Bender: The education deformer

Perhaps we could elect more leaders who would put citizens before personal ambition. Perhaps.

Tony Bender 2021.jpg
Tony Bender, North Dakota columnist

I see South Dakota Gov. Kristi Numb (dang autocorrect) has taken it upon herself to overhaul education in that state, which is like putting Stevie Wonder in the driver's seat at a NASCAR race. That wouldn't go over well for several reasons, the least of which is that Stevie has more teeth than the average crowd at Darlington.

The governor opposes teaching “critical race theory,” which has nothing to do with NASCAR, by the way. The Commie-liberal curriculum in question supposes that racism is ingrained in American institutions. Malarkey! Hooey! Claptrap! Surely members of the nine Indian reservations in South Dakota would agree with the governor that racism is not and never has been a problem. They're probably going to get the Black Hills back any day now if she doesn't burn the place down with bottle rockets before then.

Anyway, wasn't George Floyd just the victim of an overly aggressive hug? And if it even exists, if we ignore systemic racism, it will probably go away just like COVID-19 or the sores on Matt Gaetz's giblets.

Revising history seems to be at the heart of the governor's pledge to restore “honest, patriotic education” to promote “a profound love” for Republican America. I don't know about her grasp on history and I have justifiable concerns about her grasp on the present but when it comes to the future, she knows where she wants to go — straight to the White House, and that's what this posturing is all about, to see which candidate can out-redneck the others. Even now, the Gubernatorial Think Tank is weighing the pros and cons of having her take up chewing tobacco. More relatable, yes, but less kissable, if that's even possible.

It's too soon to pick a frontrunner to succeed Donald Trump, a man unjustly thwarted by witch hunts, bamboo ballots, and excessive minority voting, but Numb (autocorrect again) seems well-positioned as a prairie version of Nikki Haley, sans personality or active neural synapses.


Now, critics may accuse me of hating the Stepford Governor but hate is such a strong word. Let's call it objective disdain, because, unlike South Dakota's wannabe education deformer, I have a grasp of history, and while jingoistic reeducation has a cool, familiar Pol Pot sort of vibe, such endeavors eventually jump the rails like an oil train in Casselton. The next thing you know, tourists are chasing the vice president down the hall with a noose. And he's not even black.

I hate to drag logic into Republican politics but it's possible that students would be better served by learning critical thinking skills, objectively learning to analyze America's past and present, the good, the bad, and the racist. We could even bring back civics and teach critical news consumption. It's an outlandish theory, I know, but maybe if people dealt with real facts they might craft real solutions. Maybe.

America's grand democratic experiment has profoundly changed the world, often for better, sometimes for worse, but it seems plausible that we can both love it and improve it. Instead of painting over structural rot and pretending it doesn't exist, perhaps we could address America's spiritual infrastructure as well as roads and bridges. Perhaps we could elect more leaders who would put citizens before personal ambition.


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