Far-right state governments fear nothing more than allowing children to think for themselves.
Houston is a city with a diverse, progressive electorate and an African American mayor, Sylvester Turner. So it was bizarre when the new superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Mike Miles, recently announced plans to fire librarians at dozens of schools, while converting libraries into discipline rooms for misbehaving students. The repurposed libraries will be called “Team Centers” where closely monitored students join their classes via Zoom.
Librarian positions are being initially eliminated at 28 schools as part of Miles’ New Education System (NES), which includes mandated lesson plans for teachers, classroom cameras for discipline, and testing-based performance evaluations that affect teacher pay. The libraries at those schools will stay partly open, but schools will weed out objectionable books. The district, the largest in Texas, serves 189,000 students.
How could this have happened in progressive Houston? If you made a wild guess that the state administration of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott used a ploy to take over the local school system, you guessed right. The ACLU is looking into a suit.
I recently wrote a piece pointing out that the efforts by rightwing state governments to hunt down women who cross state lines to seek abortion feels increasingly like the 1850s, the era of the Fugitive Slave Act, the Underground Railroad, and eventually the Civil War.
But our uncivil wars between states and cities goes deeper than that. And like the runup to 1860, when slave states and their allies in the federal courts protected slavery by crushing democracy, this struggle will either end with the victory of democracy on all fronts or its defeat.