How to Think–Not What to Think

Gov. Tate Reeves’s preliminary budget amounts to a shot fired over the bow of the legislature’s ship. He wants to make it clear that no elected official can be more conservative–or more like Trump–than he can.

Witness the three million dollars allocated for the state’s “Patriotic Education Fund,” which aims to reverse years of “indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.”

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met any socialists who teach in Mississippi’s k12 schools. However, I have met plenty of teachers–conservative, liberal, and somewhere in between–who take pride in helping the state overcome the shibboleths of its past to make it a better place. No need for the Patriotic Education Fund exists. That any ten of us who teach in the humanities would not draw the same conclusions about materials we’re supposed to teach, and how we’re supposed to teach them, is actually a healthy thing. If a humanities curriculum presents facts about history and does not allow students to draw their own conclusions about those facts, it isn’t really a curriculum any more. It’s an indoctrination program.

By suggesting that the state should design a history curriculum structured around the belief that “America is the greatest country in the history of mankind,” the governor actually undermines one of the foundations that does indeed make America great: the right to question authority. Being able to look at texts and interpret them without having to appeal to a specific ideology is a lynchpin of my pedagogy. I want to teach students how to think, not what to think. As I’ve said many times, if you can’t convince people you’re right, you might as well be wrong–and Gov. Reeves’ Patriotic Education Fund is just flat wrong.

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17 Responses to How to Think–Not What to Think

  1. Michael Lu says:

    This post has made me realize that there are striking similarities between Gov. Tate Reeves and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. They both support an education curriculum that indoctrinates students to believe that their own country is the best. But at least Kim Jong-un knows when to lock down his country. Jokes aside, I definitely think that this type of curriculum is unhealthy. It’s important to highlight the mistakes of the past in order to avoid them in the future, and the Patriotic Education Fund is clearly working against that.

  2. Chloe Sharp says:

    This post reminds me of a previous blog post you made asking us if the people of Mississippi truly revere tradition, or are just scared of change. I think this is your answer right here. A large population of older Mississippi, Tate Reeves included, is seeing change happening right before their eyes, and it is terrifying them. Even in their small towns where nothing ever happens they’re seeing Mississippi educating themselves about the world around them and *God forbid* having different opinions from them, and they see it as a threat to their way of life. Tate Reeves and those likeminded to him are frantically grasping at straws trying to find the root of this new free-thought that appears to have been instilled in the young population of Mississippi, and they can only think of one place where these children were learning to think for themselves… the public schools (dun dun dun). This new “Patriotic Education Fund” is just Reeves’s desperate attempt to end the independent thought spreading like wildfire in young minds across Mississippi.

  3. Luke Bowles says:

    I am not surprised by this action. America has a long history of excusing its evil past in public education. Specifically, the language surrounding slavery, Native American history, and the civil rights movement never really tells the full picture, and things like Japanese interment camps and CIA coups are often not taught at all. Many times as Americans, we are taught to revere our country and look at other countries as significant worse to ours, but we are often the cause of these countries’ conditions either through imperialism or drone strokes or assassinations. Tate Reeves is just another stupid, brainwashed idiot elected by thousands of brainwashed southerners. This policy is absolutely ridiculous, but I am not surprised. I also wrote an article for the The Vision that highlights bias in history textbooks, so this truly is nothing new.

  4. Samuel Hill says:

    Yeah, this is pretty unsettling. The presidential election may have ended, but the ripple effects of it on the nation’s mentality is frightening. People denying the election results being false, masks being burned, and lawsuits for recounts is causing the followers of Trump to act out viciously. Reeves is just another example of the failure that is the Trump Administration and the harm they caused over the past four years.

  5. Mason Pettit says:

    Firstly, let me just say that this policy is unequivocally stupid. Our education should be based in reality not whatever propaganda the government wants to shove down our throat. Tate Reeves’ support of this is unjustifiable and the fact that Donald Trump has supported this makes me even happier that he is about to get booted from the White House. Our education should not be propagandized, and it all too clear that the U.S. government can not be trusted to tell the truth about itself. With all that said, I understand why Tate Reeves did this. He has to appeal to his redneck supporters who are mad that he told them to wear a mask if he wants to get reelected, and Reeves has made it abundantly clear that he is willing to make the public education system a casualty of his administration if it keeps him in power. From a political standpoint, Reeves’ decision makes sense because if he loses the support of the Trump voters of Mississippi then he doesn’t stand a chance in the next republican primary, and this is a way for him to signal support for Trump and his bigoted ideas while only hurting something that he views as expendable. Perhaps this is giving Reeves too much credit, but I’d like to hope that this is a purely political move because otherwise it is just completely moronic and devastating to our already fledgling education system.

  6. Lauren Hood says:

    This post really makes me concerned about the future of America. While I do think pride in one’s country is important, educational programs that attempt to make children and young adults more patriotic are a step in the wrong direction. When I read this prompt, the first thing that came to my mind was Soviet propaganda. What on Earth would America need with something like that? We should be able to form our own opinions based on the information we are given. Patriotism should not be forced upon us. We should have pride in our country because of our own knowledge. We should also recognize both the shortcomings and successes of America.

  7. Dylan Griffith says:

    This policy brings American one step closer to the dystopian society of 1984. If kids are not allowed to think for themselves and form their own opinions, then how are they going to become functional members of society. The history of this nation is not one to be especially proud of when considering the crimes America has committed against African Americans and its indigenous peoples. Thus, calling America the greatest nation to ever exist teaches kids that the horrors of the past contributed to America’s greatness when that could not be farther from the truth. While patriotism is a good thing, indoctrinating America’s youth with the notion that America is supreme is not.

  8. Kaia Williams says:

    I’m not very surprised, but I am definitely disturbed. One of the great things about America is that you don’t have to like your country or the policies it has. You are encouraged to “fix” the things you don’t like, or at least elect someone who says they will. This Patriotic Education Fund seems to want to work against that and encourage kids to prescribe to this extreme nationalism. Nationalism and patriotism are fine until it comes to the point where you can see no wrong in your country or your government officials. Then it becomes a problem. Not only that, but the Patriotic Education Fund is likely to just waste funds and time that could be better used elsewhere.

  9. Kareena Patel says:

    This just goes to prove how corrupt society really is. Agreeing with your view on education, students should not be taught what to think. To me, that is not even considered teaching, that’s just ignorant. Education needs to be practical. Children should have an understanding of their OWN beliefs and values. After all, the future depends on the children of today.

  10. Zaria Cooper says:

    First off, I definitely agree with your views. People should have their opinions about what to think and not how. I feel controlling how someone should think is the opposite of what students should be taught. I also, agree with Sam, especially in the aspect of how the Trump Administration has affected the government all over the US for the past 4 years.

  11. Carolena Graham says:

    I totally agree with your viewpoint. Yes, students should be taught how to think and not what to think. To speak on Tate Reeves, I’ve never liked his views, his inauguration speech was trash. He has yet to show me the things he promised to Mississippians. Red finally lost one and it’s eating them up. Samual made a great point. I agree that followers of Trump are acting out viciously. I’m not saying that everything about the Trump administration is bad but so far they have made several mistakes.

  12. Vineeth Vanga says:

    So let me preface this saying that I am not a Tate Reeve’s fan. I think all of his policies are extremely idealistic with little or no empirical backbone to them. I do not like this notion of his in general. Trying to make kids become more patriotic is going against their own will because let’s face it. Patriotism isn’t the big shiny knight in armor that we make it out to be. Sure patriotism symbolizes those who have fought for our country and died and every day I sleep I feel grateful for those people, but patriotism also symbolizes a nation that got it’s rise by taking advantage of other groups of people. As a person of color I don’t think I deserve to be forced to be patriotic to a nation that literally uses people like me as the butt of their jokes. That’s why I heavily oppose Tate Reeves because you can’t expect someone to be aligned with the thing that is literally tearing them down.

  13. Vineel Vanga says:

    (つ◉益◉)つ <— That is the face I made when I read what Tate Reeves is doing above. Like just why, there are numerous other things you can spend the state budget on and you spend it on that. Sure it goes to education, but its going to the wrong side of education. What the proposition is sounds good on paper or just the first initial thought of hearing it because it sounds smart, but once you actually take the time to analyze it, then you start to question as to why Mississippi hasn't fallen yet. I get that we are in America and that is important to know about our culture, but what Tate Reeves is doing is making Mississippian's more arrogant by feeding them something similar to propaganda. I have the right to think about my country, and you don't have the right to tell me what I need to think. I think America is better than most countries out there in terms of opportunities, but is it perfect? Heck no! It is important to look at America's mistakes to grow from them not necessarily fill the void with some fluff. It's not really patriotic if you aren't doing this for your country out of your own volition. This is practically brainwashing people to become "more patriotic".

  14. Nicholas Djedjos says:

    I sincerely believe this is a media move to attract far right conservatives to Reeves’ support base. According to the hyperlink on this page, it appears that it is unlikely that his suggestion will make it through legislation, as “Mississippi Legislators have a long tradition of ignoring Governors’ ideas.” Moreover, the lack of detail indicates that the plan is not thought out, and probably barely beyond the brainstorming phase. Instead of shedding light on true problems, like the distance learning crises, lack of Coronavirus tests, and underpaid teachers, Reeves is attempting to deflect the issue. I am confident this “Patriotic Education Fund” will not be enacted, but I am unsettled nonetheless.

  15. Balee Wilson says:

    I agree that students should be taught how to think, not what to think. I will have to disagree with the intentions behind this fund because I think it is crucial for students of all ages to have their own opinions on various topics, and I think that students being able to develop their own opinions is important to their development and future successes. Identical opinions amongst all people is most definitely not healthy and nearly impossible because not every person believes exactly the same thing. I think it is important for teachers to provide the factual information to their students and aid in helping the students draw unique conclusions about numerous topics. I don’t think it should matter what the teachers’ political views happen to be as long as they defend their own opinions, and every now and then play Devil’s Advocate. I believe that one of the greatest things about America is that people are allowed to choose what they want to believe and are not forced to align themselves with a chosen set of beliefs. I hope that this “Patriotic Education Fund” will not pass through legislation, and I believe that there will be long-lasting negative effects on Mississippians if it does.

  16. Kate McElhinney says:

    To be honest, as disgusting as it is, I am not surprised at all by Reeves’ statements. It’s unsettling that so many people believe that America is perfect and should be treated as such. Refusing to teach children about the real history of this country will only lead to history repeating itself, which is never a good thing. Children’s minds are still easily influenced until honestly even college, so teaching them false history and excusing America’s past issues (and present issues tbh) is doing so much more harm than good. In my personal experience, when I was younger, there were a lot of things that teachers told me that were blatantly wrong, but I believed them because why would they tell us things that aren’t true? Excusing America’s wrongdoings is only going to lead to a new generation of ignorance. The policy won’t pass, but it’s scary that it was even mentioned in the first place.

  17. Keyan Rahimi says:

    I believe that this is an interesting experiment on perception. You deceive yourself by telling yourself things you want to hear, and only filter in those who agree with you. Statements that, in reality, are barely opposing your beliefs, as time goes on, quickly devolves into a radical opposite to yourself. I’m sure we have all been exposed to this effect at some point in our lives. For example, a sibling getting to eat one more candy than you on Halloween. What starts as a small difference soon devolves into a large and evil act of treachery upon fairness. On a more serious note, this is what Tate Reeves and many other Pro-Trump republicans see in the education system. Some small difference, along with random stories of those on the radical-left teaching who knows what, leads to anger and disgust at people who had no intention of causing it. This, in fact, is the backbone of the effect that has caused the evergrowing gap or partisanship between both political parties.

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