I've only really read Sullivan on this issue, but I think you're missing his point.

I'll grant you that he's conflating teaching with speech in some of his arguments, but I don't know how important that is to the crux of his argument. In his article, "Don't Ban CRT. Expose It," he tells you *exactly* what he's opposed to and he thinks you should do instead. In the title.

His main objection is that banning an ideology is not a good way to fight it. A significant problem with the woke ideology is, in fact, the idea that banning conflicting ideologies is a good solution to the problem:

"Banning illiberal ideologies like CRT makes us indistinguishable from the woke — who would ban any speech they didn’t like if they could get rid of the First Amendment (just look at what “liberals” are doing in Canada or Britain, for example, where they lock people up for resisting this ideology). Replacing CRT with crude, jingoistic versions of history or society is no answer either. "

You argue that the current CRT banning strategy is "working". I disagree completely--depending on how you define "working". Sure, laws are being passed, but whether that will have any effect whatsoever on the problematic teaching those laws are meant to address is a different question all together. In general, laws like this are little more than political posturing and any effects they're likely to have are probably going to be off-target.

I think Sullivan has a deep commitment to liberal democracy and he genuinely views attempts to ban things as an affront to liberal democracy, and I tend to agree with him.

Just think for a minute about a law that bans any teaching that could lead an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.” It's absurd, vague, and exactly the sort of "snowflake" ideology that the anti-CRT crowd is usually fighting against. I could easily interpret such a ban as prohibiting the teaching of the holocaust. In my own experience, I could reasonably say that such teaching in public schools caused me psychological stress because of my race.

The argument is that the bans are bad and they are. They aren't in the spirit of liberal democracy. I don't think they're going to prevent the sort of awful indoctrination described in Sullivan's article, and I think off-target effects are likely. I don't think you have to get carried away to reach this conclusion...

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If someone tells you to do something that straightforwardly helps his interests and harms yours, but claims that it's really in your interest becaise of some less straightforward chain of events or scenario, it's probably motivated reasoning or concern trolling, and you should reject it. This is a general principle that applies in far more than just this one situation, and I've noticed it over and over.

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Excellent post. It must just be that time of year, as I wrote pretty much the same thing earlier in the week. Probably not so well! (https://dochammer.substack.com/p/why-libertarians-are-so-awkward-with)

What strikes me as strange reading some of the comments here and other places around the internet is that people don't seem to get that having these sorts of fights is precisely what entails once you have mandatory government schools: the government has to decide what gets taught and what doesn't. Whatever shape the government takes, whether a school board, state curriculum board, principle, teacher, some agent(s) of the government decide and make it so. To the extent we as citizens control the government, we have to argue, debate and fight other citizens to determine how those agents act.

Which is why public schools are a bad idea. Much better to just let people choose which schools will indoctrinate their kids themselves.

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CRT in history is just telling the story from the perspective of ~1/5th of the population instead of ~4/5ths. To shit on the entire concept because some of its contributors are idiots is asinine. I personally think it absurd that you focus on the technicality of their argument as opposed to the bizarre phrasing of the proposed law they're against.

I mean, the idea that you can't teach something because it might be discomforting cordons off huge amounts of very useful things to teach. Can we teach the suffragettes? Can we teach the janissaries? That non-violent political affiliation is also listed suggests that we would introduce discomfort in merely stating the times when student's preferred political party lost an election.

So considering how kafka-esqe the whole proposed law is, the only crazier thing is seeing how many lines you pissed away arguing against a technicality of the argument someone made against it.

Maybe even crazier is the fact I read it all.

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I think you are reading too much into McWhorter's tweet (I don't know the other 2 who I presume are also American public intellectuals).

As you are effectively saying, it can be interpreted as: "don't make this a zero sum game. When you go up against more powerful players you lose"

So I think the commentary would be better around how to make this a positve sum game for determining curiculum content. After all, this is the message of the American system. I believe your (I'm a Kiwi) federal government effectively requires free trade between States (so States use regulation etc to gain rivalous advantage, but that is another story). America has become rich through free trade among its states.

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Here I will use the word "liberal" in the classical liberal sense, not in the American political sense.

The problem is that "liberal democracy" is not a pure concept in practice. What I mean is this: there are situations where the liberal part comes into conflict with the democracy part. I'm pretty sure, having read and listened to a fair amount of his recent work, that Sullivan is very pro-liberal-democracy. But when the demos starts to put into place things that he considers illiberal, the concept breaks down and he cannot support it without dirtying the concept. If you had a system where elites like French and Sullivan had the legal ability to strike down democratic decisions they viewed as illiberal, that's not a liberal democracy--it's a liberal oligarchy (assuming the elites correctly delineate liberal from illiberal). If the demos votes for an objectively illiberal policy (let's pretend such a thing exists), then that's not a liberal democracy--it's an illiberal democracy.

It gets even more difficult when you look at this specific situation. You have the the anti-CRT folks with goals that are arguably liberal (in that they promote individualism and discourage prejudice against groups) but who are using means that are arguably illiberal (in that they are supporting a law that discourages speech by certain persons and that potentially removes certain topics from free inquiry). The argument of the anti-CRT folks (broadly) is that the ends justify the means.

Sullivan argues instead that the ends don't justify the means. Even if the democratic result is an illiberal pro-CRT curriculum, it was arrived at by upholding the liberal values of free speech and free inquiry. Maintining the integrity of an overall liberal system might allow for illiberal policies here and there, but it will result mostly in liberal policies, whereas operating under an overall illiberal system is very unlikely to yield anything but illiberal policies.

My feeling is that I agree with Sullivan in theory, but in practice I think the only way that a liberal system can maintain its integrity is by letting the illiberal and liberal sides of an issue battle it out, back and forth, using liberal democratic procedures, until the end result is a liberal policy on that particular issue. And so on and so on.

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RC, I enjoyed this essay. A couple of quibbles though. I think you're overbroad a bit in stating that teachers can be constrained to say only the things the government wants them to say because they are government employees. The Supreme Court has held that neither students nor teachers shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gates. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). However, "the first amendment does not entitle primary and secondary teachers, when conducting the education of captive audiences, to cover topics, or advocate viewpoints, that depart from the curriculum adopted by the school system." Mayer v. Monroe Cnty. Community School Corp., 474 F.3d 477, 480 (7th Cir. 2007).

Public universities are also government bodies, but they cannot compel tenured professors to stick to a curriculum. University professors have broad First Amendment rights to conduct their classrooms, including advocating viewpoints. They cannot be compelled to speak a certain way because "that's what the government wants them to say."

It then boils down to what you called your weakest argument, but which I think is actually your strongest. What have been inaptly called speech codes are actually just curricular prerogatives being exercised by those with the power to exercise them. If a state legislature wants to set a statewide curricular policy (and assuming the state's constitution gives them that power), then they should set the policy as they see fit. If they miss the mark, then throw the bums out. These bills aren't speech codes; they're garden-variety curriculum setting.

While I happen to believe that state-level anti-CRT legislation can be good policy, I do sympathize with McWhorter and Sullivan's concerns about overbreadth, though for different reasons. Take the discussion of the Tennessee bill you quoted from French above. Banning teaching that could lead to an individual feeling "discomfort or guilt" is not narrowly tailored. One might imagine a hyper-conservative parent complaining that their child could feel discomfort or guilt if slavery (or the Civil War, or the Tulsa Race Massacre, or Jim Crow) is taught. No responsible person is saying those topics shouldn't be taught, but an irresponsible parent might use the Tennessee bill's overbroad language to shield their child from these topics. (One might also imagine any number of scenarios where this concept applies in different ideological contexts.)

I must note that in French's critique of the Texas bill, it goes unmentioned that the Texas bill *requires* curricular development of "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong." So any hint that the ban on CRT (at least in Texas) is looking to dodge these important topics is just flatly wrong. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/HB03979F.pdf#navpanes=0

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Your blog was interesting, but you have trouble seeing your own biases. You're pushing an agenda that I don't agree with and I hope your children find their way out of your indoctrination.

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