Missouri lawmakers, cancel culture warriors against critical race theory

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Missouri lawmakers plan to hold a meeting on Monday to “hear invited testimony regarding Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project,” according to a notice posted by the legislature’s Joint Education Committee.

Perhaps you’d like to give the group your thoughts on the subject? Too bad.

“No opportunity will be provided for public testimony,” the posting says. Written testimony can be submitted, but “only individuals or organizations testifying in person will be entered into the committee minutes.” Oh.

The list of invited guests won’t be made available until Monday, but we can guess where this is going. In May, state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin — the committee’s chair — asked Gov. Mike Parson for a special session to “prevent or curtail” the teaching of critical race theory, which she called “divisive and unnecessary.”

So the hearing is a political charade. The committee’s leadership has no interest at all in understanding how American history is actually taught in Missouri, or how it should be taught, or how students should learn the full story of their state, and country.

Which is cancel culture at its finest.

“Public hearing testimony should be open to all of the public, not just an elite set of invited guests,” said state Rep. Ingrid Burnett of Kansas City, a Democrat and a member of the committee conducting the hearing.

“Not including written statements in the record just creates the suspicion of censorship and an infringement of free speech,” she said. Burnett plans to attend the session.

The teaching of critical race theory is the current target of right-wing rage in Missouri, as readers know. Never mind the lack of evidence that anyone is teaching it, or that critics even know what it is.

But there is political mileage in exploiting fear, and Republicans in the legislature mean to exploit it.

State Sen. Lauren Arthur, another Kansas City Democrat, will attend the hearing, reluctantly. “I wish the legislature would … focus on real issues facing our state rather than culture war controversies manufactured by conservative media,” she told us in an email.

We wish that, too. Sadly, though, Missourians must pay attention, because the critical race theory wrestling match is starting to cause real harm in the state.

Parents in the Rockwood School District near St. Louis have battled over diversity and inclusion in their schools’ curriculum for more than a year, drawing national attention. The Columbia Public Schools are trying to figure it out. The school board in Jefferson City has put CRT under the microscope.

Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon, and more than 60 of his legislative colleagues, want Parson to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory by bypassing lawmakers and issuing an executive order. As long as we’re bleaching American history, it seems, we might as well discard representative government as well.

We have said that Missouri should not censor the 1619 Project, which won a Pulitzer Prize, or prohibit real teaching about race. We’ve also said students should hear good-faith criticism of the series, and the theory, so they can make up their own minds. All voices should be heard.

That, of course, is exactly the opposite of what the Missouri Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has in mind for Monday.

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