Dr. Barke’s intellectually dishonest argument

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Dear Editor,

I have been following the opinion letters the past 2 months regarding the diversity elective course(s) to be offered by the Los Alamitos School District. There is considerable disinformation and propaganda being put forth and want to set the record straight: NO CRITICAL RACE THEORY COURSES ARE BEING TAUGHT in the UNITED STATES in K-12, nor are the Los Al administrators putting forth a CRT curriculum. (CRT originated as a law school field of study 40 years ago for examining systemic racism in a legal framework.) The term CRT has been weaponized by Fox News (after a conservative activist Chris Cofo made mention last year) with over 2,000 mentions over the past six months. The phrase “CRT” is ambiguous enough to launch unwarranted fears that any thoughtful examination of racial problems is “anti-American.” It is shameful that in an increasingly diverse country, with a history of slavery, etc, a group of mostly white parents are falsely trying to stigmatize any attempt at greater understanding of our country’s history.

Let’s examine some of the false rhetoric being put forth. The courses being considered by Los Al have been labeled “Marxist leaning” (what does that even mean?!) (Nancy Hitchcock, ENE 7-?-21), “anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-American” (Jeff Barke, Staci Muller ENE 7-14-21) and remarkably, twenty seven “West OC Republicans” signed their name to a letter calling the program “racist” (Karen Swenson, et al. ENE 5-19-21) There have been thousands of words written by these individuals and yet there have been ZERO EXAMPLES from the proposed textbook and literature even remotely being racist or “anti” anything. (I’ve perused the primary textbook ““A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki, a 27 year old seminal text about racism. I couldn’t find a single example of “racist or anti-American’’ rhetoric.) If there was anything actually racist in the proposed curriculum, wouldn’t one of these dozens of individuals have cited them from the course curriculum? Of course, but since the program has been thoughtfully curated, they are incapable of any such examples. Would Los Alamitos Supt. Andrew Pulver or Deputy Superintendent Reed risk their jobs or reputations promoting a program that “White People are bad and that America is a racist country” (Eleanor Howard ENE 6-23-21) Of course not. It takes the smallest amount of critical thinking to put a finer point on it: conservative parents are objecting to factual teachings of American history because they want their kids to think racism doesn’t exist.

Where is the fear-mongering (“so many people are leaving Rossmoor because of the critical race theory stuff.” Barke, Muller ENE 7-14-21) emanating from? Is it identity politics, have their brains been pickled by Fox News, or is it just a lack of an actual review of the proposed materials? My guess is a combination of the three, and yet whether they realize it or not, censoring a course about diversity is in itself a form of systemic racism. America can no longer indulge the white fantasy that racial issues are inconsequential and in an increasingly diverse country, with a complex history and most significantly, where a black man was murdered for 9 minutes on camera last year; we urgently need to prepare our future leaders (including police women/men) so they can meet the challenges that await them. Studies have shown that age appropriate discussions for young people leads to greater understanding and minimizes racism. Education won’t get rid of racism, but it’s a start.

This white grievance about a benign elective course for high school seniors is just the tip of the iceberg. Even more dangerous for our democracy is that the R. party is now willing to spread lies down to even school board issues. Let’s examine the two letters by Mr. Barke, who has been spearheading these untruths about the proposed curriculum. (Barke, by the way, ten years ago questioned (while a member of the school board) that global warming is actually occurring and that it is primarily caused by human activity. We are, of course, a degree or two in average temperature away from a global catastrophe and 99% of scientists agree that it is human generated ). Barke puts forth the intellectually dishonest argument that since he, and his white family (and friends) haven’t encountered racism, xenophobia, or sexism, he infers it either doesn’t exist or is inconsequential in Los Alamitos. Stunningly, Barke then has the audacity to hide behind Martin Luther King by claiming “parents are concerned about LAUSD stomping King’s call to be judged …by the content of their character…” This is false equivalency at best, and just a disturbing and untruthful co-opting of one of America’s greatest moral leaders for identity politics. Finally, Barke’s arrogance continues with the idea that students “have little wisdom or perspective” to be allowed to even comment or have opinions on educational curriculum (ENE 6-23-21).
Ironically, what gives me hope for the health of our democracy is that these students speak eloquently for the need for diversity studies in our community and are not afraid to be exposed to new ideas and the actual truth. They are fortunately much wiser and attuned to our contemporary problems than these much older white citizens.

Tom Moore

Dr. Barke’s intellectually dishonest argument