David James

Years ago, my family and I visited New York and the Statue of Liberty. A truly magnificent monument and reminder of America’s founding. The 15-story statue was a gift from France in 1886 to symbolize freedom.

The base of Lady Liberty depicts chains that symbolize that true liberty can’t be achieved by enslaving others.  Republican Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress in 1916, but American women finally became legal to vote in 1920.

We enslave others by taking rights away from women over their bodies, by suppressing voters' equal access to vote, and by creating an educational system that doesn’t allow teachers to teach children to think critically. A hero of mine for many years, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, recently reminded me of the teaching philosophy we shared for over 40 years: present students with the facts, give them conflicting ideas, and then give them the skills and opportunity to determine the truth.

As an educator, critical thinking is the most valuable lesson for students. The inability to think logically is a form of bondage, and the refusal to think logically is proof of already being bound.

We handicap the rights of youth to learn by not supporting our public schools. Moms for Liberty and GOP politicians feel justified in changing curricula, banning books, and firing teachers because learning might make students feel guilty. Montana Republicans would prefer to award tax dollars to corporate-sponsored charter schools to educate youth to think in a ‘non-woke way’.

In effect, brainwashed.

It is important to define what they mean by ‘woke’ lessons. Does this mean lessons about the horrors of slavery or the causes and results of the Holocaust? Studies reveal that guilt is a ‘Surprising Emotion That Can Make You A Better Person”. Feeling guilty can develop empathy, which leads to less conflict and animosity. How is this a bad thing?

Republicans say parents are unhappy with public schools. Polls disagree. The GOP attacks on public education contradict the fact that most parents in the United States are satisfied with their children’s education. There is a crisis of American democracy, partly caused by attacks on public school teachers. History and critical thinking are a threat to MAGA brainwashing. Do students become critical thinkers? I hope so.

Most educators agree. When students or anyone encounters propaganda and lies that lead to a distorted view of American history, ignorance is the result. A free people must be capable of thinking critically to be truly free. It is the basis of my lessons over 40 years. It is the foundation of Lady Liberty. As Kareem states, think about ‘as you read today’s articles about attempts to lie, distort, and manipulate; how would Lady Liberty respond?