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“And Yet It Is True!”—How Will Ladner Ban Critical Race Theory?

Here, Trish, ban this theory: you're the real fascist, seeking to ban books and indoctrinate children in State propaganda.
Here, Trish, ban this theory: you’re the real fascist, seeking to ban ideas and indoctrinate children in State propaganda.

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].


  1. Porter Lansing 2021-06-23 19:12

    Any teacher knows enough to teach that the procedures for implementing the law aren’t being applied fairly without mentioning or labeling their lesson as CRT.

    It’s true and valid history that wealthy, white males wrote these procedures and ways to apply the law to benefit themselves, in order to elevate their lives above women, poor people, and minorities.

    The SD legislature is an example.

  2. Donald Pay 2021-06-23 19:16

    Gloria Ladson-Billings has been teaching at UW-Madison’s Education School for a long time. She’s pretty moderate and level-headed. She’s far more conservative than Ladner, who wants to ban anything she disagrees with. Ladson-Billings want to teach it all. She wants to teach about the founding fathers and the founding documents, but she wants students to understand that some of what was in those documents involved a systemic support of slavery. Only white supremacists are threatened by the truth. Ladner would be wise to try to understand what it is she is trying to ban.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-06-23 19:26

    Joy Reid tangles with guy claiming to be an expert on CRT and she makes him look quite ordinary….

    As you might expect, the so called expert knows virtually nothing about the theory he wants banned. I fully suspect magats are scared to death of CRT because drumpf told them they should be scared to death of it.

  4. Porter Lansing 2021-06-23 20:12

    Critical Race Theory is a negative assertion.
    C’mon. Critical something or other?
    That scares MAGA’s and even non engaged voters to death.
    To teach the material, CRT can be taught as Culturally Responsive Teaching.
    -Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a research-based approach to teaching.
    -It connects students’ cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school.
    -These connections help students access rigorous curriculum and develop higher-level academic skills.
    -The two are the same thing and Responsive Teaching is soft and fuzzy and even appeals to the unengaged.

  5. O 2021-06-24 06:35

    Any legislation about banning CRT will fall apart when those legislators define CRT in that legislation. When they have to go from slogans to reality, things will fall apart.

  6. Eve Fisher 2021-06-24 09:11

    Back when I was teaching history up at SDSU, I could always tell those who were raised in ultra-conservative homes, because they would literally object to having to learn about the ideas and influence in history of Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, etc., because they said I was trying to indoctrinate them. They ignored the fact that I also taught about Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Thomas, Charlemagne, etc. They didn’t mind learning about Hitler and the Nazis, Japanese Samurai, and war, which apparently did not indoctrinate in the process of learning. I literally had to explain that, whether or not you believed IN their ideas, you needed to learn ABOUT their ideas to understand the world we live in today. Sadly, it was a hard sell even then.

  7. Donald Pay 2021-06-24 09:13

    I agree with O. They have to define what they are banning. They don’t have a clue what it is, but that’s also what makes such cancel culture dangerous. Because they won’t know how to deal with ideas and theories very well, they’ll ban people. That’s where the Nazi’s went. They’ll name the writings or speeches of certain people that can’t be taught. They’ll label it “degenerate” or whatever. They already are trying to keep certain people from voting. It won’t be long until they need to silence them totally. That Nazi symbolism is perfectly appropriate for these folks.

  8. jerry 2021-06-24 11:03

    Republican George A. Custer, tried that Critical Race Theory on for size. Tomorrow is his anniversary of how that all worked out for him.

  9. John 2021-06-24 19:52

    Jerry, my friend, you may have the comment of the year. Well done.

  10. RST Tribal Member 2021-06-25 07:55

    As I celebrate the defeat of the U.S. military a few generations ago by my family and relatives I understand it is difficult to teach this history. Nevertheless, we celebrate. Growing up I seen pictures of the fools last stand. I heard stories of how the savages brutally attacked him and his followers… something like that happened on Jan 6, 2021. This time, as with what’s his last stand, there is an attempt to change the narrative. Time to remove false story tellers in Pierre and Washington; November 2022 cannot come soon enough.

    CRT is a start. The critical thinkers when taught should be able to sort out the truth from friction. It looks like Trish the dish seeks her moment in the glare of look at me, a lesson from our America’s Governor. Maybe Trish the dish’s history fears is from the political inbreeding happening in the SD Republican Party creating misfits and/or nitwits or fools.

    Today, I celebrate my family and relatives protected themselves or I would not be here. I say thank you in my celebration.

  11. Steve H (not Hickey) 2021-06-25 08:54
  12. mike from iowa 2021-06-25 09:27

    Eve Fisher, in case you missed this, here is General Mark Milley explaining to magat Matt Gaetz the importance of being well read in order to understand why magats assaulted Congress and the constitution. About two and a half minutes long.

  13. leslie 2021-06-25 10:18

    During the state and federal commentary processes for renaming Black Elk Peak, true blue Custer relatives and red-necks from smartphone and computer chains immortalized their comments forever in the federal database anyway (Daugaard quickly used Schoenbeck—if memory serves—to legislate the state geographic name board mostly out of existence in retaliation for its initial approval of the Lakota proposal.)

    One of the Rittenberger family of well known Black Hills ranchers wrote of Hin Han Paha Kaga: “sounds like two owls screwing”. See US Board of Geographic Names

  14. Bill 2021-06-25 15:13

    One of the major critics of CRT, Chris Rufo, has openly admitted that criticism as CRT is nothing more than branding anything they don’t want to be taught in school. You rarely see people say the quiet part out THIS loud:

    What would we expect from a clown who worked for the Discovery Institute, the “think” tank whose views on science ed were called “Breathtaking Inanity” by a conservative Christian judge appointed by George W Bush.

  15. David Newquist 2021-07-05 11:18

    The fact od academic freedom seems to be forgotten in these proposals to ban the examination of a theory. A multitude of Supreme Court decisions enforce it, including these:
    “Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us, and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment.” [”Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967)]

    “The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection’.”United States v. Associated Press (1943)

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