Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The New War on Woke

In regions and localities where the cultural Right still holds substantial sway, right-wing political correctness has emerged.

By Jeffrey Sachs, Arcdigital Media

State and national governments try to suppress critical race theory, social justice, and related concepts.

“Unlawful propagation of divisive concepts.” That’s the subheading of a bill now under debate in New Hampshire. If passed, it would prohibit public school teachers, professors, or state contractors from endorsing certain ideas the legislators think are harmful.

What’s a divisive concept? Well, suppose a college wants to bring in a paid speaker who says America is fundamentally racist. Banned. Or perhaps you’re a law professor who believes that race-based affirmative action is a good policy. Banned as well. Maybe you want to teach that society confers a special status or privilege on white people, or even that a particular white person has privilege because of his or her race. Controversial? Of course. But legal? Not if the bill’s sponsors have their way.

This is the new phase in America’s education culture war: the use of state power to suppress “woke” speech and viewpoints. No longer content to compete at the level of ideas, and upset with what they see as a dangerous and un-American ideology, legislators in New Hampshire are trying to get the government to forbid it. And they’re not alone.

Similar bills are being debated in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Meanwhile in Georgia, a GOP representative has ordered every public college and university to prepare a list identifying which courses are teaching students about concepts like “privilege” and “oppression.” Faculty there say it’s already having a chilling effect.

There’s more. In Arkansas, debate has begun on a bill that would prevent public schools and universities from offering any course, class, event, or activity that “promotes division between, resentment of, or social justice for” a race, gender, political affiliation, or social class.

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