Representative Trish Ladner (R-30/Hot Springs) is trying to pick up the slack on Pat Powers’s ever-more ho-hum spin blog and provide some semblance of original content to break up the tedious Party press releases. Alas, the columns she cranks out are mostly recycling the irrational fascist GOP Party line.
Today, Rep. Ladner echoes the misdirection campaign her leaders are waging against their straw-man misrepresentation of critical race theory. In her apartheidist zeal, Ladner calls for banning a theory:
A number of state officials, including Governor Noem, have indicated that they would like to ban “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) at the next possible opportunity and I support that. The debate over the curriculum is not just happening in South Dakota, but in several states across the country. A number of Republican controlled states have already committed to banning Critical Race Theory and it is likely that South Dakota will be addressing this during the upcoming 2022 state legislative session [Rep. Trish Ladner, guest column: “‘CRT’ in Our Schools,” Dakota War College, 2021.06.23].
I’m going to skip the easy business of ridiculing Ladner for likening contemporary education and efforts to combat systemic racism to Hitler’s effort to indoctrinate children. I skim past her invocation of her uncle’s World War II military service as proof of the patriotism of her position by briefly reminding her that today’s military leaders say that studying, discussing, and fighting racism are good for the military.
I want to focus on this question: How do we ban a theory? How do we prohibit a way of understanding the world?
Rep. Ladner and her fellow partisans focus on protecting their white privilege by dictating curriculum and banning certain books and conversations in the public schools and universities they control. But is the imposition of thought control on teachers and students enough to ban a theory? As we learned from the Supreme Court today, students can say things outside of school that they can’t say in school. If old white Mrs. Ladner comes to the front of the classroom and says, “Don’t talk about systemic racism! Don’t mention critical race theory!” a lot more kids are going to whip out their phones after the bell and read and Tweet and TikTok critical race theory:
Not only am I an academic; I’m a mom. I have four adult kids. I have five grandkids who are almost all adults now. My youngest just went off to college this past year. Well, here’s what I know about adolescents. The minute you tell them that they can’t do something or that something is forbidden, they go to do it. And so this fact that you want to ban it and you don’t want it there – trust me. These young people are on their computers, and they’re Googling critical race theory. I couldn’t buy this level of publicity. I really couldn’t. Nobody cared about this stuff [Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, interviewed by Audie Cornish, “Academic Who Brought Critical Race Theory to Education Says Bills Are Misguided,” NPR: All Things Considered, 2021.06.22].
Not teaching a theory in school won’t ban the theory. What else must Rep. Ladner do to achieve her stated goal? Ban the cell phones kids will use to learn about the theory Rep. Ladner is trying to ban? Ban South Dakota Public Broadcasting from airing interviews like the one I quote above? Burn all copies of books in our municipal and university libraries that mention systemic racism and things we ought to do about it? Impose criminal penalties on bloggers for writing about critical race theory? Cut the cables connecting South Dakota to the World Wide Web?
Even if Rep. Ladner convenes tribunals, drags citizens who recognize the validity of critical race theory to the dock, and demands that those Galilean apostates recant or be banished, the believers the Ladner tribunals oppress will still whisper Eppure è vero! The apostates will continue to see that racism keeps a certain pasty elite rich and powerful, that South Dakota government and other institutions are built on a history of oppression, and that we have a lot of political and cultural work to do to perfect the Union we love and fully realize the founding words we cherish.
Representative Ladner, you can’t ban a theory. You can ban books (which doesn’t work). You can ban speech (which won’t survive the courts). But you can’t ban theories. You can’t outlaw ideas that you don’t like. You can only drive ideas away by proposing ideas that are closer to the truth.
I used to be a Republican because I used to think Republicans preferred persuasion over government pressure. But Representative Ladner and her party have abandoned both in favor of fascism. Ladner’s Republicans ignore the evidence that refutes their seditious lie that the 2020 election was stolen. They foster a total value relativism that makes rational discourse and good-faith persuasion impossible. Amidst such raging nihilism, they work to rig elections, seize power, and use the force of the State to forbid any thoughts they deem contrary to their Party orthodoxy.
Ladner likens those of us who would teach young people to recognize and combat racism to Communists and Nazis. But Ladner’s irrational cry to ban a theory makes her the one who sounds like Stalin, Mao, and Hitler.
CORNISH: How do you feel when you read these anecdotes and conservative publications or from critics where they talk about teachers engaging in exercises that they’re calling critical race theory – right? – that these critics say is an example of how this ends up playing out?
LADSON-BILLINGS: Well, they typically are incorrect. Most of these folks typically haven’t really read anything on critical race theory. And as I’ve said, I think the critical race theory is the red herring. I think what people are really going after at this point is the 2022 and the 2024 elections. And why would I make that leap? Well, if you cannot win on a policy level – OK, you have an administration that said, you know, we’re going to attack COVID, and they did. They said, we’re going to do what we can to prop up the economy, and they did. Well, then what you have to do is gin up a culture war. And that’s what I think is happening. To me, it’s no surprise that critical race theory laws are actually showing up in the very places where voter suppression laws are [Cornish, 2021.06.22].