Sunday, April 27, 2008

AZ's SB 1108: Thought Control for the Homeland

Frankly, we should welcome this bill because it outlines the world that Pearce and Kavanagh, with the blessings of Uberchancellors Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Kyle, would have in store for us.

This analysis explains that what is not said is actually as important as what is said.

SB 1108 in effect defines non-white persons as de facto threats to national security; proposes an unelected, partisan, ideologically-driven Council of Censors to determine the content of Arizona public education curriculum from first grade through college or university; legislates replacing the liberal arts curriculum that made America great with pure, ideologically-driven far-Right indoctrination; encourages far-Right forces to disrupt public education with bogus "bias" lawsuits, defines nonconformists as agents of sedition and so subtly legitimizes the use of violence against non-white students and educators who are perceived to violate The Plan; proposes to use your tax dollars to force Arizona teachers to become indoctrinators, not educators; and establishes vague and unspecified punishment anybody who doesn't get in line.


Here is the text of SB 1108, a bill sponsored by AZ Republican state Rep. Russell Pearce and others to revise Sec. 41-4258, Arizona Revised Statutes, relating to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. As here, I’ve italicized key phrases for your reference when reading the comments that follow. Also, as you read the italicized passages, keep in mind their authors' implied objectives and the administrative infrastructure that would be required to implement this measure.

This is the bill to which I've referred sarcastically in a couple of previous posts. Now I'm taking a more serious look. First the bill, then my comments.

COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AMENDMENTS TO S.B. 1108

Section 1. Title 15, chapter 1, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding sections 15-107 and 15-108, to read: 15-107. Declaration of policy. The legislature finds and declares that:

1. A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship.

2. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of western civilization.

3. Public tax dollars should not be used to promote political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values as truth when such values are in conflict with the values of American citizenship and the teachings of western CIVILIZATION.

15-108. Denigration, disparagement or encouragement of dissent from values of American democracy and western civilization; prohibition; enforcement; prohibition of race-based organizations; definition:

A. A public school in this state shall not include within the program of instruction any courses, classes or school sponsored activities that promote, assert as truth or feature as an exclusive focus any political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values that denigrate, disparage or overtly ENCOURAGE dissent from the values of American democracy and western civilization, including democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious toleration.

B. This section does not prohibit the inclusion of diverse political, religious, ideological or CULTURAL beliefs or values if the course, CLASS or school sponsored activity as a whole does not denigrate, disparage or overtly ENCOURAGE dissent from the values of American democracy and western civilization.

C. On request of the superintendent of public instruction or the superintendent's designee, a public school shall promptly provide copies of curricula, course materials and course syllabi to the superintendent of public INSTRUCTION. The superintendent of public instruction, after providing appropriate notice and conducting an appropriate hearing, may withhold a proportionate share of state monies from any public school that violates subsection A. The superintendent of public instruction may take reasonable and APPROPRIATE regulatory actions to enforce this subsection. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to enlarge the authority of the superintendent of public instruction to regulate the CONTENT of curriculum in public schools.

D. A public school in this state, a university under the JURISDICTION of the arizona board of regents and a community college under the JURISDICTION of a community college DISTRICT in this state shall not allow organizations to operate on the CAMPUS of the school, UNIVERSITY or community college if the organization is based in whole or in part on race-based criteria.

E. For the purposes of this section, "public school" means any of the following:
1. A school district.
2. A school in a school district.
3. A charter school.
4. An accommodation school.
5. The arizona state schools for the deaf and the blind."


Pico's Comments

Frankly, we should welcome this bill because it outlines the world that Pearce and Kavanagh, with the blessings of Uberchancellors Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Kyle, would have in store for us.

This analysis shows that what is not said is actually as important as what is said.

SB 1108 in effect defines non-white persons as de facto threats to national security; proposes an unelected, partisan, ideologically-driven Council of Censors to determine the content of Arizona public education curriculum from first grade through college or university; legislates replacing the classic liberal arts curriculum that made America great with pure, ideologically-driven far-Right indoctrination; encourages far-Right forces to disrupt public education with bogus "bias" lawsuits at will; defines nonconformists and non-whites as agents of sedition and so subtly legitimizes the use of violence against students and educators who are perceived to violate The Plan; proposes to use your tax dollars to force Arizona teachers to become indoctrinators, not educators; and establishes vague and unspecified punishment for anybody who doesn't get in line.

Historically, in rightwing discourse, the word "race," unless modified by "white," is code for non-white races. Here, because the bill is attached to a state homeland security law instead of to a tax bill, say, or to a public school funding bill, we see plainly that its authors regard "race" as a national security issue: Non-white = threat to national security.

Militia types and other far-Right fascists always co-opt the American flag to symbolize their hate-based ideology. This is the statutory equivalent.(PS: Isn't it about time for us to be flying the American flag on our side of the street where it belongs?)

"A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship."
By definition, there's only one primary (first, leading, main, most important) purpose of anything. The proper article isn't "a," it's "the." So for Pearce (and Bush, and Cheney, and all the rest of the GOP), we see a very telling confusion about the meanings of "indoctrinate" and "educate."

I grant that one purpose of education is to socialize each generation with the norms of its culture. But education and socialization are not the same thing. If they were, we could scrap our entire school system and save gazillions. Our kids could be indoctrinated in a select few mantras by age 5 without ever leaving the house. Perhaps that's the plan.

Education, which also differs from training, is about critical thinking skills. These cannot be taught without exposing students broadly to conflicting ideas, good 'uns and bad 'uns, and debating them.

Measures like this actually imply that the US Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are too fragile to withstand alternatives. Oh. Er. Oops. Silly me. When they say "the values of American citizenship," I thought they meant LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. FREEDOM OF THOUGHT. FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. That kind of thing.

Clearly they have something else in mind, so let's ask them: What, precisely, are "the values of American citizenship and where are they found?" What, exactly, sets "American citizenship" apart from, say, "Canadian citizenship" if not the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights"?

This should be fascinating. If the anwer is anything other than our founding documents, the bill's backers will have to tell us what it is and when we ratified it. If the answer is our founding documents, they'll have to explain why they propose to nullify large chunks of our guaranteed freedoms.

This bill shows between its lines that people like Pearce in fact despise the founding documents and actually do propose to nullify large chunks of our guaranteed freedoms. As American neo-fascist racists, they have no alternative. America, by origin and law, is a classic liberal culture that, by design, is meant always to stand for liberty and justice for all. This is the meaning of American patriotism. But because that isn't good news for white supremacist American neo-fascists, these sacred founding principles really must be put squarely in their gun sights along with people of color.

In truth, small-minded people fear your liberty. If the last seven years under far-Right GOP rule haven't taught Americans that much, we really are on the verge of losing everything.

Public tax dollars should not be used to promote political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values as truth when such values are in conflict with the values of American citizenship and the teachings of western CIVILIZATION.
But according to this bill, they can and must be used to promote far-Right ideology and to fund an unelected Council of Censors to decide which is which. Well, isn't that special. Shades of the Spanish Inquisition. Such an irony!

All the obvious questions--So, we can't excoriate Enron? Which teachings of "Western civilization"? When does "Western civilization" begin? What cultures does it encompass? Is it English-speaking only? Who decides? Based on what qualifications, please?--all these are moot. This bill is "need to know." If the bill's sponsors know the answers, you don't need to know them.

Fortunately, the bill is so flagrantly unconstitutional that, at least for now, it can't stand. Meanwhile, a word to the wise is sufficient: The whole point is that it isn't merely unconstitutional. It's anti-constitutional.


The rest of the measure--the parts about what may be taught and who may assemble--don't just go to the heart of our constitutional liberties. Again, that's the point. These sections also subtly encourage nuisance lawsuits against courses and instructors perceived as violating far-Right ideological mandates.

We know that all across the country, rightwing financed interests have challenged specific courses and individual instructors as promoting a "liberal" bias when, in fact, they are actually teaching solid constitutional values. Here, Pearce et al. are providing the legal underpinnings for those interests to make war on traditional constitutional values in Arizona courts using your tax dollars. (Do you begin to see why Bush has seeded the US Court of Appeals with far-Right judges?)

Finally, SB 1108 encourages violence against non-white persons because it links "race" explicitly to national security, and defines "race-based" assemblies, multicultural content, and dissent as sedition.

Bottom line: For Pearce and the Uberchancellors--Bush, Cheney, Alito, Kyle, McCain, and the rest--the idea is that, for classic constitutional liberals and people of color, it's going to be a short walk from ASU or Rio Salado Community College to your friendly local detention center. For Pearce, McCain, Bush, and the rest, it's a win-win. After all, prison privatization is just a permanent employment plan and stream of cash for Republican cronies, and the state pays by the head.

That would be your head and mine.

Call your state legislator. Now.

PS: Grab an American flag and start showing Americans what "patriotism" really means.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I fully support section D. We need to move away from race as a criteria for anything.

Sorry, but the only people I can see who would have a problem with D are racists themselves. Just my opinion.

Pico said...

Thanks for the comment. And what's your name? Why anon?

Me, I think there's more to it than that--all due respect.

Let's assume that you mean that we need to focus more on what we all have in common. OK, I can see that we do need to come together around shared values like the Constitution and Bill of Rights--things that uniquely make us Americans.

But how does banning only formal campus organizations for membership based on race or ethnicity accomplish that? Explain, please.

Why not create other organizations for that purpose. We're all multifaceted. Just because I'm an Anglo I'm not automatically in Americans for the Bill of Rights, you know.

Since we know D will be applied selectively, we know it won't affect groups that are de facto all white, like certain fraternities or sororities. So we know its purpose is to ban organizations formed by people of color. I have a problem with that, but that doesn't make me a racist. It makes me egalitarian.

D assumes that such organizations are inherently bad. Why? What makes the African-American Business Students Union "bad"? Or the Hispanic Athletes Association? Americans form more associations than any country in the world. de Toqueville pointed that out in the best work on American culture 200 years ago. The 8000+ entries in the Directory of Associations haven;t made us any the weaker. Why the panic now?
Please explain. I myself do not feel threatened by the Latina Students Soccer League. Do you?

Naw, see, I think groups create strong social bonds. It's not their purposes that can be problematic. If they form around race to foment segregation, suspicion, hate, violence and sedition, then I have a problem for sure. If not, I don't. So if we're going to be making laws about campus groups, I think we'd be wiser to make laws that ban the KKK and the like. And organizations that hijack Christianity for the purpose of making the US a fundamentalist theocracy. That's sedition, treason. Outlawing those kinds of organizations at least aims the gun in the right direction -- that is, assuming that what you really want is a population more in touch with American values and true to the meaning of the Constitution.