December 13, 2022

Steve Nuzum: Palmetto Promise’s Conspiracy Corkboard

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A South Carolina think tank has issued a “report” that connects every organization in sight to an indoctrination conspiracy in the state. It would be easier to dismiss if the head of the think tank weren’t the state’s newly elected superintendent of education. Teacher Steve Nuzum looks into the work.

This week, incoming Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver’s “think tank” dropped a crazy “dossier”. Or sometimes it’s “a report”— one without citations for most of its central and most outrageous claims. And sometimes it’s a “handbook”— one without much in the way of advice, except some version of support us and be mad at those teacher unions in NC and VA).

The document, and especially its accompanying graphics, are breathtakingly stupid. Aligning yourself with Aristotle on education policy— a philosopher who, on the one hand, explicitly called for public funding of education1 and, on the other hand, believed some human beings are physically and mentally designed to be slaves2— is quite a look for a pro-voucher think tank that doesn’t want people to think about “segregation academies” every time they hear “school choice”. Openly labeling “progressives” as “villains” is another. This thing was clearly cobbled together hastily by political hacks masquerading as scholars, in the vein of the 1776 Commission Report from the Trump Administration, and they clearly thought lots of colors and graphics would keep us dumb South Carolinians from thinking too hard about any of it.

Even a quick gloss over the “dossier” reveals claims that are unfounded and contrary to the general argument (privatization is good; Leftist woke indoctrinator teachers are “villains”). For example, the report claims that grassroots teacher advocacy group SC for Ed (I’m a board member) was primarily founded to oppose “schools of innovation” legislation. This seems to be a garbled reference to SC for Ed’s opposition to the education omnibus bill H. 3759, a legislative beast with a few good ideas glued to a lot of bad, often ALEC-drafted ideas. There is no citation provided, of course, because it isn’t true— I was there at the rally the “dossier” mentions, which was centered around many educational issues, and I was also there as a member of the group when the bill was just a twinkle in Jay Lucas’ eye. The omnibus bill, thankfully, did not pass, and the “schools of innovation” legislation that did pass, although not supported by SC for Ed, was certainly not some kind of major motivating factor for starting the group. The “dossier” goes on to use the “public-private partnership” Meeting Street Schools as its sole example of why the “schools of innovation” legislation was a good move. This is a weird rhetorical move during a week when, on “almost every criterion, Meeting Street Schools fell below both district and state performance,” according to Nick Reagan of WCSC.

But the thing is, it doesn’t need to make sense.

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