Bret: In New York City, the former schools chancellor Richard Carranza implemented training on “white supremacy culture,” which supposedly includes things like “perfectionism” and “objectivity.” It’s why people like The Atlantic’s George Packer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, have also publicly despaired of public schools.
Of course, schools need to teach and explore the shameful sides of our past. But parents have a right to expect that the schools their tax dollars pay for don’t blur the line between pedagogy and ideology. I’ll bet many readers would agree if the shoe were on the other foot and a conservative school district tried to foist, say, a creationist science curriculum on kids over their parents’ objections.
Which reminds me, Gail. What do you think of the ballot initiative in Minneapolis to replace the Police Department with something called the Department of Public Safety?
Gail: Minneapolis had a dreadful police-community crisis after George Floyd was murdered in such a slow and painful manner for all the world to see. The Police Department’s standing in the Black community was in total collapse. Changing the name to the Department of Public Safety isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it would remind everyone that things are not going to be the same as they were.
Does it bother you?
Bret: Well, as names go, it beats the Committee of Public Safety, of Robespierrian fame. Otherwise, the whole exercise just reminds me of my favorite line from my second-favorite movie, “Animal House”: “This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”
Gail: Remind me to ask you later what your first-favorite movie is. But for right now, about Minneapolis.
Bret: Minneapolis has seen a huge spike in violent crime since last year, which corresponds with low police morale and hundreds of cops quitting their jobs. The people who wind up suffering the most from diminished policing tend to come from poorer communities. The proposed Department of Public Safety would still have armed officers, but there would be no staffing minimum, and the focus would be on public health, not public safety. Persistently high rates of violent crime will lead to an exodus of both business and wealthier residents to the suburbs, which would mean a smaller tax base for the city, which would then create a vicious cycle of deteriorating services, more crime, merchants closing up shop and so on. It’s how other American cities, like Newark and Baltimore, did themselves such harm.