June 25, 2023

Dion Lefler: Oklahoma’s disastrous war on ‘woke’ teachers offers valuable lesson for Kansas

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Oklahoma’s continues attacks on teachers has become bad enough that even their neighbors are noticing–and viewing them as a cautionary tale. This op-ed by Dion Lefler is from the Kansas City Star.

The epic disaster that’s befallen their school system as its leader battles a “woke mob” — created entirely from political opportunism and his own fevered imagination — offers a perfect don’t-let-this-happen-to-us example for Kansas as we contemplate our education future.

Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, is a far-right ideologue and a bully who’s opposed to public education in general and is wrecking the state’s school system from the inside out.

What can you say about a superintendent who tweets an image labeled “Student Safety Over Liberal Agenda,” featuring a teenage blonde white girl using a restroom sink while two girls of color lurk menacingly in the mirror?

Or one who publicly refers to teachers unions as “terrorist organizations” in legislative hearings?

“In our state, they’re pushing pornography in schools, they’re pushing this radical gender theory in our schools and they’re fighting school choice … I’m not gonna back down to this woke mob,” he said in an appearance on Fox News (where else?).

His weapons of choice are the Bible, which he wants to be taught in public schools as history, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and “Flamer,” LGBTQ-themed books that he demands be banned from the few Oklahoma high schools that ever had them on their library shelves.

After listing more of Walters’s exploits, Lefler reminds his readers of mistakes made in Kansas when Koch money started pushing vouchers.

In Kansas, the peril to public education was averted when enough rural state senators found the backbone to stand up to Koch’s minions and vote it down, because it would have threatened their schools without providing any viable alternative.

But I do agree with Ryan Walters on one thing, when he said Oklahoma schools have been failing students. Over decades, they’ve obviously failed to educate students on how to see through dictatorial demagogues like him, and avoid voting them into public office.

Fix that and the rest of the problem solves itself.

Read the full op-ed here


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