Fighting To ‘Control the Content of Civic Education’
Carl Smith for Governing describes the ongoing debate surrounding critical race theory and the “scores of bills” that have been introduced to limit or censor the topics of race, gender, and civic life. Although many of the bills will not become law, he contends that the ripple effect of the intimidation created toward educators is severe. Civic education has not been included among priorities for education reform for decades, though Smith notes that the current dissension is about how “teachers address issues such as race and gender, [two] civic challenges at the center of real-world partisan disputes.”
As an example, House Bill 3979 in Texas would require teachers to cover topics such as white supremacy from “contending perspectives,” while also forbidding credit for out-of-class advocacy and internships, and limiting discussion of current events. It also mirrors an executive order from Trump that was developed from the idea that anti-racism has its roots in anti-American ideologies. As of now, there are more than 100 bills before legislatures in more than 30 states with restrictions on how teachers discuss “not just race, but gender, political philosophies, religion, and even science,” which may lead to “real-world misunderstanding.” Smith quotes Robert P. Jones, PRRI founder and CEO, who said bills such as these are “a complete red herring. …We have real problems to wrestle within our education systems and local governments, and this is not one of them.” PRRI’s 2021 American Values Survey found that 84% of Americans agree that teaching about the country’s history should include “both our best achievements and our worst mistakes as a country.”
Brownstein: Remaking the Civil Liberties Landscape
Ronald Brownstein for CNN recently reported on the unprecedented legislative and regulatory attempts “to restrict abortion, limit access to voting, ban books, retrench transgender rights and constrain teachers’ ability to discuss race, gender and sexual orientation.” Using statistics from a number of research organizations, he cites multiple areas in which these efforts have had an impact. For example, states last year approved a combined 108 abortion restrictions, the most in any year since the Roe v. Wade decision, while 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting (as well as 250 additional bills that have been introduced in 2022 or that were carried over from 2021). Brownstein writes that all of these issues are accumulating now due to “evidence of irreversible demographic and cultural change.” The evidence he notes includes the fact that children of color now constitute a majority of the nation’s under-18 population, one-fifth of Generation Z (as well as about 1 in 10 millennials) identifies as LGBTQ, and PRRI data from the 2020 Census of American Religion finding that white Christians now compose only a little more than two-fifths of the population.
Novavax Could Be a Loophole for Religious Vaccine Skeptics
Maryland biotech firm Novavax submitted an emergency use authorization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month for a COVID-19 vaccine free of human fetal cells, which may appeal to those who reject other vaccines, reports Jack Jenkins for Religion News Service. According to the PRRI-IFYC Religion and the Vaccine survey from December 2021, 10% of Americans say they believe getting a COVID-19 vaccine conflicts with their religious beliefs. Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said in November 2021, “In the U.S., the primary market I think in 2022 is going to be to supply a vaccine, our normal two-dose regimen, to a lot of people who have been hesitant to get other vaccines.” Indeed, several notable anti-vaccine activists have celebrated Novavax’s approach and seemed less aggressive towards the idea of inoculation. Jenkins highlights that both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued statements that it is acceptable for Catholics to receive Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Jenkins concludes by saying that the “marriage of anti-vaccine sentiment and opposition to vaccine mandates has emerged as a political force all its own,” and that it remains to be seen if it will be able to make a dent in vaccine refusals or the “fusion of Christian nationalism and anti-vaccine rhetoric.”