Instead of giving students an honest education, Ryan Walters wants teachers to indoctrinate students in Christianity.
Instead of giving students an honest education, Ryan Walters wants teachers to indoctrinate students in Christianity. (Screenshot via YouTube)

In a short video released on Thursday, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education Ryan Walters celebrated the adoption of new rules that would ban “critical race theory” from public schools—by which he means teachers will be unable to have comprehensive discussions about racism, U.S. history, or anything else that makes white Christian nationalists feel persecuted.

In some ways, these rules are comically dumb. One of them, for example, says schools can’t teach that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.” No one was ever doing that. But conservatives have decided that educating kids about slavery and the (ongoing) Civil Rights movement, or the role religion played in perpetuating many inequalities, or the role religion did not play in creating our secular nation is inherently offensive to white Christians. Therefore those topics must be censored at all costs.

The rules themselves are so vague that they effectively muzzle teachers from educating children, but that’s part of the plan, isn’t it? If there’s any doubt about what to teach children, Oklahoma wants teachers to stay on the side of avoiding certain topics entirely.

I wouldn’t want to be a teacher in Oklahoma right now. And if I were a college admissions officer, I might think twice before accepting students from Oklahoma who may not be as well-prepared for college-lever discussions and analyses as students from other states. Not that Republican lawmakers care about any of this.

But Walters celebrated his victory over a non-existent enemy in a video that also (inadvertently) gave away the game. He fully embraced the idea that we live in a Christian nation and that students must be indoctrinated into his religion. Anything shy of that, he implied, would be academic malpractice.

In the state of Oklahoma, there will be no state-sponsored racism. In the state of Oklahoma, in our schools, you will not tell a child that they are inferior because of the color of their skin. You will not tell a child that they should be ashamed because of the color of their skin. And as Secretary of Education, as a history teacher myself, and most importantly, as a parent, I am so glad that we will keep left-wing indoctrination out of our schools.

Our kids need to know our history. They need to know why America is the greatest country in the history of the world. And they need to know all of our history. But they need to know that America is the greatest country in the history of the world, because of the principles this country was built upon, because we believe that individual rights were given to you by God, and because we believe that morality and Christian values are the way to live your life

Nothing displays an American’s ignorance of world history and how other nations operate today than the knee-jerk assumption that America is the “greatest country in the history of the world.” As if every other country’s motto is “We’re proud to be #2.” It’s telling that Walters doesn’t say we’re the greatest in any particular way. It’s just a blanket statement, suggesting that everything we do it the Best. Thing. Ever. There’s no belief more core to the Republican Party than the idea that focusing on all the ways we’re so damn far from perfect is somehow miseducating students and turning them into anti-American traitors.

No one was teaching state-sponsored racism. That’s a Republican lie.

No one was teaching children that they were inferior for being white. That’s a Republican lie.

And if Walters cared about teaching “all” of our history, then censoring the less savory parts of it wouldn’t be his focus. But when you’re a Christian nationalist who thinks “Christian values” (which he never defines) are inherent to being American, he gives away the real end game. This isn’t about educating kids. This is about indoctrinating them with the lie that just about all the Founders supported conservative Christianity and used modern white evangelical views as the basis for the Constitution.

None of that is accurate. But that’s the lie white evangelicals and the politicians they back love to tell themselves because they’re incapable of dealing with the truth.

Historians could tell them that. But they’re not interested in what actual educators have to say about any of these policies.

Walters, by the way, is a graduate of Harding University, a private Christian school known for (surprise!) its fundamentalist teachings and history of promoting segregation. He’s trying to push those views on the entire state now.