The following article is by Tempestt Tuggle, who works at UnKoch My Campus, a national organization that is dedicated to pulling back the curtain on dark money donations and their impact on higher education.
The current narrative surrounding the anti-Critical Race Theory effort is that it is an authentic grassroots organizing campaign fueled by concerned parents. However, the reality doesn’t match up. If you trace the evolution of the current conversation, you’ll see that the anti-CRT movement is actually an orchestrated product of a coordinated dark money campaign. In fact, in Virginia –where current Governor Glenn Youngkin ran his campaign with a significant focus on CRT– a recent poll showed that residents have other, more pressing concerns to contend with than anti-CRT fear mongering. Despite this reality, the anti-CRT folks seem insistent on creating more division and chaos, all at the expense of our public schools and common good.
In Virginia, newly elected governor Glenn Youngkin made good on his campaign promise, banning the teaching of CRT in public schools as one of his first executive actions. But is this really what parents and community members in the state want? A recent poll shows that voters are concerned about a number of things, but CRT isn’t one of the top issues. According to a recent survey of Virginia voters, a majority of those polled oppose a government ban on CRT in public schools. In fact, of those surveyed, 63% said they largely support teaching how racism continues to impact American society today.
If the majority of Virginia’s voters are in favor of teaching an inclusive curriculum and are against a government ban of CRT, where is the narrative coming from that this current anti-CRT campaign is flourishing among “the people?”
In my role at UnKoch My Campus, I work with K-12 teachers who are terrified of the overreaching control that seems to be happening regarding the curriculum and content they teach. From books being banned to accurate social studies instruction being challenged, many teachers, students, and parents are concerned about where these attacks are stemming from. Last summer, we actually reviewed the published materials of 28 think tanks and political organizations affiliated with fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch and his larger political network. We analyzed the rhetorical tactics Koch network think tanks have deployed around CRT and their efforts to ban it from public schools. During the investigation period, we found that Koch network think tanks published 146 articles, podcasts, reports, or videos about CRT, essentially creating a conversation and controversy where none previously existed.
Koch-affiliated national think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, and the Manhattan Institute, among others, have used their influence to generate and spread talking points, briefed state and federal legislators on model policy, and attempted to generate grassroots mobilization against local school districts. This influence is not without consequence: State politicians were almost entirely silent on the topic until Koch-funded entities started pushing the issue earlier this year. Now, more than 40 states have introduced legislation or taken other action that, backers claim, is aimed at banning “critical race theory” (CRT) from schools and government programs. Several of these states have already passed these bills.
While many politicians are eager to pass these bills, polling suggests this is not based on constituent desires. The question then becomes, whose agenda is actually being promoted here? One funded by corporate coffers and neoliberal ideas, or that of the people? In Virginia, it’s clear that people have other priorities, from ensuring teachers and first responders receive vaccines to lowering the grocery tax so it’s easier to feed their families. In fact, they’re even largely happy with the way the historical impact of racism is taught in the state’s public schools, so who is Youngkin and those like him, really fighting for?
As midterm elections loom in the distance, it pays to look at who is pushing the anti-CRT narrative and what the reality actually is. Instead of a homegrown grassroots endeavor, we’re seeing something much more manufactured that is creating divisiveness and fertile ground for a certain agenda –one that doesn’t have the interests of the common good at its core.
Tempestt Tuggle works at UnKoch My Campus, a national organization that is dedicated to pulling back the curtain on dark money donations and their impact on higher education. Tempestt is skilled in nonprofit management, relational organizing, staff development, youth advocacy, voter programs, training and coaching. Tempestt is an inter-generational culturist meaning she believes organizing in principled struggle across multiple generations is how we change the narrative for centuries to come.