School days, school days. Time for Oklahoma teachers to dust off their mimeograph machines in preparation for a return to the 1950 educational model favored by Republican leaders – state and national.
Thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling that sanctioned proselytizing teachers at public school events, we can anticipate drives by religious bigots to reinstitute mandatory school prayers – since the teacher, principal, superintendent, school board now have that right of indoctrination.
Most teachers have better things to do, like educate their students, but, in a state where critical thinking has been twisted into advocacy for creationism, rogue teachers will be free to preach how divine providence inflicted European diseases upon native populations to clear the coasts (well, almost) for colonial footholds, how divinely sanctioned Manifest Destiny was not a massive land grab of indigenous people’s territory and the bloody annexation of 55 percent of Mexico. (Can you say, “Crimea?” How about “Donbass” or “Marioupul”?)
They will not be free to teach about the horrors of the slave economy that built our country because to do so might hurt the feelings of little white “chirren” whose ancestors perpetrated and prospered from this monstrous evil. Oklahoma lawmakers forbade that.
If we can’t have segregated schools, we can have segregated education. (And, how much longer will Brown vs. The Board of Education survive?)
Republicans oppose the teaching of anything that doesn’t jibe with the poorly redacted Bronze Age myths of jealous pastoralists on the fringe of civilization.
Let’s see, the students’ new tablets can be Big Chiefs. Those newfangled tablet-gadgets might connect them to the wider world where they might gain unexpurgated information.
They will have a choice of hand-held devices. For simple computations students can use an abacus. For more complicated procedures, a slide rule could provide approximations without linking students to free thinkers or facts uncomfortable to our theocrats.
Ptolemaic astronomy could return Earth and Earthlings to their preeminent place in the Cosmos just as Stone Agers deduced.
Health classes could include warnings against the dangers of vaccinating people against preventable dire illnesses and death. (The morning prayers can cover those staff and students lost to the cult of Trump worship.)
There can be no sex education, of course. That is best addressed at church camps – in reference to which Sen. James Lankford testified under oath that a 13-year-old girl can consent to a sexual relationship. Whether all mention of sexes and sex will be purged from biology and ag classes would have to be debated. Spontaneous generation, anyone?
And, a new focus on ancient history could make sure of the emphasis on a couple of insignificant satellite states in the Mideast instead of the empires north, east and south of them that dominated the ancient world.
This could segue into current events to justify the 20th century invasion of Palestine by European Jews returning to their “Promised Land” though such self-serving myths and bloody occupations of former homelands would be discouraged for other tribes – say most of those in Oklahoma – or Mexican nationals.
In time, those yearly news accounts of first grade teachers terrorizing small children by proclaiming Santa Claus – with a very familiar reward or punishment theology — a fraud will be no more since our zealots can now preach in the public schools just as in those indoctrination centers of religious schools for which the Supreme Court opened the door to public funds.
Siphoning tax money into private hands is one of the main goals of Gov. Kevin Stitt, whose advocacy of corporate socialism is so brazen that he actually bragged in June that turning the administration of the voter-demanded Medicaid expansion to outsiders will raise administrative costs from four to 15 percent. Less money to help those in need, of course, but more money into private pockets.
He was able to do this without legislative approval. His attempt to tithe taxpayers to pay for church schools last spring was defeated by a Republican senate. But that campaign persists.
Stitt’s $40,000 a year “secretary of education” Ryan Walters is in the GOP runoff for state superintendent – the real leadership position for public education in Oklahoma.
But, the $40,000 that Oklahomans are paying Walters is chickenfeed compared to the $120,000 or so that he is receiving at the same time as executive director of the nonprofit organization Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, which is funded by school privatization and charter school advocates.
Yes, an enemy of public education, whose organization lobbied to grab education funding, is vying to head up the state’s public education system. Wake up, Republicans!
Furthermore, three Republican state senators who stopped the steal of public education funding last spring lost primaries “after school choice proponents poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a handful of legislative races,” according to Carmen Forman of The Oklahoman.
The School Freedom Fund Oklahoma, which Forman cites as “an extension of the Washington-based Club for Growth,” poured more than $200,000 into one state senate race to oust a public education defender.
$200,000 in out-of-state funding for one Oklahoma state senate race? Those looking to raid the public coffers must have visions of a massive payday – at the expense of public schools.
Even before he became Stitt’s handpicked man to destroy public education from the inside, Walters helped a Florida company, ClassWallet, secure a no-bid contract to distribute $8 million in federal coronavirus relief money through $1,500 grants.
And now the Feds want more than $650,000 of that money back since some of the spending was deemed spurious. No, no. The guy that got them the contract is in no way responsible. Well, the Feds say that the state is responsible for monitoring the funds entrusted to them.
Oh, and the federal audit that found this misspent money also reported, “four of the five initiatives Oklahoma funded with the GEER grant didn’t follow federal guidelines,” according to Ryan Love of Tulsa’s KJRH-TV.
With Stitt’s continued war on public education – a censored curriculum to undercut learning, anti-health mandates to endanger all on campus, mismanagement, underfunding and attempted de-funding – Oklahoma’s chronic shortage of qualified teachers is understandable – a “catastrophe,” according to Tulsa Supt. Deborah Gist whose district was 180 teachers short at the first of the month.
Please, hang in there, teachers. The students need you – as does the state, despite the actions of the governor and his greedy cronies.
(Duncan resident Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)