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Education and Political Interference in the Death of Democracy

By Dr Stewart Hase

In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book Farenheit 451, Captain Beatty states that, ‘A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it, take the shot from the weapon. Breach one man’s mind. Who knows what might be the target of the well-read man’. In this dystopian novel, Beatty is justifying the burning of books.

While Farenheit is a novel, there is a long history of book burning going back centuries.

The burning of books is intended to control knowledge, to prevent free thinking, to make sure everyone thinks the same and an affront to liberalism. Book burning is a political issue, and similarly, the 21st century equivalent is Internet Censorship, which, in a political context, has became a hot topic since the propagation of mistruths became so visible during the Trump Presidency.

There are myriad reasons politicians want to interfere with the distribution of knowledge, not least of which is to avoid scrutiny. But, the most frightening, as highlighted in Farenheit 451 and Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, is the need for complete control of ideology-what we think.

Texas has become the latest State to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools, joining several others that have banned it or thinking of doing so. While Critical Race Theory was conceptualised over 40 years ago it has become a target for politicians as racial tensions have grown, arguably since the murder of George Floyd, and continue to be at flash point across America. Some states have also banned Project 1619 from being taught in schools becoming another target of revisionist conservatives.

There is little doubt that both Critical Race Theory and Project 1619 are ‘in your face’ accounts of the history of slavery and racism in the United States that started with the first slave ship arriving on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Critical Race Theory describes the social construction of racism and how it’s relationship to power, civil rights, advantage and disadvantage. What gets conservatives jumpy is that at the heart of Critical Race Theory is its attack on white supremacism. Critical Theory, in general, is a scholarly approach to research, well understood and accepted in universities around the world. It is less liked by the institutions and ideologies that are scrutinised by it because Critical Theory attempts to unearth who are the beneficiaries of the actions of others, and the institutions in which they reside, who are the disadvantaged and what are the real social, political and economic effects. Institutions are not great fans of Critical Theory because it investigates truth to power.

We should be very concerned about political interference of this type when it comes to school curricula. It is a blatant attempt by conservatives to control what people think and, if not to exactly revise history, to control and suppress it. Along with the events at Capitol Hill, the normalisation of lie telling in the media, legislation to suppress the vote, and divisiveness of American politics, and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, we should be concerned with the threat to democracy. We may be observing the death of another republic.

And we should be concerned, as well as watchful, here in Australia about the control of knowledge and information. There is a slow but steady shift to the right in democracies across the globe. This shift reflects people’s propensity to seek simple solutions to complex problems that populist right-wing politics provides, underpinned by authoritarianism-tell us what to do. Simple explanations such as, it ‘their fault’ (xenophobia and racism) make it easy for the masses to shift responsibility and to stop being curious as we are fed misinformation that helps us explain our world. We are not immune from this in Australia. It simmers just below the surface.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    Fahrenheit 451. Sorry don’t want to detract from the importance of this post.

  2. Roswell

    All fixed.

  3. Andrew J. Smith

    CRT is simply another tangent of assault on (higher) education research, science, educated and empowered citizens; threats to the present and future status quo of power.

  4. wam

    For some people it has been in school education since the first boat people.
    The parents, stolen generation, of some of my pupils were from the kahlin compound. Their school education was limited to grade 3. A level that was set for domestic service. At the end of 2021 year 12 students will get a certificate. Any guesses as to the lowest education standard? You are right grade three writing standard but it can be negotiated less. Isn’t much incentive if after 12 years a student can stand still once they have reached grade 3 and get the NTCET.

  5. Maggie

    The Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training (NTCET) is the credential awarded to High School students who successfully complete senior high school level studies in the Northern Territory, Australia

    A well educated articulate citizen too hard to scam, exploit & manipulate.

    Decades of a Global Pyramid Economic Racket Democratic Representative Governance an illusion.

  6. Terence Mills

    Once again Sky News has been forced to apologise, in this case to Bob Brown, after broadcasting false claims that the former Greens leader and his foundation supported “dangerous activists causing harm” during anti-logging protests.

    Earlier this year, Sky’s Peta Credlin (the same person who was awarded an AO on the Queen’s Birthday Honours) was forced to apologise on air to former prime minister Kevin Rudd after claiming his petition calling for a royal commission into the Murdoch media was a “data harvesting exercise”.

    Sky star performer and conspiracy theorist, Alan Jones was also forced this year to publish a correction to a 2020 editorial railing against Covid restrictions in Victoria, following a watchdog ruling that he had “misrepresented the research” on the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns.

    This is the television broadcaster owned by by Rupert Murdoch that was previously only available on pay TV but now is encroaching on free to air in regional areas : not a healthy situation, folks.

  7. wam

    dear maggie, Any certificate that allows a recipient to reach grade 3 level after year 12 not only doesn’t achieve your list but allows the system to abrogate their obligations by making this certificate range from grade 3 standard to matriculants. The nt education system hides behind such trickery. But my point was that for Aborigines grade 3 has been the expectation of education, to my personal knowledge, since kahlin, the stolen generation, and the system in 2021 still reflects that same manifestly racist view of Aboriginal intelligence and a deliberate exclusion of accepting that ‘we can learn from them’. The interpretation of bi-lingual education as being white mono-lingual teachers and Aboriginal teachers and students with english and two or three Aboriginal languages sets the systemic view that whites teach not learn and how racist is that view? A view that will not change till the NT education system recognises that, as some white educators have, it can learn from Aboriginal language and culture. ps Cuckoo it is scary my ex=student friends are in the thrall of septic bible bashers on predawn tv and share stuff that makes my blood pressure pound to have them soon sharing jones, credlin and sky views will mean some sad but necessary to health ‘unfriending’.

  8. Josephus

    China kidnaps and harms dissidents while we try whistleblowers in secret. Capitalism means freedom for money-making not for thought . China is communist in name but is a fascist dystopian regime viz the 1989 uprising didn’t happen: liebknecht and Luxembourg would turn in their murdered graves. Poor Hong Kong.
    I fear that our criticisms of China merely attract counter criticisms which are certainly justified.

  9. Joe Carli

    “. . . the hunger for affluence reaching from the upper echelons of that class down to the lowliest citizen of the richest nations of The West so that even the most wretched of these will defend a creed that they are certain..given their own tragic and pathetic vision of a life of gauche, squalid luxury on the back of borrowed capital and mortgaged youth to a old age of being literally consumed, body and soul by the last line of capitalism gone mad..; the aged-care homes of even more desperate middle-class speculators and parasites…A no more wretched picture of a society gone wrong could be drawn from the pages of a Victor Hugo novel to be placed at our feet for us to peruse at our own indolent leisure.”

    The Insanity Syndrome.

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