Civics Corrupted: My Public Comment to the U.S. Department of Education about it’s proposed rule “American History and Civics Education”

On Monday, April 19th 2021, the U.S. Department of Education released information about a new proposed rule, named “American History and Civics Education” (https://www.regulations.gov/document/ED-2021-OESE-0033-0001). Here is my public comment, sent in the early hours of April 20th 2021, having been drafted during the entirety of the afternoon and night the day before:

‘My position is that — as a concerned citizen of these United States of America — I am against your proposed rule, “Proposed Priorities: American History and Civics Education,” for several reasons against each proposed priority in the rule due to legal, historical, ethical, and moral concerns.

On the subject of “Proposed Priority 1 — Projects That Incorporate Racially, Ethnically, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Perspectives into Teaching and Learning,” there are several issues with both the background reasoning and the actual priorities. Each will be addressed in turn, point by point.

Let’s start with the background support first.

The “1619 Project” has been rejected and scrutinized by numerous scholars and economists on the subject of slavery’s role in the United States’ historical development, especially by the renowned economist Thomas Sowell. Sowell’s own essay “The Real History of Slavery” expresses and shows the sharp truths and egregious fallacies that even the author of the introduction to the “1619 Project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones herself, admits are true criticisms (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/22/1619-s22.html). It is a troubled piece of historical work. It is not an educational curriculum, or a piece of work an educational curriculum should be based on.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History labeled that “being on time,” and “science” are a part of whiteness, and therefore can be labeled as a part of a culture of white supremacy (https://www.newsweek.com/smithsonian-race-guidelines-rational-thinking-hard-work-are-white-values-1518333). While the graphic plainly stating those items are racist was taken down, coded language within the Smithsonian’s own “Whiteness” webpage titled “Talking About Race,” (https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/whiteness) uses intentionally vague language about white privilege in the words of Peggy McIntosh, such as “When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization,’ I am shown that people of my color made it what it is,” and “I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race,” which are concepts strongly associated and as being connected to what is also called also later on the webpage “white European” culture, which is hearkened as being exclusively white supremacist.

Both “science” and “being on time” are taught as such in training materials on the very subject of “Whiteness” by industry leaders, such as what has been linked, written, and spoken by (but not endorsed by) a Dr. Robin DiAngelo in what was known a few months ago colloquially on Twitter and Linked-In as Coca-Cola’s “Be Less White” training scandal (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/coca-cola-training-be-less-white). Interestingly, Dr. DiAngelo is also used as an expert on the subject of whiteness on the Smithsonian’s same page on “Whiteness” and “Talking About Race” if you scroll further down and read the entire webpage and watch all of it’s contents.

What the Smithsonian is expressly endorsing goes against modern teaching practices, at least near and on the east coast, which utilize the S.M.A.R.T. strategy for lesson plans. The “S” and “M” in “S.M.A.R.T.” stand for “Specific” and “Measurable” respectively, which are both fundamental to proper scientific inquiry, which the Smithsonian clearly signaled it wished to be eliminated. The “T” in “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for “Time-bound,” meaning that a student needs to be measured and evaluated by specific dates and creates accountability for students, which the Smithsonian clearly signaled it believes is a racist value to uphold. By referencing the Smithsonian’s own materials, you are signaling this rule would be focused on undermining any teacher’s ability to perform their job, or to actually teach any material at all to cultivate young minds. This is a moral and ethically folly of the highest magnitude.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the author of “How To Be an Anti-Racist.” Dr. Kendi has expressed support for- and even quotes — ideas that President LBJ upheld in “How To Be an Anti-Racist,” where Dr. Kendi also employs several quotes from President Johnson. As we all should hopefully know, 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson was a racist and a bigot, and his Great Society reforms largely left minorities throughout the country — but especially black and brown people — in the predicament of a forced transfer of wealth and education that has inflicted serious damage on the population for decades. To put it blatantly: the Great Society was racist in many — if not all — of it’s intended and long term consequences on minority communities throughout the United States. We know this. We should never champion LBJ, or any of his words and actions. The Civil Rights Act — truthfully — was an act more-so by the late Kennedy Administration (Credit should go where credit is deserved). Why does Kendi support LBJ’s ideas? That should be ethically suspect as to what Dr. Kendi’s intentions are underneath the surface for his “premiere” work of literature by the inclusion of such an blatantly unethical historical character in American history.

However, that isn’t where the valid criticisms of Dr. Kendi’s work end. His actual words within “How To Be an Anti-Racist” are disturbing when they are fully realized, in full context. Take for instance the quote, “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” What Dr. Kendi is saying that — as long as something is in the name of his subjective definition of fairness — then discrimination is acceptable behavior. Discrimination is — and I think other’s believe this is as well — a form of abuse. What he is doing is normalizing abuse and abusive behaviors, as he does countless times in his work.

Here is another instance where he normalizes abusive behavior, such as discrimination, this time with the support of two historical figures:

The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1965, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in 1978, “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

I would like to point out that the mentioned Associate Justice Harry Blackmun — a Nixon era Supreme Court appointment, who openly despised the death penalty — was also a key vote that upheld the death penalty for crimes such as first degree murder in 428 U.S. 153 (1976) in “Gregg v. Georgia.” The death penalty for crimes — such as murder — has been deemed utterly racist through it’s overuse in the criminal justice system. What are we to interpret from not only one — but two individuals (LBJ again) — being used to support a claim to discriminate as it’s “[t]he only remedy to present discrimination.”

Does Dr. Kendi’s work have a darker meaning to it? I think the evidence speaks for itself.

What is being signaled by the Department of Education in invoking any reference to Dr. Kendi’s work? This is deeply troubling.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo has been mentioned once already in this public comment, but it is worth discussing how close in proximity she is in both her scholarship and work to Dr. Kendi’s. She is the author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” She also — as already established — was featured on the Smithsonian’s page on “Whiteness” and “Talking About Race,” making her extremely relevant to discussion. What does Dr. DiAngelo say in her book and lectures?

Dr. DiAngelo says in “White Fragility,” that:

If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out; now I am aware of and can change that assumption.”

Similar to Dr. Kendi, Dr. DiAngelo is normalizing abuse and desensitizing others to abusive behaviors. Being racist is a form of being abusive, that I hope the Department of Education would agree with me on. It is a bad thing. People who are racists are bad, and should be shunned from polite society.

It doesn’t end there. Dr. DiAngelo also has said, “I am not against Black History Month. But it should be celebrated in a way that doesn’t reinforce whiteness.” If we correctly interpret whiteness as anything “specific,” “measurable,” and “time-bound,” — was was understood on the Smithsonian’s “Whiteness” and “Talking About Race” webpage — we find a signaling of a Black History Month that is devoid of every single successful black American that has ever lived or died in this country. Dr. DiAngelo is essentially saying she doesn’t want a Black History Month, without saying it.

That is extremely racist and manipulative.

If that isn’t even enough, Dr. DiAngelo is herself an avowed racist. She outright says it in every single chapter of “White Fragility.” Why would we trust her to talk about racism, without the intent of teaching her own racism? Would the Department of Education let a Klansman teach an anti-bias training course? Is that the kind of Department of Education we have before us today?

In terms of the specifics of the proposed priority itself, parts (a) and ( c ) codify why this entire proposed priority should be completely rejected in their entirety. Part (a) because assigning a grade to something purely subjective (both “How To Be An Anti-Racist” and “White Fragility” say as much) — such as someone’s own biases, or even what an inequity is — and assigning a potential letter grade to that meets the standard for violating 319 U.S. 624 (1943) “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette,” with the the understanding it compels a student — a private citizen under this statue — to say something against their will about their moral person in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause. This is also against the amendment’s Establishment clause, such that forcing a child to say or act in a way that is against their own religion (such as if they happen to be a Catholic, etc) that tells them to reject their religion or face a negative grade is also illegal. Part ( c ) because your background support indicates the Department of Education is critically unaware of the fallacies within the works of media it have chosen to support this entire first priority of your proposed rule. Hence, the entire priority should be rejected. The scholarship overwhelmingly doesn’t support the action.

On the subject of “Proposed Priority 2 — Promoting Information Literacy Skills,” if the Department’s failure to understand it’s own biases in the background behind the creation and support of “Proposed Priority 1,” aren’t enough to signify how the Department has no critical ability to objectively decide proper media sources and trusted resources, I don’t know how much planer it can be stated.

What is the Department’s idea of “misinformation?”

Is it when Dr. Kendi says that discrimination — i.e. abuse — is okay if one was once abused. That’s misinformation. Discrimination is always bad.

Is it when Dr. DiAngelo is advocating that racism isn’t bad? That’s misinformation. Racists and acts of racism are always bad.

The entire proposed priority two in this case, should also be completely rejected in it’s entirety. This Department of Education cannot regulate it’s own media bias, or recognize how some parts of it’s proposed rule (think: Proposed Priority 1, Part (a)) are completely illegal via constitutional law.

How can it be trusted the Department of Education would do the right thing, and that it’s own mandate through this proposed rule wouldn’t be utilized to spread dangerous misinformation — such as that abuse is okay (as long as you were abused), discrimination isn’t all that bad, and that racism is just something that exists — when it is using said explicit misinformation to support it’s own claims?’

The comment tracking number is: knp-oj5i-63y4

Anyone wishing to read and publicly comment on the proposed rule from the DoEd may do so at the following address: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/04/19/2021-08068/proposed-priorities-american-history-and-civics-education

Computer Engineer with an altrusitic spirit. Determined to be on the right side of history. Local School Committee Candidate. Level-headed and unafraid.