Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Right’s Ugly War On Woke Schooling

By Andrew Sullivan

There is a better way to defeat left indoctrination than banning books.

One of the more familiar experiences on Twitter is being called a grifter, a person who issues takes entirely geared toward more clicks, readers, dollars or followers. It’s an exhausted slur, but, to be honest, there are weeks when I kind of wish I were one. No conflicts. No agonizing. No need to reconcile your priors with reality.

This week is one of them. I’ve spent a lot of time these past few years concerned with left illiberalism, especially the replacement of liberalism with critical theory as the guiding principle of our republic. But at the same time, of course, right illiberalism has gone into overdrive, in a polarizing vortex. Being a conservative liberal, or a liberal conservative, is becoming close to impossible. And this week, as I pored over a mass of bills to ban the praxis, pedagogy and content of critical theory in public high schools, I felt as if I were being tossed between the blue devil to my left and the deep red sea to my right.

One core point: the illiberalism is real on both sides. Not always in equal measure, now or in the past, but definitely on both, feeding off each other. And in public education, once again a battleground in the culture war, it seems quite obvious to me that the left bears the burden of responsibility for the conflict.

Critical theory’s long march through the institutions reached its peak some time ago in higher education — and has gone on to capture media, corporate America, medicine, the federal government, tech, science, and every cultural institution. Over $14 billion have been spent on philanthropic “equity” initiatives since the summer of 2020 alone. Of course children’s education would be affected. What hasn’t been? And of course critical theorists aim directly at children. The woke, like the Jesuits, understand the value of instilling certain concepts at a very young age. How else to transform the world?

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