Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 dystopian short story “Harrison Bergeron” describes a 2081 America in which the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution of the United States have together mandated that all Americans must be made completely equal. No one is allowed to be more intelligent or handsome or more physically capable than anyone else. The standards are enforced by a Handicapper General, an elderly woman named Diana Moon Glampers armed with a shotgun, who mandates the wearing of disfiguring masks for those who are thought to be too beautiful while tiny radios are mounted inside the ears of intelligent people, programmed to go off at intervals and disrupt any thoughts. Those who are stronger or faster than others are required to wear heavy weights around their wrists and ankles.
Somehow, the Vonnegut story comes to mind at the present time, particularly in my home county here in Virginia. Loudoun County, a suburb of Washington D.C. where all that fiat money is printed, is the wealthiest in the United States based on per capita income. When I moved here twenty-three years ago, it was solidly Republican, but now it is controlled by the Democrats, largely due to the influx of out of state newcomers moving in to take the thousands of new federal jobs in the burgeoning Global War On Terror. When in power, the Republicans foolishly had allowed their business cronies to build large and ugly commuter housing developments that eventually changed the political power alignment when the liberal newcomers inevitably outnumbered the relatively conservative locals.
The county Board of Supervisors is headed by a black woman named Phyllis Randall. Randall has been in place since 2015 and is reliably progressive. Apart from muttering about “diversity” and “affordable housing,” she has generally avoided race issues in a county that is less than 10% black but has become more outspoken recently. The county seat Leesburg had a monument near the court house featuring a seven-foot bronze war memorial statue of a Confederate infantryman dubbed “Silent Sam” by some of the locals. Randall had described the memorial as a racist symbol that had intimidated “Thousands of Loudoun citizens, Black citizens, who never had a voice and sometimes didn’t have a vote.” It is a ridiculous argument that is often made when historical monuments are about to be purged by vandals, but apparently a statue can inspire real fear in some circles, at least according to Randall.
After being reelected last November and backed by a unanimously gutless board in a May vote, Randall felt empowered to remove the offending statue saying that she was “correcting history” over a “statue [that] should never have been put up.” The removal was accomplished on June 21st, in the midst of the wave of looting, rioting and arson all over the United States that was triggered by the Floyd George killing.
Randall has also been pushing to replace the highly respected local sheriff’s department with a police department which would be controlled by her board. The popular sheriff is an elected official and he has committed the crime of being both somewhat independent and a Republican.
Since the removal of the Confederate statue, there was been more fun and games to include an apology to the black citizens of Loudoun from both the board of supervisors and the school board for the school segregation that continued into the 1960s. The local NAACP graciously responded that the apology was “not enough.” That was followed by a slap at another perennial punching bag for the social justice warrior movement. Columbus Day on the school calendar was renamed. Indigenous Peoples Day.
All of that has been bad enough, but the clincher is what is going on with the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). The school board has spent $422,500 on a consultant to apply Critical Race Theory (CRT) to a new program of instruction that will be mandatory for all employees and will serve as the framework for teaching the students. When schools eventually reopen, all kindergarteners, for example, will be taught “social justice” in a course designed by the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center and “diversity training” will be integrated in all other grade levels.
Critical Race Theory has been fairly criticized as it pretends to be an antidote to systemic racism but is itself racist in nature as it opposes a race neutral system that equally benefits everyone. It proposes that all of America’s governmental bodies and infrastructures are racist and supportive of “white supremacy” and must be deconstructed. It requires everything to be examined through a value system determined by identity politics and race and it views both whites and their institutions as hopelessly corrupted, if not evil.
The principal concern currently is that the school board, which is revising its Personal Conduct Policy 7560 “Professional Conduct” for staff, is basically treating the First Amendment right to free speech as inapplicable when it comes to challenging certain policies involving the school system arguing that the Bill of Rights itself is just a tool in support of white supremacy, which is what CRT teaches. The Personal Conduct draft only addresses the First Amendment briefly, noting that the right “may be outweighed” by LCPS interest in “promoting internal…and external community harmony and peace” through “directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”
Section B3 of the draft revised policy requires total commitment to the forthcoming “equity” policies and it threatens punishment to include firing if anyone within the system dares to express a criticism. The full text cites “Any comments or actions that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity policies, and which impact an individual’s abilities to perform their job responsibilities or create a breach in the trust bestowed upon them as an employee of the school division. This includes on-campus and off-campus speech, social media posts, and any other electronic or telephonic communications.”
The school board also has an “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism” which will require mandatory “racial literacy” classes for staff with the objective of creating “equity literacy and racial consciousness” for employees. To support struggling black students there will be non-coercive alternatives to suspension or expulsion for misbehavior, a feature that is being copied in many school districts. It is all part of the larger “Comprehensive Equity Plan” that the revised personal conduct policy is intended to protect, which includes manipulating passing grades to achieve “equity” — that is, to reward or punish people based not on their conduct and accomplishments or hard work, but primarily on their race and ethnicity. It calls specifically for the “disruption and dismantling of white racism.” It is not intended to give everyone an equal chance and is rather trying to guarantee a certain outcome. It will mean pushing people through the system based on race rather than merit until they find themselves holding jobs that they cannot possibly perform based on what they learned at school.
If that were not bad enough, the document also encourages school system employees to report on other employees who are critical of the policy. Most companies are within their rights to demand certain behavior while in the workplace, but the Loudoun County Public Schools demand that even criticizing the new policy with friends, family, at home, while on the phone, while shopping or even walking through the park is a violation subject to punishment. The draft states explicitly that employee speech “will not be tolerated” if it could be perceived as “undermining the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements” of Schools Superintendent Eric Williams or the school board. And other LCPS employees would have the “duty to report” speech violations to the school administration. Given that, the likelihood that anyone who is bold enough to surface as an employee-critic would be railroaded by the school administrators and the board is guaranteed. And, one might point out, LCPS has no teachers’ union.
Rod Dreher observes how the policy will also translate into what and how one’s children are taught. They too will be required to conform. “If your kid goes to a church that is not progressive and LGBT-affirming, she better shut up about her religious views at school, or she will be expelled. If you kid won’t consent to calling a trans student by that student’s preferred pronoun, that could be the end of him at Loudoun County public schools. Anything that the left identifies as a manifestation of ‘white supremacy’ — and these days, what isn’t? — makes students who hold it targets of the system. What if a high school student believes that on balance, Robert E. Lee was a noble, if tragic, figure, and said so in a history class? He would have to fear that Loudoun County public schools, in the state of Virginia, would punish him as a white supremacist. Basically, deep-blue, wealthy, predominantly white Loudoun County in suburban Washington, DC, is going to ruin its public schools by turning them into ideology factories.”
One might also observe that imposition of a totalitarian style “equity” regime based on race will inevitably drive many of the academically better prepared students out of the system. Many of the better teachers will also move to the private academies that will spring up due to parental and student demand. Others will stop teaching altogether when confronted by political correctness at a level that prior to 2020 would have seemed unimaginable. The actual quality of education will suffer for everyone involved
The outcry against the proposed Loudoun Public Schools Personal Conduct Policy has been such that there has been some suggestion that it might be revised, but the most recent minutes of school board meetings suggest otherwise. One suspects that if the policy ever actually is approved it will be challenged and declared to be unconstitutional, but it would be unwise to place too much trust in America’s increasingly politicized “social” judicial system.
A quote attributed to Sinclair Lewis goes “If fascism ever comes to America it will be carrying a Bible and wrapped in a flag.” He was wrong. We have learned in the past few months that totalitarianism can come from either the left or the right. Currently in America it is coming wrapped in a lot of virtue signaling coming from a gaggle of politicians and media “experts” who are working hard to turn the part of the United States that they have not burned down into what they perceive as a utopia where everyone can gather round the campfire and sing “Kumbaya.” Of course, one will have to eliminate all the deplorables first, and some radicals are clearly prepared to use informants and spies to do so. It’s ironic that the progressives who wrote the draft on Professional Conduct for Loudoun County Public Schools just cannot see that there is scant difference between the system of control and intimidation that they are promoting and the vilified regimes once in place in Russia and Germany. Well, possibly the school board will develop a spine and a conscience and reverse itself. But, on the other hand, more likely not. Sadly, the issue is quite real for me as I have grandchildren in LCPS.