If you’re keeping an eye on what Sen. John Cornyn has in store for your Second Amendment rights, you might want to watch his other hand. He has just recently reintroduced the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which would enable the federal government to impose critical race theory (CRT) — that is, state-sanctioned racism and anti-Americanism — on public school civics courses via federal grants.
Of course, the drafters of the bill are too politically savvy to explicitly endorse critical race theory. Instead, the legislation provides for $6 billion in federal grants to states, nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and researchers to improve civics and American history education primarily for “traditionally underserved students” (sections 102-106). The bill makes clear that grant applications must demonstrate how the applicant intends to prioritize the education of such students.
As explained in detail by Stanley Kurtz at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (see here and here), this anodyne-sounding terminology masks a deeply partisan agenda – an agenda that parents are fighting across the country. Kurtz reports that while the re-introduced bill removes a previous iteration’s problematic references to “action civics” (leftist political agitation for course credit), its central focus on “underserved” students is key to how the Biden Department of Education will implement it.
In the hive of progressive education, he explains, “the idea [of underserved students] is that recent immigrants and impoverished ethnic and racial minorities cannot embrace or excel at old-fashioned lessons on federalism or checks and balances. To truly excite and empower the underserved, you must supposedly teach about ‘systemic racism’ and recruit students into Black Lives Matter-style protests for course credit.”
Cornyn’s bill, co-sponsored by GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe and Bill Cassidy and Rep. Tom Cole, would allow Biden educrats to award great sums of money to states willing to teach this politicized dogma under the guise of civics.
It’s not as though Cornyn is unaware of the dangers of his bill. He has surely read the warnings – including one from the respected National Association of Scholars – that the bill is a Trojan horse for leftist propaganda. But rejecting the apparently inconceivable possibility that the Biden Education Department might be using him to advance its woke agenda, he misstates the grant provisions of his own bill (mistakenly claiming that they allow no bureaucratic discretion in awarding grants) and that, in any event, there’s nothing to worry about since his bill includes a clause saying the federal government isn’t authorized to control curriculum.
This is the same kind of rule that failed to block the Common Core debacle. As Kurtz points out, Cornyn’s CRT bill is following the same path that Common Core did, only with higher stakes. How many times will the feds manipulate well-intentioned grants to impose onerous strings and political agendas before Republican politicos catch on to the game?
Cornyn revealed his mounting irritation with Kurtz and other thoughtful observers by tweeting, “The false, hysterical claims are untrue and worthy of a Russian active measures campaign, not a serious discussion of our bill.” Whatever a “Russian active measures campaign” is (presumably something like what Hillary Clinton conjured up to derail the Trump presidency), it’s clear that Kurtz and other informed critics are not the ones avoiding a “serious discussion” of the bill. In fact, a debate between Kurtz and the senator on the issue would be illuminating.
Republican co-sponsor Rep. Cole of Oklahoma has offered the soothing reassurance that he will “closely monitor” Biden’s education bureaucracy to make sure it doesn’t gallop through the gate that he and his GOP colleagues so helpfully left open. Parents fighting CRT in their schools can take that for what it’s worth.
Fortunately, the most recent warnings about Cornyn’s federal CRT bill seem to be getting traction among conservatives with a microphone. Radio host Mark Levin featured Kurtz on his show, and even former President Trump weighed in when speaking to the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
On “The Ingraham Angle,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed dismay that Republicans in Congress are being led down this leftist primrose path. Cornyn’s bill “is crazy,” Gingrich said. “No Republican should be for it. … And I’m frankly astonished that any Republican would agree to co-sponsor that bill, and I think it’s an open invitation to further creating a totalitarian left-wing mindset where they’re gonna tell us how we think, how we behave, what we’re allowed to do.”
“I certainly hope that the handful of Republicans who are co-sponsors will withdraw their names,” he concluded. “And I hope folks back home will call them and demand that they withdraw their names.”
It’s unlikely that Cornyn and his little band of Republican collaborators are intentionally trying to smuggle leftist indoctrination material into public schools. Maybe they just haven’t done their homework, or have some other political reason for going along with this dangerous charade. But whatever the excuse, their useful-idiot routine is wearing thin. Our children’s educations — and therefore our country’s future — are at stake.
Supporters of the federal CRT bill hope to pass it before the August congressional recess. As Gingrich said, the folks back home should get on the phone.
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a retired senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington DC. In that position she crafted federal and state legislation designed to restore the constitutional autonomy of states and parents in education policy, and to protect the rights of religious freedom and conscience. She is a graduate of Clemson University and the Harvard Law School.
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