge pits, forty to fifty feet deep, were found filled with human bodies…everywhere sacrificial trees on which were the corpses of the latest human victims, everywhere, on each path, were newly sacrificed corpses,” a British officer recalled. “On the principal sacrificial tree, facing the main gate of the kings compound, there were two crucified bodies, at the foot of the tree seventeen newly decapitated bodies, and forty-three more in various stages of decomposition.”

      The officer’s account, The Benin Massacre, and another first-hand account, Benin: The City of Blood, were published to wide attention in Britain shortly before Conrad began work on Heart of Darkness in late 1898. But Conrad knew that no one would read a novel about the King of Benin. Scolding passions were reserved for the West. Instead, he made a white trader the center of horrors, successfully stirring the outrage of generations of English professors. The same literary strategy has been used by progressives ever since, especially by the American journalist Adam Hochschild in his bestselling 1998 book King Leopold’s Ghost about the Belgian king’s private estates in pre-colonial Congo. The king’s estate was not a Belgian colony; indeed, that was the problem. And the abuses paled in comparison to those of the nearby African slave lord Tippu Tip. If anything, Leopold’s presence, and then Belgian colonization in 1908, was far better than the likely alternatives. Yet at last count there were only three books on Tippu Tip, but somewhere between 30 and 50 on King Leopold II’s Congo Free State, none of them flattering.

      Some critics discount the British and American efforts to abolish slavery on the grounds of their earlier involvement, arguing, in essence, that it should be compared to burning a fellow’s house down and then volunteering to rebuild it. That is a false analogy because it assumes an intentional and acknowledged wrong is committed in the first place. Slavery was not of that sort – the moral revolution came after, not before. A better analogy would be a slum lord who, having witnessed and indeed caused many people to lose their homes on wholly legal grounds, becomes a major advocate and funder of affordable housing programs and legal reforms to make evictions more difficult and raise standards for low-income housing. The growth of a new moral outlook brings about the change. Is this not to be praised?

      Today, being black in America is one of the best outcomes for a black person globally. If not, more black Americans would own passports and would, over time, have migrated to other places, such as Guyana, Liberia, Haiti, or Sierra Leone. To be black in America is, historically speaking, to have hit the jackpot. For those who came ashore at Jamestown and in the centuries that followed, being enslaved under the British empire was about as good as it got. If your fate was to be African, then being enslaved under the British empire gave you and your descendants a better shot at a decent life than they would have had even without being enslaved.

      There is a third unutterable: to be enslaved within the British empire was to be an agent of moral change because of the inconsistency of slavery with liberal values. Black abolitionists and slaves knew this, which is why they participated so manfully in the American Revolution and the Civil War. With the British empire on the side of anti-slavery, more good was done for the global elimination of the slave trade than would ever have happened had the British themselves not become involved in the trade. In historical perspective, the only thing worse for black lives in general than British and American slavery would have been its absence.

      One wonders then why the projects surrounding 1619 – an invitation to history – have become such a boorish rejection of history. Instead of insight and empowerment, 1619 has become an exercise in Soviet-style historiography. In this version, rather than all history leading to the workers’ paradise, all history leads to eternal and indelible black victimization. It is fake history, propaganda, and utter nonsense. I suspect those involved in it – like Soviet historiographers – know it.

      A significant portion of black America rejects this fake history. Housing secretary Ben Carson’s 20-minute talk on the dust-up over Baltimore in July is a passionate a statement of black freedom and responsibility as there has been. But for too many, a catwalk of supermodels parading the latest fashion in eternal black victimization – from Malcolm X to Ta-Nehisi Coates – continues to set the style.

      The social and psychological crisis of black America is inextricably linked to the absence of historical memory, quite a feat for a group whose radical luminaries espouse attention to history. Distortionary tales of white guilt and black virtue have become a recreational drug for white liberals as well, suggesting that as time goes by historical understanding becomes ever more degraded. The fate of too many of those who followed the Jamestown 20-odd was to be caught in a web of self-pity, apples tied to the branch rather than being allowed to fall freely as Frederick Douglass warned. Perhaps I would have preferred scurvy in Nova Scotia after all.”

      For more see:

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Dick do you remember this textbook from high school? I have a copy. Commonwealth Cavalier. It is laced with examples you listed. But if you look at it more closely it gives a great deal of accurate Black Virginian history. Here are some of the notable subjects covered:
      Jeannie Dean, Booker T. Washington, Vernon Johns, Maggie Walker, Dangerfield Newby, Anthony Gardiner, Carter Woodson.
      It also gives an almanac overview of black history facts, statistics, demographics, culture, entertainers, sports figures by each era/chapter. It was remarkably even handed for it’s time of the Byrd years/Massive Resistance. The key figure is Schlegel. A Pennsylvania born Longwood educator who was eventually reigned in for going to far. Most of the subjects and facts on black history listed above are simply unknown and forgotten now. Too bad. Those black Virginians should be shown a spotlight. If you have $1,500 bucks you can have a copy. Better than buying gold right now.

      • I do remember the Cavalier Commonwealth, but I don’t remember all those indivduals being mentioned. I must be older than you and had an earlier version. If I remember, I will try to dig out my copy; I still have it around somewhere.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          I had an old fashioned US history teacher at Stonewall Jackson High School. He had a stash of these relic textbooks and they were used frequently. It was easy to spot the laced passages of the textbook. We were not stupid juniors in 1986. But I always appreciated the rich detail the book presented and it turned out to be a source of inspiration for my interest in black Virginia history oddly enough.

    • “Along with its many great attributes, the United States has warts. We should not reject outright those historians who dare to point those warts out.”


      When a historian glosses over or ignores these warts it is a bad thing – it is intellectually dishonest.

      It is also intellectually dishonest for a historian to obsessively focus on the warts to the exclusion of the great attributes, as does Mr. Zinn.

  5. Just to show that one can pay $57,385 annually plus registration fees, class dues and parents association dues to have one’s daughter indoctrinated in critical race theory in elementary school, see

  6. This comment taken from Bacon Rebellion Post “Room Clears” Coming Soon to a School Near You? posted December 7, 2019

    Reed Fawell 3rd | December 9, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Reply

    “Above, I suggest: “When a culture needs rules like Room Clears Rules, it is a sure sign that that culture is in active collapse. These rules solve nothing, only make matters far worse for the innocent, here obviously all the rest of the kids in the classroom.”

    As proof of rapid change for the worse in our society and its schools, Don replied below:

    “Fifty-six percent of surveyed teachers and parents in the state have reported a “room clear” in their child’s classroom over the past year.”


    I went to public schools from K-12 and never saw anything that would have resulted in a room needing to be cleared. My kids never had that happen either. Why do I get the sense that the more tolerant schools are of disruption the more disruption occurs. Oregon sounds like a circus side show. 56%?”

    Why today’s onslaught of toxic things growing wild in our culture, and toxic forces flooding our schools, overwhelming our kids’ education and health, so destroying out kid’s future, and ours too?

    An October article in The Atlantic magazine speaks brilliantly to what is going on here and why.

    “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids” is written by Atlantic staff writer George Packer. He is also the author of “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century” and “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”

    Mr. Packer’s article is long, detailed, and speaks powerfully to many issues afflicting today’s culture, including our schools. Below are a few loose extracts. Read the whole article linked in below to do it full justice.

    “The gaps in proficiency between that separate whites and Asians from black and Latino students in math and English are immense and growing.”

    “Our zoned elementary school, two blocks from our home, was forever improving from a terrible reputation … students were wandering around the rooms without focus, the air was heavy with listlessness, there seemed to be little learning going on.”

    … an elderly black women who had lived in the neighborhood a long time and understood all about our school dilemma … scoffed at our “zoned” school … “Don’t send him there,” she said. “That is a failure school.” It was as if an eternal curse had been laid on it, beyond anyone’s agency or remedy. The school was mostly poor and black. We assumed it would fail our children because we knew it was failing other children. That year, when my son turned five … we applied to eight or nine public schools. …”

    “Around 2014, a new mood germinated in America – at first in a few places, … but growing rapidly with amazing rapidity and force, as new things tend to do today. It grew upward toward the end of the Obama years, in part out of disillusionment with the early promise of his presidency – out of expectations raised and frustrated, especially among people under 30 … this new mood was progressive but not hopeful … hope was gone. At the heart of the new progressivism was indignation, sometimes rage, about ongoing injustice against groups of Americans who had always been relegated to the outskirts of power and dignity. And incident – a police shooting of unarmed black man, news reports of predatory sexual behavior by a Hollywood mogul; a pro quarterback who took to kneeing during the national anthem – would light a fire that spread overnight … fed by (much older and deeper injustices). Over time, the new mood took on the substance and hard edges of a radical egalitarian ideology …”

    Politics becomes most real not in media but in your own nervous system, where everything matters more … because of guilt or social pressure … In the winter of 2015-16, our son’s third grade year, we began to receive a barrage of emails and flyers from his school about (opting out) of upcoming tests. … One black parent told me … standardized tests are the gatekeepers to keep people out, and I know exactly who’s at the bottom … It is torturous … because they will never catch up, due to institutionalized racism.” Our school became the citywide leader of a new movement …”

    The bathroom crisis hit our school the same year. … Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kinder-garden through fifth grade, became gender neutral. … All that biology entailed – curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs, was erased or wished away.” The school didn’t inform the parents… who learned about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to bathroom after holding it all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door …”

    The battleground of the new progressivism is identity. That is the historical source of exclusion and injustice that demands redress. … When our son was in third or forth grade, students began to form groups that met to discuss issues based on identity – race, sexuality, disability.

    “… In politics, identity is an appeal to authority – the moral authority of the oppressed. I am what I am, which explains my view and makes it the truth.

    The politics of identity starts out with the universal principals of equality, dignity, and freedom, but in practice it becomes an end in itself – often a dead end, a trap from which there’s no easy escape and maybe no desire to escape. Instead of equality, it sets up a new hierarchy that inverts the old, discredited one – a new moral cast that ranks people by oppression of their group identity … (that) for all its up to the minuteness carries the whiff of the 17th century, with heresy hunts and denunciations of sin and displays of self-mortification … an atmosphere of mental constriction in progressive milieus, the self censorship and fear of public shaming, the intolerance of dissent – these are the qualities of an illiberal politics …”

    I wished that our son’s school would teach him civics. By age 10 he had studied the civilization of ancient China, Africa, the early Dutch of New Amsterdam, and the Mayans. He learned about the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. But he was never taught about the founding of the republic. He didn’t learn that conflicting values and practical compromises are the lifeblood of self-government. …

    The fifth grade, our son’s last was different. That year’s curriculum included the Holocaust, Reconstruction, Jim Crow. The focus was on “upstanders”—individuals who had refused to be bystanders to evil and had raised their voices. It was an education in activism, and with no grounding in civics, activism just meant speaking out. At the years end, fifth graders presented dioramas on all the hard issues of the moment – sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, gun violence… a plastic bag smokestack sprouting endangered animals … Compared with previous years, writing was minimal, and when questioned, the students had little to say… They had not been encouraged to research their topics, make intellectual discoveries, answer potential counter-arguments. The dioramas consisted of cardboard, clay, and slogans.

    … Our daughter wasn’t immune to the heavy mood. She came home from school one day and expressed a wish not to be white so she wouldn’t have slavery on her conscience. It didn’t seem a moral victory for our children to grow up hating their species or themselves …” End of Quote Extracts

  7. The rots in K-12 starts in our Universities like UVA. For example:

    “Reed Fawell 3rd | December 11, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Reply

    Hold on here, Jim. You are way out of line. These kids are all victims of America’s white patriarchy – the “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, white male supremacists, you name it, among us.” How can victims of all this abuse by all these other people get jobs when they “can’t shake your hand, and look you in the eye,” says the Wall Street Journal.

    No, these are the kinds of traumatized kids who require great care, nurturing, safe spaces, and elaborate protections, by our K-12 schools, and ten too our colleges, and universities in America.

    These kids need places like UVA’s Department of English who will baby sit them, refine and deepen their insecurities and fears, heighten their sense of entitlement and victimization by other people unlike them, particularly white people, or if they be white kids and seek education at UVA they alternatively must own up to and repent for their privileges, accomplishments, and strengths that they’ve acquired by abusing and discriminating against other classmates, and do in public, in front of their other classmates.

    Hence, UVA’s Department of English defines its mission to lure in and seduce these needy kids, or any few strong ones too, who come to their door seeking education, but who instead are told false stories teaching, ideologies, and hate, that revert them back into helpless, spoiled and angry children.

    Thus, when writing ” About Us”, here’s how the Department describes itself:

    “ABOUT US –

    The English Department teaches texts that reflect and permit study of a wide range of voices. In order to do what we do well, we must be a place in which all students—the student who feels endangered because of threats based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, immigration status, body type; the student who has felt unwelcome because of unpopular political views; the student who is feeling isolated; the student who believes in the enabling properties of literature and language, the student who fears power that has been associated with literature and language, the student who is unsure what literature and language mean in a time like ours—feel welcome. All such students, indeed all UVa students, are welcome in our department and in our classrooms.”

    It’s getting worse too by the day in our K-12 schools throughout our nation.

    James A. Bacon | December 11, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Reply

    That’s a real English Department quote? My gosh, it’s a self-parody. Somehow, I’m guessing that the commitment to welcome “the student who has felt unwelcome because of unpopular political views” may not be to students espousing all political views.

    Reed Fawell 3rd | December 12, 2018 at 11:05 am | Reply

    Yes, Jim, that is the lead in quote written by UVA English Department to describe itself and its mission.

    UVA’s English Department takes its mission very seriously. To study English at UVA, here is what undergraduates must wade through in course offerings this year (Fall 2018; Spring 2018). This is a sampling. Read it all to get the message.


    Jim Crow America -Instructors: K. Ian Grandison and Marlon Ross

    Why has Jim Crow persisted? This course examines how the Jim Crow regime was established in New England during the early republic, how it was nationalized after the Civil War, and how it has been perpetuated into the present, despite the passage of 1960s Civil Rights legislation. What have been the changing modes of maintaining Jim Crow particularly in law (including law enforcement), education, planning, public health, and mass media (newspapers, film, radio, and social media); and what strategies have African Americans used to fight Jim Crow segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and economic exclusion. Focus will be placed on Charlottesville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. as case studies. The course culminates in a required field trip to Richmond.

    Black Queer Culture – Instructor: Timothy Griffiths

    In the now-essential critical anthology Black Queer Studies (2005), scholars … announced three primary reasons for the formalization of black queer cultural studies: the need for a usable past in African American culture for black queer people, the traditionally patriarchal and heterosexist tendencies of African American cultural studies, and a perceived inhospitality in women’s and gender studies toward research on race as it intersected with gender and sexuality. When Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017, it was a sign to some that at least some minor progress had been made in the cultural representation of queer people of color. “Intersectionality,” though not always adequately defined, is now an acknowledged conceptual keyword of liberal and leftist culture. And in women’s and gender studies and African American studies, it is now becoming a given that critiques of race, gender, and sexuality are not hermetically sealed discourses, that the elevations and devaluations of certain identitarian markers are constellated in both deliberate and latent fashions. What are the primary critical problems faced by black queer cultural studies now and in the future? How can we continue to expand the usable past of black queer culture, opening up African American cultural production across its history to a black queer critical audience? Where have increases in black queer cultural representation succeeded and what are the discontents of cultural representation as a primary ethic of black queer liberation? How can or should we understand the relationship between the discursive histories of black feminism and black queer culture, and what conflicts have arisen in their mutual (but not always well-mapped) related growth? And finally, how do the anthologizing practices and theorizations of black queer culture elevate or exclude various iterations of black queer cultural expression, identity, or history? To answer these questions, we will engage a very broadly defined canon of black queer literature …

    American Natures – Instructor: Mary Kuhn

    This course explores an unconventional literary history of environmental thinking in America from the late eighteenth century to the present. We’ll move beyond the traditional environmental canon into (one) () one that gives us diverse perspectives on humanity’s connections to land and nature. We’ll focus on how writers have cultivated different forms and scales of environmental thought, and how they have positioned environmental thinking in relation to issues of social and environmental justice, including land dispossession, slavery, imperialism, and labor exploitation tied to resource extraction …

    Feminist Theory – Instructor: Susan Fraiman

    An introduction to US feminist criticism and theory. This course pairs novels and other works by women with critical and theoretical essays in order to contrast diverse feminist approaches. The syllabus is also informed by queer and critical race theory as well as postcolonial and cultural studies. I expect to explore such themes as mobility and migration, mother-daughter relations, the “male gaze,” incarceration/escape, female masculinity, and conflicts/commonalities among women. We will also broach such theoretical issues as how to periodize the development of feminist theory, the contributions of queer theory, the logic of canon formation, and the way gender intersects with other axes of identity (race, sexuality, disability, class, etc.) …

    Race in American Places – Instructor: Kenrick Grandison

    This interdisciplinary seminar uses the method of Critical Landscape Analysis to explore how everyday places and spaces, “landscapes,” are involved in the negotiation of power in American society. Landscapes, as we engage the idea, may encompass seemingly private spaces (within the walls of a suburban bungalow or of a government subsidized apartment) to seemingly public spaces (the vest pocket park in lower Manhattan where the Occupy Movement was launched in September 2011; the Downtown Mall, with its many privately operated outdoor cafés, that occupy the path along which East Main Street once flowed freely in Charlottesville; or even the space of invisible AM and FM radio waves that the FCC supposedly regulates in the public’s interest). We launch our exploration by considering landscapes as arenas of the Culture Wars. With this context, we unearth ways in which places are planned, designed, constructed, and mythologized in the struggle to assert and enforce social (especially racial) distinctions, difference, and hierarchy. You will be moved to understand how publicly financed freeways were planned not only to facilitate some citizens’ modern progress, but also to block others from accessing rights, protections, and opportunities to which casually we believe all “Americans” are entitled. We study landscapes not only as represented in written and non-written forms, but also through direct sensory, emotional, and intellectual experience during two mandatory field trips to places in our region. In addition to informal group exercises and individual mid-term exam, critical field trip reflection paper, and final exam, you are required to complete in small groups a final research project on a topic you choose that relates to the seminar. Past topics have ranged from the racial politics of farmers’ markets in gentrifying inner cities to the gender–and the transgender exclusion—politics of universal standards for public restroom pictograms. Students showcase such results in an informal symposium that culminates the semester. Not only will you expand the complexity and scope of your critical thinking abilities, but also you will never again experience as ordinary the spaces and places you encounter from day to day.


    Conjuring Race and Gender in National Memory – Instructors: Sarah Ingle

    This course examines the various forms of literal and figurative “conjuring” that have been used throughout American history to create and control the boundaries of race and gender. What is the source of this magic that has the power to turn a person into a piece of property or a woman into a second-class citizen? How does this metamorphosis take place? Throughout the semester, we will use literature, film, music, and other artistic media to explore how American writers and other artists have used conjuring as a metaphor to help them represent the strange ways in which race and gender transform and control people’s lives, as well as the powers that enable individuals to resist those transformations …

    Post-Reconstruction – Instructor: Timothy Griffiths

    In this course we will examine American literature of the Post-Reconstruction period, an under regarded and amorphous time in American literary development occurring between roughly 1877–1914. With a special emphasis on African American and women’s literature, we will consider how writers of this period anticipated American modernism; radically altered thought on the intersectional nature of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the republic; and gave birth to literary movements that are still vital today …

    Theories of Reading – Instructor: Rita Felski

    How and why do we read? …This course is divided into two parts. The first part, on critical reading, surveys influential forms of literary theory, including structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, feminism, postcolonialism, and queer theory. In the second half, we will explore everyday experiences of reading that are either ignored or treated with suspicion in literary theory: identification and recognition; empathy; enchantment and self-loss; horror and shock; fandom and the pleasure of collective reading …

    Contemporary Disability Theory – Instructor: Christopher Krentz

    In the last several decades, thinking about people with physical, cognitive, and sensory differences has moved from an exclusively pathological medical-based understanding to a more rights-based framework. In this course we will consider how conceptions of disability have changed and how these theories relate to the depiction of disabled people in literature … Students in the class will also be asked to attend at least one disability-related event on Grounds …

    Critical Race theory – Instructor: Marlon Ross

    What does race mean in the late 20th and early 21st century? Given the various ways in which race as a biological “fact” has been discredited, why and how does race continue to have vital significance in politics, economics, education, culture, arts, mass media, and everyday social realities? How has the notion of race shaped, and been shaped by, changing relations to other experiences of identity stemming from sexuality, class, disability, multiculturalism, nationality, and globalism? This course surveys major trends in black literary and cultural theory from the 1960s to the present, focusing on a series of critical flashpoints that have occurred over the last several decades. These flashpoints include: 1) the crisis over black authenticity during the Black Power/ Black Arts movement; 2) the schisms related to womanism (or women of color feminism), focused on Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple and the Steven Spielberg film adaptation; 3) the debate over the social construction of race (poststructuralist theory); 4) the debate over queer racial identities, focused on two films, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman and Barry Jenkins’ 2016 film Moonlight; 5) racial violence and the law, focused on the Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement; and 6) the aesthetic movement called Afrofuturism. Other reading will include a variety of theoretical essays and chapters drawn from different disciplines, including legal theory, film and media studies, sociology, history, political theory, and hip hop studies. While concentrating on theories of race deriving from African American studies, we’ll also touch on key texts from Native American, Asian-American, and Chicanx studies. The goal of the course is to give you a solid grounding in the vocabulary, key figures, concepts, debates, and discursive styles comprising the broad sweep of theoretical race studies from the late- twentieth century to the present, and to nurture your own theorizing about race and its deep cultural impact.”


  8. Looks like the Atlantic has gone to a paywall.

    But in terms of the so-called “radicalization” of public schooling – one would think this is the perfect time for those that think that – to leave it, to make the break.


    • Yes. I guarantee you will see a rise in demand for charter schools. The NEA and the press will present that as an attack on public schools. We see from the evidence that the left is attacking the public school system from within.

      • the opportunity to change the way that public education is never better. The tomes against it are increasing longer and longer manifestos so why not make the change? Ya’ll would be happier and those who like the public schools will be happier!


        • You lost me. What is your point here?

          • the point is that there are people who rail against public education 50 ways from Sunday.

            Why not pursue a positive alternative path instead of bitch and complain?

            If public education is so bad – there ought to be tremendous demand for an alternative, no?

            The beauty of the market is that it can often do better than the govt. So why bellyache about the Govt? Get on to what works better!

          • Larry, you say “People who rail against public education”. Who exactly are you talking about?

            I don’t rail against public education, I am trying to save it.

            Your comment forecloses the idea that we can protect our public schools from the avowed socialists and race pimps actively trying to take them over.

            I do not concede that point. Go to and tell me if you find that to be an appropriate “resource” for public schools, as the NEA has declared it.

            Your position on that is your call.

            Either way, contact your local school board and GA representatives and make your position known.

          • Jim – public schools are far from perfect but the oft-repeated criticisms that they’re “indoctrinating” kids is poppycock.

            And if you read others on these pages – they talk like public education was ruined a long time again and cannot be ‘saved’ because it’s infested with leftists and social justice warriors and the like.

            So – if that’s the case – there has never been a better time that to further develop alternatives – and I actually support that because I want to see the public schools challenged .. I want to see competition and I want to see our schools rank in the top 10 with other developed countries.

    • No. A fair portion of my taxes go to support the public schools. I have every right to demand that they be places of learning and not places of indoctrination.

  9. I’m surprised a conservative-centric opinion blog missed this…
    “Chief Justice suffers blow to head begins voting with liberal justices.”

  10. In the small sense critical theory, or in the wide sense critical theory?

    On the other hand, there is an equal number of conjectures that conservatism is nothing more than a desire to return to feudalism, e.g., law and order…. especially order.

    So where do we go from here? An absolute President? In the last 50 years, we have had 3 presidents declare openly that their authority is absolute and crickets from the Conservative parties.

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