Compromise Won’t Placate This GOP

The original CRT protestors

There are certain opinions I hear or see people holding that my first reaction to is “I am so very sorry you were in a coma for the last seven years.” One example is the idea that compromise with Republicans is key to building back “unity.”

I know that some think the Magical Rainbow Unicorns will appear and make everything better if only the meanie lefty libs would just try to compromise with the current GOP, but this just isn’t going to happen. You can’t have one side completely uninterested in compromise if you want to compromise.

The Republicans are demonstrating, over and over and over again, that once they completely get their way, they don’t stop. Even if it crosses a line. They just erase that line once they cross it, and draw another line, cross that, erase it again, and so on. Therefore, they do not see a need to compromise.

A prime example of this is in education. Over-the-top anti-mask protests and hysterics about critical race theory (CRT) got them largely what they wanted. So, they’re happy now, right? Nope. Can’t stop, won’t stop, and their new front in the education war was covered this week in an excellent piece by Laura Meckler in the Washington Post.

Meckler begins with this:

Administrators in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District were already looking for ways to support students’ mental well-being before the pandemic, driven in part by a string of student deaths, including some suicides. Then covid-19 and remote schooling inflicted fresh emotional damage.

So, this past fall, the district implementeda social-emotional learning (SEL) program — a curriculum geared at helping students manage emotions, develop positive relationships and make good decisions. Schools have worked to develop these skills for decades, and in recent years, formal programming has proliferated coast to coast. In Anoka-Hennepin elementary schools focused on themes such as respect, empathy, gratitude, kindness, honesty, courage, cooperation, perseverance and responsibility each month. Students learned how to ask for help and spot someone having a bad day.

Sounds wonderful, right? Like, outside of any political context, if someone read these two paragraphs to you, and said “this is terrible and must be stopped,” you’d think “wow, what is wrong with you, why be against this?”, right?

Haha, well, let us waltz into the Carnival of Cruelty and Awful that is the modern Republican mind:

The complaints began immediately, often from parents already upset about remote schooling and mask mandates. Minnesota’s Child Protection League, a group active on conservative issues, said social-emotional learning is a vehicle for critical race theory, an effort to divide students from their parents, emotional manipulation and “the latest child-indoctrination scheme.”

That’s a whole lot of “I can’t even” and disturbing on multiple levels. This has them on tilt. This.

Social-emotional learning seeks to treat children as human beings with feelings, life goals and even traumas, not just students learning to write essays and solve math problems. It grew in popularity after the No Child Left Behind law’s push for accountability made schools more reliant on standardized testing, which failed to lift test scores. Many in education concluded something different was needed to improve academic outcomes.

The lessons are embedded into day-to-day teaching and offered on their own, in kindergarten through high school. Sometimes it’s as simple as a daily check-in, circle time or face-to-face greetings for every child. It could mean encouraging children to take a mindful moment or a deep breath when they are frustrated. For older students, classes might work on setting goals and creating road maps to achieve them. Done well, supporters say, SEL raises academic achievement, reduces discipline problems and brings joy into learning.

If you can’t imagine how anyone might have an objection to it, go read the article. There are a few things that jump out to me.

First, whenever conservatives successfully create a scary catch phrase, it gets engrained into the general public’s mind. We saw this in the 1990s, with the tort reform (“lawsuit-happy society!”) and “PC out of control” nonsense. A fair amount of people do not really pay a lot of attention, and either hear things in passing or hear it from others. So, they may hear vague statements about this SEL stuff brainwashing kids and wonder stuff like “gosh see, schools need to teach the three R’s like they did in my day” and be against it. It doesn’t matter if it’s based on easily disprovable nonsense, once something gets out there, it’s hard to dislodge and often, the media is no help, just makes it worse. And that leads me to the next thing that jumps out to me about SEL…

This stuff pays off for the GOP. Not just by winning them elections, as the Virginia governor race has shown. But they also scare people into doing their bidding. The school districts cave to this nonsense because these schools do not want people showing up at their board meetings screaming threats:

At least one school district, in Utah, has jettisoned its social-emotional learning curriculum in response to attacks, and school leaders across the country are worried that pressure will intensify on them to do the same.

Finally, it is hard to ignore something that I know makes some non-Republicans a little uncomfortable, but regardless is something we need to face: The GOP, as a party, is actually presenting anti-empathy, anti-kindness, and anti-cooperation as a platform. Adam Serwer of The Atlantic prompted many calls for the fainting couch when he wrote his essay “The Cruelty Is the Point” about how while it is true that everyone can be cruel, liberal or conservative, the GOP has a strategy based on cruelty itself.

When this is an actual *political strategy*, it is very difficult to see how you might compromise on issues with them. And no, an occasional compromise bill about naming a bridge or giving our defense budget more millions do not count. They are not compromising on big issues because they just don’t believe in it. To compromise you have to have at least some ability to feel empathy, which they are actively fighting because it is ingrained in them to fight it.

CRT was just the beginning. As this story on SEL proves, they are going to keep going, and education has long been a target of theirs. There just is no interest in slowing this effort down anytime soon, and it is not just with this particular subject (those anti-interracial marriage comments by a sitting U.S. Senator were less likely a gaffe and more likely a test ballon to see if they could get away with it). We have to fight them as hard as they are fighting us, and hope that at some point, they come back to a state where we can once again try to work with them. Until then, if you really want unity, then you must support protecting the people the GOP is trying to harm because as it is clear, the cruelty is indeed the point. In this case, the target of their cruelty is children.

The last word on this April Fool’s eve goes to Rockpile. Been a fool too long, indeed.