Timothy May: Bringing order to our school boards

“Adding fluoride to our drinking water is the most monstrously engineered and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.” So says General Jack D. Ripper — the far-right wacko who not only spouts John Birch Society conspiracy theories but also manages to plunge the country into nuclear war — in the classic satire of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964, “Dr. Strange Love.”

We shake our heads in disbelief at the idiocy of such far-right conspiracy theories, but the fabricated communist conspiracies of the last century are no less bizarre than the condemnation of Stop-the-Steal evangelists and QAnon zealots – inflamed by cable news and social media. disinformation campaigns in the media – that more than three million American public school teachers surreptitiously promote critical race theory. A program urging white kids to feel guilty about systemic racism in America hadn’t even been heard in high schools and elementary schools until 2021 – and only then because it started appearing on national news; it is not found anywhere in state K-12 curricula; it remains a concept that millions of honest and dedicated educators deny teaching or even believe.

Anticipating that their followers would find no evidence of CRT in our schools, one would think that grassroots right-wing groups like Citizens Renewing America would advise their followers to look for the evidence in our drinking water. Instead, the group distributed a 34-page “toolkit” telling right-wing activists that they “don’t need any evidence that CRT is currently being taught in local schools to mount a campaign against she”. The guide further explains, “It is important to note that whether the CRT is currently in your school system is generally irrelevant.”

Following strategies suggested by their leaders, far-right provocateurs across the country have been disrupting school board meetings for the past two years, demonstrating against the CRT-concocted controversy and, while they’re at it, plunging our public schools in further chaos, demanding bans on provocative books, accurate history, academic freedom, public health measures, evolutionary science, sex education, mandatory vaccines – pretty much everything but Glock pistols, which they think teachers and administrators should keep in their briefcases with their papers and pencils.

In states like Florida and Texas, once sleepy, nonpartisan school board races have been turned into ideological battlegrounds by dozens of far-right extremist groups like Moms for Liberty, Christian Family Coalition, Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, etc. , and by right-wing demagogues like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who directly campaigns in at least 30 school board races, rallying fanatics to “put on the full armor of God” to wage a culture war, with our children public schools as cannon fodder.

Here in Nevada County, misguided leadership dominated our school board last year, as some board members – for ideological, not educational reasons – were in tune with the CRT protesters, performing in front of disruptive audiences and confusing and subverting the essential work of the school board. and the superintendent.

In this fall’s election, voters should look for school board candidates who are committed to taking on board responsibility in a nonpartisan way, working with our school districts and community to improve student achievement and fight teens. post-pandemic academic and emotional needs. Good school board candidates might actually swear to make board meetings boring again by working responsibly and diligently with the superintendent to enact and develop educational policies, ensure district compliance with standards and achievement levels. of the state, support our underserved students, and oversee budget and facility issues.

Beware of candidates who present themselves as champions of “parental choice” – a phrase that sounds appealing to mainstream voters but is a coded message to their base identifying candidates as cultural warriors, not educators; they are supporters seeking to get elected not to represent our entire community, but to champion a right-wing agenda that is contemptuous of the professionalism of our educators and destructive to our public school system.

Timothy May lives in Grass Valley and is a member of the Nevada County Board of Education.