Diversity and differences foster learning. Some Idaho legislators gave us a clear picture of how they want our state to look. Their vision actively turns away from good government, democratic values and independent education. This mindset, based on negativity and contempt, squelches learning.
The Legislature says no to the people’s right to influence their government through an initiative process. No to supporting an independent higher education system. No to increasing teacher pay. No to the attorney general. No to the governor’s ability to protect public health in an emergency. No to local government autonomy.
But wait. Some legislators say yes to Lt. Gov. McGeachin’s creation of an indoctrination task force. This inquisitory body seeks to root out from our schools the “scourge” of “socialism and of ‘critical race theory.’” A close ally of the lieutenant governor stated that she appreciates “taking the initiative against the flawed concept that white people are inherently racist and that our young people should be made to feel guilty for actions they have never committed and biases they have never displayed.” This, of course, completely misses the point and purpose of the theory. Critical race theory critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers of society.
From where do all the legislative no’s originate? A revealing explanation emerged this week at a forum for the Move Oregon proposal. Mark Simmons, a former speaker of Oregon’s House of Representatives, expounded: “Values of faith, family, independence. That is what we’re about. … We don’t need the state breathing down our necks all the time, micromanaging our lives and trying to push us into a foreign way of living.”
Residents of Idaho must ask: Whose faith? What family values? Whose way of life is “foreign?” When our elected representatives elevate one class, one way of life and one vision of reality at the expense of all other views or interpretations, we must speak our truth. When they play on our fear of change, using it to hold onto power, we must vote them out of office. Our democracy works best when ideas are shared and people with different life experiences feel free and safe to express their opinions. Belittling or bullying is not acceptable. Experiencing another person’s truth is uncomfortable because it fosters introspection.
When we allow our elected officials to say no to citizens’ initiatives, independent universities, informed teachers and distinct government branches, we lose the potential for creativity in thought and action. Our leaders should listen to a broad range of perspectives rather than spreading fear about race and class. If they (or we) feel challenged, it is a sign that our brains are engaged. Feeling unsettled and uncertain is the first step in learning. Idahoans have a choice. We can close our eyes to alternative points of view or embrace the wisdom they offer.
Todd DeVries is the state committeeman for the Bonneville Democratic Central Committee.