Architect of ‘critical race theory’ panic previews the next wave of attacks on public education


Transparency is to 2022 what critical race theory was to 2021. That’s the word from Christopher Rufo, the Republican boy wonder who whipped up the anti-CRT hysteria of the past year. Now that school board members have been threatened and harassed and multiple states have passed laws banning the teaching of basically anything that might make white Republicans uncomfortable, “transparency” is the new Rufo hotness.

My goal this year is for 10+ state legislatures to pass curriculum transparency bills, requiring public schools to make all teaching materials easily available to parents via internet,” Rufo tweeted late last week. “It’s time to get the political predators out of the shadows—and return power to families.”

The “political predators”? I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I’m guessing Fox News will fill us all in before long. Best guess: Rufo is seeing all the efforts to ban LGBTQ books from school libraries and is about to go big on homophobia in addition to the racism he’s been promoting. 

Rufo continued: “The strategy here is to use a non-threatening, liberal value—‘transparency’—to force ideological actors to undergo public scrutiny. It’s a rhetorically-advantageous position and, when enacted, will give parents a powerful check on bureaucratic power.” 

”The Left will expect that, after passing so-called ‘CRT bans’ last year, we will overplay our hand. By moving to curriculum transparency, we will deflate that argument and bait the Left into opposing ‘transparency,’ which will raise the question: what are they trying to hide?”

So here we have a guy who created one total nonsense attack on public schools and elevated it to a major national issue despite K-12 schools not actually teaching the theory in question and despite the real racist agenda of many of the people seizing on Rufo’s messaging being pretty much out in the open. (Rufo himself is totally happy to use racism, but his larger agenda is to destroy public education.)

We’ve already seen a number of instances of school systems pulling books off the shelves of school libraries because one or two parents objected to their precious darlings being exposed to content featuring LGBTQ characters and especially Black and brown LGBTQ characters. “Transparency” here could well mean the right to inspect each and every book in the library and demand that books you don’t like be removed—the right to determine not just what your own kids will read but what other people’s kids can read, too. In that there’s a direct line from Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign, which ended with an ad lamenting that, as governor, Terry McAuliffe wouldn’t sign a law allowing parents to veto their kids being assigned books like Toni Morrison’s classic Beloved.

“Transparency” could also mean the right to stalk and harass teachers until they can prove a negative: that they didn’t say something you object to. It could mean forcing teachers to come up with personalized curricula for each student whose parents object to a single book or to the teaching of a particular historical incident. It could mean whatever Republicans decide it should mean, but it’s guaranteed to boil down to an attack on teachers and schools.

It’s the same basic insistence on individual rights that has led to anti-vaxxers insisting that they should be able to dictate to doctors what treatments are offered for COVID-19, leading to absolute temper tantrums when doctors refuse to prescribe ivermectin or other disinformation-driven “treatments” people want this week. It’s also an outrageous hypocrisy coming from people who are trying to send public education funds to private schools that do not face the same transparency requirements as public schools. And it will generate a massive amount of work for school systems forced to implement whatever poorly designed (or designed to maximize damage) requirements are put on them by Republican lawmakers.

Rufo is telling us the plan, like the villain in a bad movie. That’s awfully generous of him, but unfortunately it rests on the pretty safe bet that when Republicans start pushing “transparency” bills, the media will report it as some kind of grassroots movement rather than the product of the elite Republican think tank world it comes out of. Democrats getting ready for 2022 should also be ready for a wave of this “transparency” messaging and have a strong set of answers locked down. Any Democrat getting caught unawares by “transparency” may deserve what they get—but the rest of us don’t.

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