Kansas City Star. May 24, 2021.
Editorial: Derek Schmidt and Eric Schmitt want to cancel ‘critical race theory,’ aka ‘history’
Last week, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Missouri AG Eric Schmitt, both of whom are running for bigger jobs, signed a letter blasting the Biden administration’s attempt to “subsidize the teaching of critical race theory in the nation’s classrooms.”
Aspects of critical race theory, which has been around for 40-plus years, have been taught for decades. So what is it, anyway?
It’s an umbrella term for the study of American history and institutions though a lens that does not see slavery as a contained episode that ended a long time ago, but as a system with tentacles that influence law, the economy and culture to this day.
It looks at outcomes, rather than hearts and minds, and sees racism not only as the result of the bias of any individual or group, but also as something embedded in our legal and other systems.
You don’t have to have ever heard of critical race theory to know that slavery was a cancer that did metastasize. Or that we’re still trying to blast it into remission, or ought to be. Can you look at our criminal justice system and honestly say it works the same way no matter who you are?
Last fall, then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order that barred federal contracts from funding any diversity and inclusion training containing “divisive concepts,” “race or sex stereotyping” and “race or sex scapegoating.” And one of the “divisive concepts” Trump banned — canceled, to use one of his favorite words — was critical race theory.
Only, it’s not a curriculum designed to make white people feel guilty or to negate all positive aspects of U.S. history. Instead, it’s based on the premise that correcting the mistakes of past and the present involves acknowledging and learning from them.
Can you really look at our enduring racial inequities and tensions and not see that we could all benefit from that?
Derek Schmidt, a Republican running for governor in Kansas, and Eric Schmitt, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that will be left open by retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, were among the 20 Republican attorneys general from across the country who signed the letter.
It decries Biden’s “thinly veiled attempt at bringing into our states’ classrooms the deeply flawed and controversial teachings of Critical Race Theory. … Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) is an ideological construct that analyzes and interprets American history and government primarily through the narrow prism of race.”
The letter said that the Department of Education should make it clear that it will not fund projects that promote critical race theory or any projects that “characterize the United States as irredeemably racist or founded on principles of racism (as opposed to principles of equality) or that purport to ascribe character traits, values, privileges, status, or beliefs, or that assign fault, blame, or bias, to a particular race or to an individual because of his or her race.”
But again, this mischaracterizes what critical race theory is and does. If the concept held that the country was irredeemably racist, there would be no point in working to eradicate the racial problems passed down from generation to generation.
It’s “not un-American,” said Yin Lam Lee-Johnson, associate professor of Webster University’s Department of Education. “It does not dehumanize white people, nor does it say all white people are racists.”
To ban the teaching of how slavery led to Jim Crow laws and inequitable outcomes in the criminal justice system and limited educational and vocational opportunities in this country to this day is to ban not only history itself, but common sense.
This letter is pure political theater, like so much else that Schmidt and Schmitt do. It’s also an affront to free speech and academic inquiry.
These officials insist on making critical race theory into the boogeyman that it isn’t. But because they refuse to learn from history doesn’t mean students should be denied that chance.
Topeka Capital-Journal. May 21, 2021.
Editorial: Topeka is heading in the right direction on affordable housing trust fund. Here’s what the city needs to do next.
Affordable housing is critical, period.
Topekans need quality places to live that don’t cost an arm and a leg. And they deserve a city that helps make that happen.
That’s why it was a great idea late last year when an affordable housing trust fund was included in the city’s housing study implementation plan That’s why it was a great idea that the Topeka City Council last week “unanimously approved $250,000 for its Affordable Housing Trust Fund, making it the first substantial investment in the fund,” in the words of The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Blaise Mesa.
But let’s be honest here. Given what’s happening with real estate prices throughout the country, perhaps we should build up that fund a bit higher before beginning disbursements.
In its Nehemiah Action meeting last month, the Topeka Justice Unity & Ministry Project and city officials talked about the need for affordable housing. Importantly, they also discussed how to fund it. There was agreement that the trust fund not only needs more money, but a steady and reliable stream of the same.
Money will be coming to the city through the national American Rescue Plan act, but officials aren’t certain about restrictions on its use.
Allow us to make a couple of suggestions.
First, a truly robust trust fund would generate pay for affordable housing through interest alone. That would likely require a broad buy-in from the community and businesses across Topeka. But it would also position the program for long-term success.
Second, if those funds can’t be raised up front, it’s important that the city at least receive commitments for regular funding. Perhaps members of JUMP could contribute something to get the private investments started. The point is, Topeka shouldn’t be in the position to help a small number of people one year and then not be able to follow up.
Third, we need innovation.
The real estate landscape, as noted above, looks challenging for everyone these days. That includes folks with real resources, who are struggling to land homes in a white-hot market.
That means that city officials and activists may need to look outside conventional options. Think tiny houses, rezoning or allowing denser development in places, and rehabbing buildings. Topeka will need all of the above to meet the demand.
We’re sure that folks know and understand this. The addition of these funds was an important move by the city, and we commend it wholeheartedly. But it’s just a first step.
Manhattan Mercury. May 24, 2021.
Editorial: A salute to President Myers
Richard Myers’ tenure as president of Kansas State University wasn’t long, by the standards of that job. But it was certainly eventful, and we in Manhattan are fortunate that he was able to steer the university through those events toward a brighter future.
President Myers took over the university as its 14th president in 2016, after retiring from a stellar career in the military. He announced Monday that he’s retiring, effective at the end of calendar year 2021.
Just as his tenure as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took a dramatic turn with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, his tenure at K-State became tangled up with at least three major challenges that he couldn’t have foreseen:
• First, rising racial tensions. Several incidents became perceived as race-related, despite the fact that they really weren’t. But at least one student used them, and pushed the limits of free speech, in order to provoke reactions, and that led to protests.
Myers and other university leaders responded with the right tone, and took substantive action, while still supporting free speech. It was a difficult moment, handled with relative grace.
• Second, a viral pandemic. The coronavirus forced the university to figure out how to do its business online, and also forced dramatic budget cuts. How that will all be sorted out remains to be seen, but we have to give President Myers and his people credit for navigating through it.
• Third, substantial leadership changes in the staff. The highest-profile shift was the retirement of Bill Snyder as the football coach, a moment that was likewise fraught with peril. But Myers also had to hire a new athletics director when John Currie left, and had to replace the legendary Pat Bosco when he retired. He had to hire a new provost, the university’s top academic officer.
Those positions are all filled with excellent people, and the university appears well-positioned for years to come.
There are, meanwhile, challenges that remain. Chief among them is the continued slide in enrollment, a problem that bedevils many universities but has been worse than usual here. President Myers didn’t create that problem, and certainly tried to address it, but it’s still an issue.
Whoever ends up replacing Myers — the person selected by the state Board of Regents as the next president — will have to confront that as a top priority.
But that person will also find an excellent university in far better shape than it might have been, if not for the leadership through difficult moments by Richard Myers.
As befits a former military leader, we offer our salute. A job well-done, sir.