Our July school board meeting opens, as it always does, with a Christian prayer. The room is mostly full, about 50 people. On tonight’s agenda: Critical Race Theory.
First to speak is Katie Howard, a prominent local Republican. “I am not here to accuse Anderson County of teaching CRT as part of a formal curriculum,” she says in opening, “but I am here to warn the school board to be on the look out for this evil that is creeping further and further into our society.” For the next six minutes she talks about victimhood, oppression, and indoctrination.
As she speaks, I pull up Ms. Howard’s Facebook page. Her public profile photo is an American flag inside a green circle that reads: I don’t care if you’ve had your vaccine.
Ms. Howard is describing how children as young as kindergarten are being told to rank themselves according to power and privilege, that White kids are being forced to apologize to kids of color. “The cat is now out of the bag!” she declares, saying that when teachers choose to interpret history, they are crossing the line into indoctrination.
The last school board meeting I attended was pre-pandemic. We were there to debate a banner at the high school football game that read, “Make America Great Again, Trump Those Patriots.” Afterward, I received a message from my niece, a high school vice principal in a neighboring state, saying she was less concerned about the inappropriate political banner than the prayer. “The school board starts every meeting with a prayer?!?! A lawsuit is the last place you want funds going for something that can be so easily rectified. And obviously they don’t see how that alone could prevent citizens with different beliefs, opinions, faith, culture, etc. from speaking their concerns.”
Next up tonight is Matthew Singleton. “I work as a pastor,” he says. “Five years ago I was ministering to youth, and I was ministering to a young man, and he had gotten from his public school education the ideas that the big bang theory and evolution had him … not believing in God, and there was a lot of turmoil in the church because he was dealing with his grandparents and a lot of family issues.”
The next man introduces himself as Frank Simon. “I’m a medical doctor,” he says. “I want to talk about CRT, critical race theory, though of course it has a hundred other names because they want to cover up the original names and call it something else, but it’s still critical race theory. It’s a theory that was started by Black Lives Matter, it’s a communist theory, and it’s to cause division and confusion and I am against that.”
Listening to these people speak complete nonsense, I consider the nonsensical leadership of Sen. Rand Paul who tweets things like, “Critical race theory. . . is the definition of reverse racism,” forcing small counties like mine to waste precious school board hours demanding that something not being taught in our schools is not taught in our schools.
Behind me, a man named Marty Terry stands to speak. “Critical race theory is nothing more than Marxism,” he says. “I think it’s equity, inclusion, and diversity is what they’re calling it now, so people look up and they’re like ‘critical race theory’ is not in there. It’s remade, it’s repackaged, but it’s the same old crap.”
And as the CRT conspiracy theory portion of this meeting comes to a close, the board’s vice chair, Peggy Peach, adds her two cents. “I would just like to say that I would like to see patriotic education taught.”
The room explodes with applause.
Ms. Peach has four flags on display next to her name plate: an American flag, the Commonwealth of Kentucky flag, a yellow Don’t Tread On Me flag, and a mostly-white flag I do not recognize.
A friend whispers, “I think that’s a Christian Nationalist flag.”
Of course it is.
These people are not panicked about CRT. They are, like so many of those arguing at school boards across Kentucky and the country, panicked that their own brand of indoctrination — White, revisionist, Christian — isn’t on the curriculum.
And since our superintendent has decided to start the school year on August 11 with no masks — in a low-vaccinated county, against both the CDC’s and the Governor’s recommendations — our school board can add science right under history on its growing list of irrelevant subjects. Willful ignorance gets an A+.