I regret to inform the liberal community that, once again, we have been owned. Oklahoma Superintendent of Education Ryan Walters put us all in our place when he responded to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who had posted a video of President Joe Biden condemning Republican book bans with the line, "Empty shelves don't help kids learn very much."
Oh ho! Walters has got you now, people who are not Republicans. He took to Twitter to prove that in fact Oklahoma does not have empty shelves!
"In Oklahoma the shelves are not empty. No porn, no indoctrination. We are fighting back to keep our classrooms from going woke. @Moms4Liberty," Walters tweeted.
A forensic study of the footage Oklahoma Supernintendo Walters shared shows that Oklahoma schools have six books. Six is more than zero. And the six books the Supernintendo used as examples of not indoctrinating Oklahoma students are, in order:
- “The Book of Virtues” and “America: The Last Best Hope,” both by Reagan administration secretary of education turned conservative syndicated radio host William J. Bennett. Bennett was a former senior editor of arch-right publication National Review, a "Washington Fellow" of the notorious far-right Claremont Institute, and a once-infamous high-stakes gambler who omitted "not losing over $8 million inside Las Vegas casinos" from the list of family "virtues" he was trying to promote.
- “Original Intent,” by David Barton. Barton is a notoriously sketchy amateur historian who, as actual historian Kevin Kruse notes in a tweet-reply, "actually had a book recalled by his publisher because it was filled with fake quotes." A Dinesh D'Souza-styled propagandist, Barton is notorious not just for that, but for chopping quotes in half in order to hide their true context, statistical chicanery, and other disinformation techniques. He has his own (long) writeup as an anti-LGBTQ "Extremist" from the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the most influential trackers of U.S. hate groups.
- “The U.S. Constitution and Other Writings,” by various authors. It's part of the Leather-bound Classics series and is "a collection of the crucial documents, speeches, and other writings that shaped the United States," according to the blurb. Historians have long warned against putting the actual writings of U.S. historical figures directly next to a David Barton book, lest some extremely bad Ark of the Covenant situation develops, but apparently the leather binding offers at least some protection.
- “The Federalist Papers,” by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. It's not immediately clear which publisher's version of the out-of-copyright texts Walters is using, but this one isn't leather bound.
- The Holy Bible. "Yet she multiplied her promiscuity, remembering the days of her youth, when she had prostituted herself in the land of Egypt and lusted after their lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of stallions." - Ezekiel 23:19-20. So the Superintendent of Education attempted to show off the books to be used in state classrooms, and by the sixth book he already failed his own "no porn" test. The book also promotes animal sacrifice, alcoholism, drunken incest, ritual murders, and necromancy.
So then, these are the books the Republican in charge of all education in the state of Oklahoma believes amount to "no indoctrination." Two books from an archconservative commentator famous for a gambling addiction, one from an SPLC-notorious faux-historian propagandist who rewrites history to assert that the United States was always meant to be a Christianity-first nation, a coffee table collection of assorted historical documents and letters, somebody's college edition of The Federalist Papers, and a teeny-text version of The Holy Bible.
Yes, nothing says "no indoctrination" like making The Holy Bible one-sixth of your entire classroom curriculum. Supernintendo Walters is a crackerjack understander of words, he is, and "indoctrination" is absolutely for sure one of the words he understands the most.
As for whether Walters really intended to suggest that these six books were all that existed in school libraries or all that needed to exist, that’s a question for him. Proving your libraries are not “empty” by posting not a photograph of an actual library, but a closeup of just six books you found somewhere in your general vicinity was clearly intended to be a flex of some sort that the rest of us don’t understand.
But Walters is a real piece of work, so it’s simply not possible for us to say with certainty that he doesn’t think these are the only six books Oklahoma libraries need. All evidence suggests his door may not be fully on its hinges, so to speak:
He's in charge of Oklahoma's education systems, everybody. Yup. This guy here. He's the guy in charge of what counts as "indoctrinating" your kids and what doesn't, and he says the Bible and three books by hard-right conservatives are the stuff that isn't indoctrination.
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Can we have fairer, more representative elections in the U.S.? Absolutely, says Deb Otis on this week's episode of "The Downballot." Otis, the director of research at FairVote, tells us about her organization's efforts to advocate for two major reforms—ranked-choice voting and proportional representation—and the prospects for both. RCV, which is growing in popularity, not only helps ensure candidates win with majorities but can lower the temperature by encouraging cross-endorsements. PR, meanwhile, would give voters a stronger voice, especially when they're a minority in a dark red or dark blue area.