Wineke: Our Legislature in action: telling schools what not to teach

Empty classroom desks

In case you were wondering what your state legislators have been up to, this week they’re considering telling schools they can’t teach students about racism.

It’s part of a nationwide Republican effort to link schools to something called “Critical Race Theory, which is taught in law schools and not in elementary schools but does serve the purpose of letting the right-wing defend ignorance.

Oversimplified, the theory holds that racism is a built-in part of the nation’s social systems.

On its face, the Assembly bill seems non-controversial. It says schools can’t teach that one race or sex is superior to another, that sort of thing.

I am quite sure that no school in Wisconsin would teach any of the concepts that would be banned. So, you might ask, what’s the big deal?

The big deal can be summed up in a comment by Rep. Donna Rozar, of Marshfield, as reported in the morning paper:

I don’t want school professionals to make decisions about teaching and learning. I want parents to be in charge of the teaching and learning that their children and parents go to.”

If we want to make state law prohibiting school professionals from making decisions about teaching and learning, then why have schools at all?

It’s not as if “school professionals” have autonomy now. Schools have school boards, elected by the public. The schools are overseen by a state education department led by an elected superintendent of public education.

The teachers I know are either plagued by parent-teacher conferences at which no parent appears or by helicopter parents who demand little Suzie be prepared for Harvard.

The real purpose of proposals like this is to create doubt on the part of the public about the role of their schools, partly because a good percentage of Republican lawmakers don’t believe in public education and do everything in their power to undermine it.

This law may pass the legislature but it won’t be enacted soon. Governor Evers will veto it and Republicans will use the veto to cast stones at Evers in next year’s election.

But it may become law someday and, if it does, our children will be sabotaged.

Racism is part of American history. It is part of Wisconsin history. It is part of our history and it is part of our present. Racism is not all of our history, but I don’t know of a single teacher who would say that it is.

If we want an educated citizenry, then we have to teach our children the reality of American history, good and bad parts. Otherwise, when they grow up and learn the truth, they won’t be prepared to deal with it.