Don’t “Decolonize” the Classroom

COMMENTARY Education

Don’t “Decolonize” the Classroom

Oct 16, 2023 3 min read

Commentary By

Max Eden @maxeden99

Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Jay P. Greene, Ph.D. @jaypgreene

Senior Research Fellow, Center for Education Policy

Why would Harvard’s president risk losing her job for opposing a statement that Israel was to blame for the atrocity inflicted upon its civilian population? Celal Gunes / Anadolu / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

This is your moral brain on critical race theory. Approve calling people losers for feeling squeamish about beheading babies, then call them racist.

From the perspective of those chanting “decolonization,” a little genocide is just the price of restoring control of territory to its indigenous people.

America has seen a raging “culture war” as proponents of this culture insist on passing it down to—dare we say “colonizing?”—K-12 education.

Since the summer of George Floyd, education organizations, from the National Council of Teachers of English to the National Education Association, have promoted the concept of “decolonizing” education. Unlike other leftist buzzwords flying around in education policy debates, this one has received insufficient attention. Perhaps the reaction to Hamas’s recent atrocities can provide a teachable moment.

As news emerged of slaughtered concertgoers, raped women, and beheaded babies, a viral tweet by Najma Sharif took aim at those on the Left who felt squeamish: “What did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? losers.” This tweet garnered over 100,000 likes, including one by Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah. When called out for this, Attiah declared: “Seeing a strong backlash against black/African people, especially black/African women, speaking of oppression, liberation in any way.”

>>> Chief Diversity Officers Harm the Students They Say They Help

This is your moral brain on critical race theory. Approve calling people losers for feeling squeamish about beheading babies, then call them racist when they object to your sentiment. Decolonization may have sounded like just another benign buzzword when national education organizations were pushing it into our schools, but trendy terms often mask evil goals. Of the many pro-Hamas student statements issued in recent days, one from the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter of George Mason University, the university with the highest DEI per faculty in America, was admirably clear on this point:

As university students, it is crucial to have a genuine understanding of the true nature of decolonization. Decolonization is not just a term studied within the confines of a classroom, and it is not just a term analyzed through political theory and social literature. Rather, it is a term that entails resistance in the face of a colonizer. Decolonization entails the struggle for liberation of a colonized people from the grasp of their colonizers. This struggle for the much-sought-after liberation from the colonizer is not meant to be metaphysical—but material.

The students then called for a free Palestine “from the river to the sea,” which would involve the genocide of the Jewish people. From the perspective of those chanting “decolonization,” a little genocide here or there is just the price of restoring control of territory to its indigenous people. Leaving aside how illegitimate it is to cast Israel as a colonizer when the Jews preceded the Arabs and could be considered the true indigenous people, this “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet” kind of morality is what teaching decolonization to our children produces.

When schools talk about decolonization, they almost certainly do not explicitly advocate genocide. But they are promoting a political worldview in which it’s morally unacceptable to directly condemn the rape of women and murder of babies—if they are “colonizers.” Shortly after 35 Harvard student organizations put out a statement placing 100% of the blame for Hamas’s atrocities on Israel, liberal Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan tweeted: “The President of Harvard may lose her job for standing against this statement, but the world is looking to her now.”

Pause for a moment on that. Why would Harvard’s president risk losing her job for opposing a statement that Israel was to blame for the atrocity inflicted upon its civilian population? You should know why: Because she might be accused of racism if she opposed anything, including atrocities, done in the name of decolonization. Our moral compass has been broken so that all crimes can be absolved except for racism and the alleged colonialism that perpetuates racism.

>>> Education Around the Country Looks Different This School Year. Here’s What Parents Need to Know.

Harvard President Claudine Gay did not, in fact, put her job at risk by opposing the statement issued by 31 student organizations. Rather, she put out her own statement decrying violence in general terms. By doing so, she avoided running afoul of decolonization and being accused of racism while still trying to hold the high moral ground that violence is bad.

It is quite natural to condemn indiscriminate slaughter, rape, and infanticide. It is quite unnatural to be unwilling to do so. But for some, it’s even more unnatural to violate the taboo values of your community. And in some quarters of academia, deep race-hatred and antisemitism are dressed up as “critical race theory” and “decolonization.” Oppose it, and some young budding Karen Attiah-type will call you racist.

That’s campus culture. For the past four years, America has seen a raging “culture war” as proponents of this culture insist on passing it down to—dare we say “colonizing?”—K-12 education. Parents who have resisted have been called racists or even terrorists. Watch carefully over the coming days as education organizations and school districts that have issued endless statements on everything from George Floyd to abortion to Ukraine remain silent or equivocate on what just happened in Israel.

This is what “decolonization” looks like. This is the moral culture they want to promote.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner