As we embark into 2023, the general American public—and the world at large, really—is still navigating how to live amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is true for the obvious folks, like those who work in hospitals and clinics, but also for, well, everyone. It’s true for bus drivers and janitors and servers. It’s really, really, really true for people who work with or around children, including teachers.
We’d hope at this point in the pandemic public school officials and administrators would have a handle on how to keep all involved safe. But thanks in no small part to Republican hysteria and the seemingly inherent desire to distract and misinform, conservatives in power are still stoking the flames of fear and ignorance instead of putting all hands on deck during a public health crisis.
One recent example comes to us from Oklahoma, where a state superintendent has ordered staff to investigate not one but two teachers he insists are “indoctrinating” students. And if that doesn’t feel like a conservative code word on its own, don’t worry—this guy ran on an anti-woke agenda just to make where he stands super, super clear.
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Ryan Walters, who serves as the Oklahoma state superintendent, shared his perspective in a video posted to Twitter.
"I have instructed my staff to immediately begin the processes to hold the two teachers accountable who actively violated state law, admitted to violating state law, to indoctrinate our kids," Walters states in the video.
"We will not allow the indoctrination of Oklahoma students here in the state of Oklahoma,” he continues. “And I, as the state superintendent and the Department of Education, will do everything within our power to not allow our kids to be indoctrinated by far-left radicals and to hold those accountable who have done so."
Who are the “far-left radicals?” He doesn’t say. Walters hasn't yet named the teachers or specified where or what they teach. Obviously, this is a relative good because it will hopefully save them from public shaming and possible threats and harassment, but the bigger picture issue is that he wants to investigate them at all.
Walters, by the way, has been the state superintendent for less than one month, but previously served as the secretary of the Education Department. Love to see that he’s barraging into his position of authority and power in order to “hold accountable” people who dare to have opinions and perspectives that somehow qualify as “radical left” in his mind.
But this also isn’t surprising given that he’s explicitly told news outlets his mission is to fight “woke” ideology in public schools. Like many of the folks spouting anti-critical race theory and anti-queer fearmongering, Walters frames this as an issue of parental rights or parental consent, but really it’s anti-intellectualism and hate.
"The message needs to be loud and clear to any far-left activists that they're not going to come into our classrooms and indoctrinate our kids,” Walters told local outlet FOX 25 in an interview. “The expectation for all teachers is to teach Oklahoma academic standards."
In speaking to local outlet KOCO 5 in an interview, Walters insisted he's been getting “messages, emails, everything from parents at every hour” about indoctrination concerns. "They continue to talk about examples of critical race theory in their schools. They continue to talk about this radical transgender education that’s been put in schools.” Shocking no one, he didn’t offer specific examples to the outlet.
Here’s that interview clip.
As reported over at EdWeek, the education department for the state of Oklahoma has actually already punished two school districts by reducing their accreditation because of reported violations of HB 1775, which essentially bars teachers from discussing racism and sexism in the classroom. This downgrade impacted one of the largest school districts in the state: Tulsa.
Democratic Rep. Mickey Dollens called out Walters in an interview with Fox 25, suggesting Walters has “imposter syndrome.” The Oklahoma City representative added: “He's afraid to tackle these real issues, and so he continues to go back to campaign mode."
That really does sum up the Republican Party: Campaign, campaign, campaign with no helpful action, empathy, or ability to dive into the issues that matter. The conservative game plan continues to distract, enrage, and scare people into voting against the collective good.