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These Are Not the Best of Times


SAY WHAT? - On the vital, longtime, increasingly bonkers battleground of culture wars that are our schools and our kids and what they can learn, it keeps getting worse. A new report finds wingnuts in calamitous power are begetting a flood of "educational gag orders" that are often sloppily written, factually inaccurate, vague enough to invite confusion if not egregious abuse, extreme enough to spark chaos, and "pedagogically pernicious," from banning ill-defined "divisive concepts" that cause "discomfort" to setting up a snitch line - cue helpful "tips" on Albus Dumbledore, creeping Sharia, teachers teaching and the terrorist group al-gebra - to report teachers "behaving objectionably." In the process, they chillingly create "an Orwellian hellscape" where teachers are treated "as subversive internal threats who must be zealously rooted out at any deviation from orthodoxy" - a toxic, growing trend, writes Greg Sargent, that can "make teachers feel on such thin ice they end up whitewashing the U.S. past rather than communicating hard truths about it." The new report from PEN America, which for over a year has been tracking "censorious legislative efforts" across the country, finds a "steep rise" in gag orders," with over 71 bills introduced in state legislatures, or about three a day. Most are about sex, race or U.S. history; like earlier ones, writes Jeffrey Sachs, "All are sweeping, all are draconian, and few make any kind of sense...This is about putting the fear of God into teachers."

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