Like the vast majority of submissions from outside the Daily Sun distribution area that make the cut for publication, Thursday’s letter from Anthony McManus of Dover reflected a left-of-center political talking point. This one expressed a sentiment that I share — specifically, dislike of laws prohibiting the teaching of “divisive concepts.”
Social media platforms now dominate the public forum, and dictate with increasingly brazen partisan purpose what users cannot say. Journalistic bias determines what stories will be covered or ignored in the news, and suggests what opinions should be applauded, or ridiculed. Amid this encroaching censorship, all government bodies should be fiercely protective of free speech.
Local Democratic legislators raised a hue and cry when the Republican majority slipped the “divisive concepts” ban into the New Hampshire budget, forcing the governor to either sign it or reject the budget. Naturally, those Democrats are silent about that now, since congressional Democrats began threatening to use a similar trick to establish pet policies under the guise of budget reconciliation. Still, I join Democrats in their opposition, but my main concern is the integrity of the First Amendment. They may be more anxious to leave our public schools and universities free to promote critical race theory, which they and Mr. McManus recognize as the target of the ban.
Despite regretting this new law, I share the apprehension that begat it. What is now called CRT fosters a veritably religious belief that American society and its institutions were designed with subtle but unmistakable racist intent. This doctrine contends that our nation was founded primarily to preserve white supremacy, and insists that our societal development has always furthered the insidious aim of oppressing minorities to enrich white people.
When racial grievance commandeered public attention last year, the liberal faithful began immersing themselves in the scripture of CRT, which has emerged gradually over several decades from the radical fringe of academia. During this Progressive enlightenment, disconnected fragments of that creed have occasionally appeared in letters and guest columns on these pages, presented as holy writ to prove systemic racism.
Not that there isn’t plenty of evidence of racial oppression in our history, or of the gender bias that the concept of “intersectionality” piles onto CRT. One needn’t go far into our past to find any of that — as those who study history seriously have long understood. The problem with CRT is that its evangelists present their allegations of systemic racism without historical context. In fact, the woke gospel is necessarily antagonistic to the ameliorating effects of context. Disguising the vast progress of the past half-century, for example, helps stimulate enough indignation to justify such undisguised political goals as reparations and reverse racial discrimination.
The 1619 Project in the New York Times helped set the stage for this ideological conversion. Nikole Hannah-Jones gathered a stable of activist journalists like herself, political activists, and other writers of radical perspective to craft a hostile history of the United States, which they did with a vengeance. Times bigwigs and staff lapped it up, of course, but Princeton historian James McPherson judged it “an unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out.” McPherson, whose liberal credentials are unimpeachable, is the dean of mid-19th-century American history: Hannah-Jones cavalierly dismissed him, along with all “old, white male historians.” There’s diversity and inclusion for you.
Public schools have shortchanged American history for so long that most students — and teachers — are unprepared to recognize such political science fiction. Twenty years ago, when my alma mater gave me an alumni achievement award, the schoolteacher who introduced me could neither pronounce nor identify “Appomattox” when she had to recite the title of my then-latest book. If her parents finished high school, I’m sure they would have recognized the name of the village where Lee surrendered to Grant.
The abbreviated high-school history that Mr. McManus remembered further illustrates this scholastic neglect. With students and teachers primed for uncritical reception of a distorted narrative, and CRT warmly defended by such teaching-industry journals as Education Week, the inculcation of a destructively divisive new American history seems inevitable. Then we’ll doubtless see Progressives proposing a ban on teaching contradictory interpretations, for the sake of “equity.”