PEN America’s Ignorant And Sinister Support For School Indoctrination

Ink blot

In a new report released Monday, the writers organization PEN America argues that efforts to prevent the teaching of Critical Race Theory and related anti-white, anti-American propaganda to captive public school students constitutes a threat to the free speech and the First Amendment.

Hey, that’s funny! Tell us another, PEN!

The registered 501(c)(3) organization,headquartered in New York City, was founded in 1922. PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network—I guess the latter is how the organization is now supporting Marxism. PEN claims to be devoted to ensuring that “people everywhere” have “the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.” More than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals are members, according to the group’s website.

Gee, wouldn’t you think out of all those writers, there would be a lawyer around—John Grisham maybe?—, or a law professor, to keep PEN from making a public ass of itself?

“These bills appear designed to chill academic and educational discussions and impose government dictates on teaching and learning,” the report says. “In short: They are educational gag orders. Taken together, the efforts amount to a sweeping crusade for content- and viewpoint-based state censorship.”

I guess we should be happy that PEN has shown its colors, not that anyone who pays attention should be surprised in the least that a group of writers is dominated by the extreme Left when so many institutions that are supposed to be objective have already been poisoned by bias and political motives. “Poisoned PEN!” That has a ring to it, don’t you think?

To note the obvious, public school teachers when they are teaching are not protected from controls over their classroom speech and conduct by the government, because they ARE the government. PEN’s complaint would similarly declare having any set school curriculum as “content- and viewpoint-based state censorship.” Teachers are not permitted to teach about Christianity in class, or lead the class in prayer. The government can’t stop anyone who isn’t teaching public school from doing that. Why isn’t the ban on bringing God into the classroom censorship, indeed court ordered censorship?

Oh some on, PEN. I bet you can figure it out.

So PEN really thinks that a teacher who says, “I believe that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen and out of the voting booth, and I want to teach my students the truth!” could sue when the school boards says, “Uh, NO. Go find another profession.” They don’t? Then how can the group distinguish that situation from the teacher who protests that he or she has a right to teach classes that the United States was created to sustain slavery, that all of its institutions and systems were corrupted by racism, and that white supremacy permanently oppresses all blacks in America to the extent that they can’t possibly succeed except in isolated, lucky instances?

They can distinguish it because PEN wants our children taught that. That’s how.

The group has made an even more legally nonsensical, constitutionally ignorant claim than the defenders of the NFL kneelers made the moment Kaepernick first insulted the National Anthem. Their foolishness was “It’s a First Amendment right!” Wrong: employees do not have any right to make political pronouncements in the workplace. Amazingly—it really is an achievement—PEN goes even further into fantasy land: the government is violating the First Amendment rights of its own employees, who are agents of the government, when it tells them what they can and cannot say as part of their government responsibilities!

Thus a teacher who decides to teach that, as an addled longshoreman’s history of the U.S. stated in a particularly funny Bob and Ray routine, Abraham Lincoln was born in “Bailey’s Retreat, Maine” couldn’t be prevented from doing so by law, according to our brilliant wordsmiths. Its declaration is an abuse of the organization’s mission and influence. I can’t wait to find out which MSNBC ignoramus cites it first in a tweet or panel discussion.

PEN has blotted itself.

What an embarrassment.

9 thoughts on “PEN America’s Ignorant And Sinister Support For School Indoctrination

    • I think there is a lot more to being a writer than just writing, particularly in this day and age. In the past, writers mostly submitted their work to publishers, then waited to see if someone wanted to purchase their work to publish. Over time, the publishers consolidated into a small number of large companies with more interest in the ideology of what they published than the quality of the writing or the interest of the public in reading it. Much of what the publishers want published is ideological drivel no one wants to read.

      The internet opened up new avenues for writers to self-publish their work and made it a viable option, but also introduced a new complication in that indie writers have to self-market their self-published work. Authors who don’t want to write works conformant to the prevailing ideology desired by publishers frequently choose to self-publish, but have to learn how to do that and market themselves. Writers groups often provide resources for learning things like marketing and self-publishing, as well as providing networking resources.

      • Probably all true, N.P, and doubtless why I’m writing (and self-publishing to no discernable effect) in my retirement. If I wanted to write fiction publishers want to publish or people think readers want to read, I’d go back to practicing law instead. Or digging ditches.

      • Ah… until the middle of the nineteenth century or so, or maybe even a little later, self-publishing was the norm, a fact I came across in a biography of Richard Burton (the explorer). There was also the avenue of getting first releases out in serial form, as was done by Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, G.K.Chesterton, P.G.Wodehouse, and many others; to some extent this continues in Science Fiction even now.

        • Yes. Proust self published most, if not all of “Recapturing Lost Time,” in my mind the greatest piece of fiction ever. Hands down. Unlike Joyce, you can actually understand Proust.

          As was the case with Proust, many, many writers of fame were self funded. They didn’t need their writing income to live on. Many of course did make their living writing. Dickens certainly comes to mind. Of course we’re talking literary giants here.

  1. None of the following should be interpreted as dissent regarding your take on PEN’s First Amendment argument.
    That said, I think it’s important to note the phrase “free speech and the First Amendment.” This construction accurately describes the fact that the two concepts, though related, are not identical. Telling a teacher what must or must not be said in the classroom does indeed inhibit free speech; this is, of course, not inherently a problem, which is why such restrictions remain constitutional. But the fact remains that even at the university level I can say things in my private capacity that would rightfully warrant censure (at least) were I to do so while functioning as a state employee.
    It’s also worth mentioning that being constitutional does not necessarily imply that something is a good idea. Constitutionality means simply that the Supreme Court, configured as it happened to be when the case came before them, determined something to be constitutional, and that no subsequent SCOTUS has overturned that ruling. Thus, for example, abortion and ownership of certain kinds of weaponry are both constitutionally protected (within some limits), although I suspect that a majority of citizens think one or the other ought not to be… it’s just that we can’t agree on which one.
    Further, we should understand that both Critical Race Theory and your description of it as “anti-white, anti-American propaganda” are subjective analyses which attempt to clarify or interpret objective evidence. Sometimes the connections are obvious; sometimes they’re more complex, nuanced… or strained. That doesn’t make subjectivity bad or wrong (indeed, it’s necessary more often than not), provided we recognize it for what it is.
    In terms of Critical Race Theory in particular, much of the tension comes from an inability (unwillingness?) to agree on a definition of what we’re talking about. Saying that the US was founded “as a racist country” is certainly contentious; saying that some racial inequities were intentionally built into the nation’s founding documents by white men is simply a fact.
    We might be able to increase the light to heat ratio of the discussion by turning from our own country to ancient Athens, regarded as the birthplace of democracy. And it was. Sort of. Far more average people than ever before were granted access to the privileges of citizenship: voting, holding office, serving on juries, etc. But citizenship was reserved for freeborn males, both of whose parents were also born in Athens. Thus, far less than half of the total population were even potential citizens. Nor was there was much opportunity for upward mobility in socio-economic terms… none of which suggests that the steps towards what we now call democracy were anything but profoundly significant.
    The problem that I see with many of the attacks on Critical Race Theory, especially those emanating from state legislatures in red states, is that too often the definition of what constitutes CRT is so broad that teaching even objective facts that reference race would be prohibited.
    I recently wrote on my own blog that whereas you, Jack, didn’t learn about Kristallnacht in high school, I did. What I didn’t learn about were the massacres at Wounded Knee or Tulsa, the exclusion of most black veterans from the benefits of the GI Bill in its first permutation, or the wartime internment of US citizens who happened to be of Japanese descent. Those are facts, not theories, and there are those who would forbid mentioning, much less discussing, those realities, just as there are those who continue to write textbooks saying that slaves “immigrated” from West Africa, or that First Nations people “agreed” to turn their land over to white folks and live on reservations.
    By the time students reach high school, they’re old enough and sophisticated enough to learn that young George Washington did not, in fact, confess to chopping down that cherry tree with his little hatchet. They’re also old enough to hear the truth about this nation’s troubled relationship with race. That doesn’t mean they need to hear harangues about their evil (or victimized) ancestors. It does mean that objective facts should be fair game, and that historically contextualized discussion would also be appropriate, providing that opinions are identified as such rather than as inherent truth.

    • Great comment. Made half of a long post I had already nearly finished redundant, but never mind: COTD.

      Speaking of nuance: what I didn’t learn about George until well after law school was his heartfelt letter to a powerful native American chief, in which he said, in essence: “Look, my people are coming, hard, and there isn’t a thing I or anyone else, especially your people, will be able to do to stop it. So I plead with you to join us, become part of our expanding nation and its society. I know this is a terrible thing to ask, but trust me, you have no choice, and neither do I. It’s this or annihilation. I trust in your wisdom to do the right thing for your people.”

    • … But citizenship was reserved for freeborn males, both of whose parents were also born in Athens…

      That happens not to be the case – during the rise of Athens. Athens, in that period, went against usual practice and so allowed many valuable people in. After that, Athens kicked the ladder away, and things became as you describe. Of course, much of that rise occurred under the Pisistratid tyrants, so democracy didn’t factor into it directly (though appeasing democrats did).

  2. Here’s the intro to PEN’s self-description:
    PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

    Their article is a direct repudiation of that. As Curmie correctly points out, it champions only the speech that PEN approves of. No others need apply.

    Public schools, particularly K-12, have numerous restrictions on speech. For example, imagine if a math teacher decided to teach American History in his class instead. By PEN’s definition of free speech, any effort to restrain that teacher would be an infringement.

    Obviously, this is just exactly what we’ve come to expect from organizations with left-liberal leadership. They are completely comfortable with defining rights situationally and advocating for speech restrictions whenever convenient to their political leanings.

    PEN doesn’t even hide their political intentions. Consider their report’s very first section:

    Section I: From Presidential Rhetoric to Republican Policy

    Never mind that there are many Democrats as well as Republicans opposed to teaching everything through the lens of Critical Race Theory. They might’ve made a nodding effort at fairness to both sides by entitling it “Section I: From Presidential Rhetoric to Public Policy,” but the entire piece, as far as I could stand to read it, is an excoriation of the Republicans by name. They never mention the Democrat party one single time in their “report.”

    Naturally, former President Trump makes a major appearance in their “report” as the villain behind all this, because without Trump, nobody would care. With Trump, almost everyone who dislikes the former President will instantly be inclined to take PEN’s side without the necessity of reading all 24,000+ words.

    This isn’t a report, but a political screed couched as academic work. I agree with every word Curmie said, but it’s even worse than the impression his critique left me with. It is essentially the work of unhinged progressives fearing their free pass in our educational institutions is under serious assault — which it absolutely, and deservedly is.

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