Most conservatives realize our cultural and educational institutions are in enemy hands. Public schools and universities fill our kids’ heads with radical anti-American nonsense. TV shows and movies shove woke ideology down the throats of ordinary Americans. It makes sense that conservatives would want to fight back against this.
Yet some conservatives (and many liberals) make the bad-faith argument that resistance to wokeness is, in fact, “cancel culture.” In order to prove you love free speech, you must allow the Left to maintain its total domination of our culture-forming institutions.
This argument was recently repeated by Acadia University lecturer Jeffrey Sachs for Arc Digital. Sachs details the many legislative proposals aimed at challenging left-wing ideology in education. West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are considering bills that effectively would ban anti-white lessons at schools and universities. A Georgia lawmaker wants his state’s public universities to show if they teach “white privilege” and other forms of anti-white propaganda. It’s implied that he would try to defund these schools if they do promote such ideas.
Meantime, Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Mississippi may ban all teaching derived from the “1619 Project.” Iowa is close to passing such a measure. Other state legislation would restrict the teaching of gender ideology and eliminate tenure.
Sachs claims it’s hypocritical for Republicans to advocate such measures. “One of the principal criticisms of today’s left-wing culture is that it suppresses unpopular speech,” he writes. “In response, these bills would make left-wing speech illegal. Conservatives (falsely) call universities ‘brainwashing factories’ and fret about the death of academic freedom. Their solution is to fire professors they don’t like.”
None of these bills make “left-wing speech” illegal. A professor can still espouse his personal views in his spare time. Leftist students still organize events on campus. These bills merely push back at taxpayer-funded indoctrination in the classroom. Nowhere in the Constitution do we find a mandate to teach middle-schoolers critical race theory at public expense.
Sachs connects these reasonable bills to the “assault on free speech” throughout the West. According to Sachs, the real censorship is carried out by the Right, not the Left. He complains of French President Emmanuel Macron’s crackdown on radical Islam. He frets that mainstream commentators now entertain “fringe” theories, like the idea that academics want to overthrow Western civilization. (Who could ever think that?) Sachs says we can only defeat this alleged threat to free speech through media censorship. He urges outlets to stop reporting on campus insanity and instead attack this legislation with all their might.
He concludes by telling conservatives they can’t legislate against this problem. “Instead of banishing speech they don’t like, they should try arguing with it. Instead of punishing faculty, they should try persuading them. And instead of telling students what to think, they should encourage them to think for themselves,” he writes. “Or does that advice only apply to the Left?”
Sachs’s conclusion is completely disingenuous. Conservatives argue with wokeness all the time. That doesn’t mean they should accept their tax dollars going to mandatory white-privilege training if professors aren’t persuaded by their arguments.
Besides, conservatives don’t have much freedom to argue on a college campus. A new study by academic Eric Kaufmann finds universities are hostile to non-leftists. It found that “roughly 1 in 3 conservative academics and graduate students has been disciplined or threatened with disciplinary action.” Seventy-five percent of conservative academics don’t feel comfortable sharing their views in public while nearly four in 10 centrists share this hesitation. Seven out of 10 conservative academics report they self-censor in their lesson plans, and things only look to get worse in the coming years as twice the number of young scholars support the dismissal of conservative professors.
Sachs also fails to acknowledge that these lesson plans aren’t just a professor sharing his opinions—they’re often mandatory and imposed from above, especially in primary education. For instance, Buffalo Public Schools, among others, now teaches its students that all white people are racist. This isn’t the opinion of one teacher sharing his hot take on Facebook; it’s an institution using your money to declare your kids racist, and forcing teachers to preach this whether they agree or not.
Sachs’s solution is to suggest the fourth-grader should politely debate the subject matter with his teacher. It’s not a serious proposal at all. It’s just more evidence that the Left doesn’t want to have a discussion. Instead, it wants to advance its own power without any meaningful challenges.
Right-leaning lawmakers are right to demand an end to these subversive practices. There is no other way to stop them than to use legislative power. Their constituents deserve a say in how their tax dollars are spent. It’s doubtful many of them want to fund lessons to teach their kids to hate themselves for being white.
Unfortunately, there are many like Sachs who feel using the proper powers of the state to crack down on leftist indoctrination is somehow wrong or out of bounds. A number of people on the Right (or faux-Right, anyway) made this point when Donald Trump announced his 1776 Commission to encourage patriotic education. In the critics’ opinion, the federal government cannot tell schools to inspire patriotism or counter the “1619 Project.” We can only support 100 percent objective education.
These are naïve sentiments that can only lead to certain defeat. The Right no longer has the luxury to meekly protest as the other side brainwashes our youth. There is nothing wrong in using state power for its intended purpose. Public schools exist to help produce knowledgeable citizens capable of self-government. Representatives can pick and choose what they fund. If schools want to keep their money, then they need to provide education that seeks to preserve free government, not indoctrination that works against it.