Opinion » Letters

The right to teach



The effort by Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board President Chris Arend to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory would not survive legal challenge if passed, showing its intended effect is solely as political theater to whip up the white fright base of the GOP. Arend, who lived a considerable time in Germany and based much of his legal practice on German clients, might be interested to know that more than a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down legislative restrictions on teaching when Nebraska passed a post-World War I law banning the teaching of German.

The court's decision in Meyer v. Nebraska (Robert Meyer having been caught teaching reading from a German Bible at a Lutheran school) was based on the 14th Amendment's provision that "no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States"—which was thought necessary to protect freed slaves from racist legislation.

The court wrote, "Practically, education of the young is only possible in schools conducted by especially qualified persons who devote themselves thereto. The calling always has been regarded as ... essential, indeed, to the public welfare. Mere knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be regarded as harmful. ... Plaintiff ... taught this language in school as part of his occupation. His right thus to teach and the right of parents to engage him so to instruct their children, we think, are within the liberty of the amendment."

An amendment intended to protect freed slaves now stands to protect the freedom of their descendants and the rest of us, as teachers and students, to examine the destructive persistence of racism in any way we find productive, regardless of the political sensitivities of what was once known as the Party of Lincoln.

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