AMAC Exclusive – By Claire Brighn
Over the past few weeks, Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have continued to face backlash from everyone from former President Donald Trump to media figures such as Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over their support for the “Civics Secures Democracy Act” (CSDA), a $6 billion bill that conservatives argue would create a de facto national curriculum dedicated to teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and “action civics” in every American classroom.
In a clear sign that some of this criticism is breaking through, last Thursday, Senator John Cornyn, a co-sponsor of the bill, lashed out at one Twitter user who blasted the legislation, calling the criticism “a lie.” But as facts continue to emerge about the CSDA, it is obvious that the legislation would indeed be a boon for teaching CRT in our nation’s classrooms while transforming American public education into a leftwing indoctrination system. Here are five reasons why Senator Cornyn – and any Republican who might consider supporting this bill – should promptly rethink their position.
1. Biden’s Department of Education Has Clearly Expressed That CRT is a Priority
On his first day in office, President Biden signed an Executive Order on “advancing racial equity,” which ordered every federal agency to pursue equity in “everything” they do. In his accompanying remarks, Biden specifically mentioned that “today’s generation of young Americans” are “forced to confront systemic racism and white supremacy,” repeating one of the central tenets of CRT.
Shortly thereafter, the Biden Department of Education attempted to introduce new “Proposed Priorities” for the awarding of federal grants for history and civics instruction which held up CRT and the widely discredited 1619 Project as tools for teaching U.S. history and civics. The blowback to the new priorities was severe and included a letter from Senator Mitch McConnell to Biden’s Education Secretary, which was co-signed by Senators Cornyn, Cassidy, and Inhofe. McConnell’s letter read in part: “Our nation’s youth do not need activist indoctrination that fixates solely on past flaws and splits our nation into divided camps. Taxpayer-supported programs should emphasize the shared civic virtues that bring us together, not push radical agendas that tear us apart.”
Senator McConnell and his co-signers condemned the proposed priorities as leading to “a politicized and divisive agenda” and called for the priorities to be withdrawn.
Biden’s Education Department eventually backtracked and deleted the explicit CRT infused language, but they had nonetheless revealed their true intentions.
Now, the CSDA would give those same Biden bureaucrats who wrote the CRT-infused priorities $6 billion in funds to distribute to schools and education programs. Based on their previous actions, it’s a sure bet that money from the bill would flow exclusively to organizations that align with the Biden administration’s far-left worldview and would be used as a means to force schools into teaching a leftist interpretation of American history and culture. In other words, if your local public school has not yet been teaching that America is a systematically racist country, it will only be a question of time if John Cornyn has his way.
It’s impossible to understand how any Republican who joined the McConnell letter in April 2021 can believe the Biden administration has changed its stripes in July 2022, is no longer focused on pushing “radical agendas that tear us apart,” and will not continue to push CRT on American schoolchildren if they get $6 billion in new funding to do so.
2. The Biden Administration is Aggressively Defending CRT Against Criticism by Parents
Federal funds have already quietly been used to push CRT under Department of Education “guidance.” The $1.9 trillion stimuli passed last year, for example, was used to push CRT on the states by tucking away requirements for “culturally responsive” assessments in plans to “address the impact of lost instructional time.”
3. iCivics – the Nonprofit Behind Cornyn’s Civics Bill – Has a History of Wokeness
The massive coalition behind the Civics Secures Democracy Act is led by a group called “iCivics” – a little-known nonprofit that has made its way into thousands of American classrooms. Although iCivics claims to be nonpartisan, it has a long track record of embracing woke ideology and CRT. In 2020, for example, iCivics published a white paper entitled “Equity in Civic Education,” arguing that equity – and not the timeless American principle of equality – should frame American history and civics instruction.
In Illinois, iCivics was a driving force behind the state’s adoption of new “culturally responsive teaching and learning standards,” which, as Stanley Kurtz put it, essentially forced teachers into becoming “de facto leftist community organizers.” By embracing a new version of “civics” that counts political protest – invariably for left-wing causes – for class credit, iCivics is actively working to turn students into an army of unthinking radical left culture warriors. Now, iCivics wants to take the Illinois model national with the CSDA.
4. Shawn Healy of iCivics is Absolutely Devoted to Forcing Leftism on Schools
One of the leaders behind the push to fully nationalize woke education is Shawn Healy, the iCivics policy director. Speaking about the takeover of Illinois civics education, Healy said back in July of 2020 that “we need to do this everywhere… people are out in the streets literally demanding change.” As if looking to rioters burning down America’s cities for affirmation wasn’t evidence enough of iCivics’s decidedly ideological mission, Healy then said that he wanted to “match” what was happening in the streets with an “inside game” to “dismantle structural racism” in America’s schools.
Healy has also said that part of his success is due to his “skin privilege.” When he gets away from the self-flagellation, he talks about how he applies it to his life’s work. “Young people’s civic development,” he said, “particularly through a lens of racial equity, is really critical to my day job.”
Perhaps even worse, Healy has explicitly defended Critical Race Theory inclusion in K-12 curriculum. In a webinar titled “Culturally Responsive Teaching To Promote Ant-Racist Classrooms,” Healy said part of “culturally responsive teaching” is “critical consciousness and I think that is where CRT and anti-racism come together. For me, it is so critical in a school setting to examine systems of white supremacy, and frankly, I don’t think this is too harsh in saying: our K-12 system is essentially designed for white, middle-class kids…” Healy even cites as an example the issue of “police violence” as something that can be discussed as early as middle school, perhaps even with elementary school students.
But now that the CSDA is facing severe criticism that it would push the very radical left ideological agenda that iCivics and Healy have openly supported, Healy breezily dismisses such concerns, saying that “the bias in our [iCivics’s] education is not ideological.” Rather, he continues, “the problem is that outside of a few pockets, civics education is not universally offered in a high-quality way.” To Healy, it would appear, openly embracing CRT and leftism is not “ideological” or “unbiased,” but rather constitutes “high-quality” civics education.
5. The Authors of the Bill are Trying to Sneak Their Radicalism Into Law With Benign-sounding Language
The Civics Secures Democracy Act was introduced for the first time in March 2021 as a joint effort between Democrat Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican John Cornyn of Texas. Immediately, several prominent conservative scholars co-signed an open letter calling on Congress to oppose the bill, pointing out how its grant structure would inevitably lead to left-wing activists infiltrating American schools and pushing Critical Race Theory and other left-wing ideologies under the dishonest framework of “civics” education. The bill failed to gain much steam and was quickly pushed aside.
The current version of the bill contains a number of supposed “fixes” – changes to the wording that seemed to eliminate references to progressive education theories like CRT. Ostensibly, this is the reason that Senators Inhofe and Cassidy have now joined Cornyn in backing the bill, evidence that it may indeed be gaining some bipartisan steam in the Senate.
However, as Stanley Kurtz, one of the leading conservative voices on education policy, has warned, the cosmetic fixes to the bill are only surface-level, and it would still amount to a $6 billion slush fund for left-wing activists. Despite benign-sounding references to “underserved” communities, the bill is really an invitation for “Biden educrats to award great sums of money to states willing to teach this politicized dogma under the guise of civics.”
Despite these mounting concerns, the three Republicans who have backed the bill have remained steadfast in their support for it. The question may thus now be which, if any, Republicans in the Senate will stand up to oppose it. Should none do so and this bill pass before the midterms, it would likely prove a devastating blow to both the integrity of America’s public education system and the millions of parents who have sacrificed so much to take back control of their children’s education.
Claire Brighn is the pen name of a conservative researcher and writer with previous domestic and foreign policy experience in the Executive Branch.
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