The L.A. Times’ Attack on a Volunteer County Board of Education
A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times editorial board published a scathing editorial criticizing the Orange County Board of Education (OCBE), two weeks after its special board meeting on ethnic studies and critical race theory (CRT). The editorial accused the OCBE and its invited experts of refusing to “teach truth,” harboring intentional biases, and illustrating “systemic and institutional racism,” while not denying the fact that public attendees of the event agreed with the experts.
This latest “cancel culture” screed showcases the shifting power dynamics in America’s current culture war, not between the left and the right, but from an elitist class of cultural bourgeoise and interest groups against the common man. In this case, the former commands 4,285 employees and $930.82 million in annual revenue. The latter is unapologetically represented by a realigned front of sympathetic local officials, concerned parents, community volunteers, and conscientious scholars outside the educational bureaucracy.
It is ironic that a top regional media corporation felt it necessary or fashionable to lambast a small local educational board consisting of five elected trustees and two staff members. More disturbingly, the L.A. Times editorial board even went as far as to disparage the parents and community members present for failing to toe the line of political correctness and support its favored narratives of CRT, systemic racism, and a particular brand of ethnic studies. The well-paid, race-obsessed editors wrote:
It’s disturbing enough when parents rise up against their children learning uncomfortable realities. It’s deeply problematic for legislators to turn this into a political opportunity by putting a chokehold on the truth. But it’s particularly troubling when a board of education assembles a panel to educate itself and the public about ethnic studies and stacks it with people who detest critical race theory.
What a deceitful smear!
Let me set the record straight, as the expert “detractor” who volunteered to replace a vocal proponent of CRT at the OCBE meeting. Volunteer board members and their community supporters spent two months assembling a diverse expert panel. Even with the last-minute withdrawal of Professor Theresa Montaño, who then held her own press conference to delegitimize her fellow panelists, the final ensemble had two Democrats, two independents (myself included), and one Republican. Each panelist holds an advanced degree in a social science discipline, and four are life-long educators. All panelists supported the teaching of history and ethnic studies in a constructive, unbiased, and unabridged manner. None gave even a slight indication that we should refrain from discussing racism. The onsite public reception of the expert forum was overwhelmingly positive. Orange County residents of all stripes came forth to voice their concerns regarding CRT’s proselytization in K-12 schools through “liberated ethnic studies,” “critical pedagogy,” “equity math,” and toxic identity politics.
Rather than misrepresenting CRT and making “statements about the current state of racism in America that were out of touch and sometimes downright false,” as claimed by the L.A. Times editorial board, the forum panelists rightfully spoke about the urgent need to rescue ethnic studies and public education from illiberal ideological hijacking by CRT.
The elitist crackdown on the common man’s revolt against CRT raises bigger, thornier questions.
First, who gets to participate in the public discourse on the latest and hottest educational and cultural trends? If ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary study of different ethnicities and cultures in the United States, wouldn’t multi-disciplinary scholars with rich experiences in classroom instruction, legal scholarship, policy advocacy, and social scientific research make important contributions to the discourse? Or should the discussions be reserved for insiders and “specialists”? More generally, do you need an advanced law degree with a concentration on CRT to inform the public on CRT, which is not being taught as a legal theory, but as a pedagogy infused into English, history, and even STEM classes at the K-12 level? It would be absurd to argue that one must be proficient in Marxism or the Communist Manifesto in order to become an efficient Red Guard in Mao’s China during the cultural revolution.
More importantly, what purposes does the American public education system serve? The constitutionally embedded principle of universal public education is inclusive to all and fosters a strong sense of community when practiced by local stakeholders to welcome children from different racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. Over time, the system has confronted institutional challenges of segregation, unequal access, and achievement gaps. Education reformers and policy makers took on these challenges through legal reasoning and constitutional neutrality in cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and in bills such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Individuals with Disability Act, and subsequent federal and state legislation. Whether a CRT-influenced education can assist in the larger pursuit of an educated citizenry for the betterment of our democracy is debatable at best. After all, the CRT propositions for a radical approach to public education unequivocally challenge traditions of liberalism and seek revolutionary changes to ensure so-called justice for the allegedly oppressed.
Speaking in practical terms, every American child, regardless of race, is arguably “oppressed,” compared with their international peers, by an underperforming system in which proficiencies in math, reading, and writing have consistently fallen behind other industrialized nations. It is only truthful, not “racist,” to assert that structural deficiencies disproportionately impact underprivileged students, many of whom are racial minorities, who will not be lifted up by reaffirming the myths of systemic racism and the dogma of anti-racism. Everyone loses.
Last but not least, what is the proper role of the press in American democracy? A free, pluralistic, and responsible press—a pillar of governance by consent—must serve as a watchdog for the people as reporters of facts. The Hutchins Commission, which investigated and informed the proper function of the media during World War II, listed five essential mandates for the press:
(F)irst, providing “a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events”; second, furnishing a forum for discussion of “all the important viewpoints and interests in the society”; third, offering a “representative picture” of society and its various groups; fourth, educating the public on “the ideals towards which the community should strive”; and fifth, making information available to everybody.
One should not fail to notice the growing consensus shown by public opinion polls, conducted by agencies across the political spectrum from Economist YouGov, to conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth, to the Democratic polling outfit Global Strategy Group, to the grassroots organization Parents Defending Education. This consensus is that the majority of Americans disagree with a worldview that filters everything through race and that traces all adverse outcomes in life to racism.
Has the L.A. Times, in its petulant defense of an elitist, race-centric ideology against public opinions and the pleadings of “the little man,” delivered?