Discover more from Christopher F. Rufo
The Child Soldiers of Portland
Public schools are training children to become race-conscious revolutionaries.
There are only a few places on earth where radicals and their children ritualistically burn the American flag and chant “Death to America”: Tehran, Baghdad, Beirut, Kabul, Ramallah—and Portland, Oregon.
The City of Portland, a cloud-covered metro on the south bank of the Columbia River, has become known for its political protesters. Anarchists, Communists, ecofascists, and various other agitators regularly denounce the police, politicians of both parties, and America itself, and flag-burning has become part of the protesters’ liturgy. Last summer, protesters associated with Antifa upped the ante with chants of “Death to America” and participated in months of violent protests to avenge the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis. Children as young as four marched with the crowd to the federal courthouse, raising the Black Power fist and chanting “Fuck the Police!”
Famously the “whitest city in America,” Portland has become the unlikely headquarters of race radicalism in the United States. The city has elevated white guilt into a civic religion; its citizens have developed rituals, devotions, and self-criticisms to fight “systemic racism” and “white supremacy.” The culminating expression of this orthodoxy is violence: street militias, calling themselves “antiracists” and “antifascists,” smash windows and torch the property of anyone transgressing the new moral law.
We might be tempted to dismiss this as the work of a few harmless radicals “keeping Portland weird,” but in recent years, their underlying ideology on race has become institutionalized. The city government has adopted a series of Five-Year Plans for “equity and inclusion,” shopkeepers have posted political slogans in their windows as a form of protection, and local schools have designed a program of political education for their students that borders on propaganda.
I have spent months investigating the structure of political education in three Portland-area school districts: Tigard-Tualatin School District, Beaverton School District, and Portland Public Schools. I have cultivated sources within each district and obtained troves of internal documents related to the curriculum, training, and internal dynamics of these institutions. We can best understand the political education program in Portland schools by dividing it into three parts: theory, praxis (or practice), and power. The schools have self-consciously adopted the “pedagogy of the oppressed” as their theoretical orientation, activated it through a curriculum of critical race theory, and enforced it through the appointment of de facto political officers within individual schools, generally under the cover of “equity and social-justice” programming. In short, they have begun to replace education with activism.
The results are predictable. By perpetuating the narrative that America is fundamentally evil, steeping children in race theory, and lionizing the Portland rioters, they have consciously pushed students in the direction of race-based “revolution.” In the language of the Left, the political education programs in Portland-area districts constitute a “school-to-radicalism pipeline”: a training ground for child soldiers. This is not hyperbole: some of the most active and violent anarchist groups in Portland are run by teenagers, and dozens of minors were arrested during last year’s riots. These groups have taken up the mantle of climate change, anticapitalism, antifascism, and Black Lives Matter—whatever provides a pretext for violent “direct action.”
Contrary to those who believed that the end of the Trump presidency would bring a “return to normalcy,” the social and political revolution in Portland has only accelerated under President Joe Biden. On Inauguration Day, teenage radicals marched through southeast Portland, smashing the office windows of the state Democratic Party and unfurling large banners with hand-painted demands: “We don’t want Biden, we want revenge”; “We are ungovernable”; “A new world from the ashes.” Intoxicated by revolution and enabled by their elders, Portland’s kids are not all right.
Tigard, Oregon, is a placid suburb southwest of Portland. A local shopping mall hosts a Costco, a Home Depot, and a Cheesecake Factory. The city’s historic main street is a pastiche of coffeehouses, boutiques, repair shops, and restaurants. Historically, the city’s political squabbles have concerned zoning and land-use issues—in other words, the typical politics of an affluent American suburb. Demographically, Tigard is not diverse; it numbers only 636 blacks out of a total population of 52,368, making up approximately 1 percent of residents.
Nonetheless, educators at the Tigard-Tualatin School District have gone all-in on the social-justice trinity of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Last June, at the height of the nationwide unrest, Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith and Board Chair Maureen Wolf signed a proclamation “condemning racism and committing to being an anti-racist school district.” The preamble to the document recited the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and confessed that the district’s “students of color, and Black students in particular, still regularly experience racism in [their] schools.” To rectify this, the superintendent pledged to become “actively anti-racist,” “dismantle systemic racism,” implement a “collective equity framework,” establish “pillars for equity,” deploy “Equity Teams” within schools, create racially segregated “Student Affinity Groups,” and use “an equity lens for all future curriculum adoptions.”
The next month, the district announced a new Department of Equity and Inclusion and installed social-justice activist Zinnia Un as director. Un quickly created a blueprint, which I have obtained through a whistle-blower, for overhauling the pedagogy and curriculum at Tigard-Tualatin schools. The document calls for adopting the educational theories of Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, whose “pedagogy of the oppressed” (summarized in a 1968 book with that title) was originally designed to instill “critical consciousness” among impoverished South Americans and to forge the conditions for overthrowing the dictatorial governments of the era. (See “Pedagogy of the Oppressor,” Spring 2009.) Following Freire’s categorizations, Un writes that the Tigard-Tualatin school district must move from a state of “reading the world” to the phase of “denunciation” against the revolution’s enemies and, finally, to the state of “annunciation” of the liberated masses, who will begin “rewriting the world.”
In her blueprint, Un describes the new oppressor as an amalgamation of “whiteness,” “colorblindness,” “individualism,” and “meritocracy.” These are the values of capitalist society—but for Un, they are the values of white society, the primary impediment to social justice.
What is the solution to pathological whiteness? According to Un and the Tigard-Tualatin School District, the answer lies with a new form of “white identity development.” In a series of “antiracist resources” provided to teachers, the Department of Equity and Inclusion includes a handful of strategies for this identity transformation, intended to “facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices, for anti-racist work.” Couched in the language of professional development, the process assumes that whites are born “racist,” even if they “don’t purposely or consciously act in a racist way.” The first step in the training document is “contact,” defined as confronting whites with “active racism or real-world experiences that highlight their whiteness.” The goal is to provoke an emotional rupture that brings the subject to the next step, “disintegration,” in which he or she feels intense “white guilt” and “white shame,” and admits: “I feel bad for being white.” The training then outlines a process of moving white subjects from a state of “reintegration” to “pseudo-independence” to “immersion” to “autonomy.”
In the early stages, activities include “attending a training, joining an allies group, participating in a protest.” Later, white subjects are told to analyze their “covert white supremacy,” host “difficult conversations with white friends and family about racism,” and use their “privilege to support anti-racist work.” At the final stage, trainers plumb their subjects’ individual psyches to ensure that their “whiteness” has been banished. Subjects must answer a series of questions to demonstrate their commitment: “Does your solidarity make you lose sleep at night? Does your solidarity put you in danger? Does your solidarity cost you relationships? Does your solidarity make you suspicious of predominantly white institutions? Does your solidarity have room for Black rage?”
This is a pedagogy not of education but of revolution. It’s also textbook cult indoctrination: convince initiates of their fundamental guilt; present a remedy through participation in the group; manipulate emotions to achieve compliance; identify and organize against an amorphous scapegoat; demand total loyalty to the new orthodoxy; proselytize through personal circles; isolate from old friends and family; and keep the ultimate solution always out of reach. A veteran teacher who requested anonymity, out of fear of reprisals, told me that the “big change” happened when the new superintendent and equity and inclusion director took over the district. Immediately, the focus shifted from academics to politics, and employees were expected to fall in line with the new ideology. The teacher described one professional-development training that left some of her colleagues in a neighboring school devastated: “They had teachers actually crying because of their ‘whiteness.’ ”
Which brings us to the last plank in Tigard-Tualatin’s antiracism program: enforcement. As soon as Un took over as equity and inclusion director, she formulated a new “hate speech” policy designed not just to prevent truly discriminatory speech but also to pathologize any political opposition to the new order. The cultural cues in the district are clear: teachers must support Black Lives Matter protests and oppose anything that smacks of conservatism.
“I almost feel like we’re walking around on eggshells. You have to be careful what you say,” a veteran teacher told me. “I’m afraid of speaking up for fear I might lose my job. . . . I mean, what would happen if I said I’m a conservative Republican Christian? How would that go?” When I asked how the new political education program had affected her personally, her voice broke: “I don’t want go back to work. I don’t believe in this. It goes against my faith system. . . . We’re all created as equals in God’s sight, and this is just wrong, the way we’re teaching our children. I don’t have to be embarrassed because of my skin color.”
Born as a small farming community with the arrival of the Oregon Central Rail Road in 1868, the City of Beaverton has since transformed itself into a busy and prosperous suburb. Commuters fight through traffic to the Nike corporate headquarters on Southwest Murray Boulevard, or to the Intel research laboratories in nearby Hillsboro. Like Tigard, which borders the city to the south, Beaverton is a predominantly white and Asian-American community; just 2 percent of the city’s population is black.
Beaverton shares something else with Tigard: its public schools have been consumed by the racial panic following George Floyd’s death. Building on some of the same pedagogies and educational theories as in Tigard, Beaverton teachers designed and began teaching a new racial curriculum for every grade level, including kindergarten. The general language for these lessons seems innocuous: “diversity,” “empowerment,” “change-making,” “culturally responsive teaching.” Under normal circumstances, most parents would glance at the syllabus during parent-teacher night and forget about it. This year, however, because of the coronavirus lockdowns and remote-learning requirements, many parents kept closer tabs on their children’s education and were alarmed by what they saw. The curriculum, they discovered, reveals its radicalism in the details.
One family that had moved to Beaverton partly for the city’s highly rated public schools sent me a folder of lessons being taught to their third-grade child. The social studies module on race begins innocently enough: the teacher asks the eight- and nine-year-old students to think about their “culture and identity” and join her in “celebrating diversity,” set alongside pictures of a world map and cartoons of smiling children. The subsequent lessons become more pointed. The teacher explains to students that “race is a social construct,” created by privileged white elites who use these categories “to maintain power and control of one group over another.” This, the teacher says, is “racism” that “can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, and have a major negative impact on Black lives.”
The next module focuses on “systemic racism” and the history of the United States. The teacher tells the students that racism “infects the very structure(s) of our society,” including “wealth, employment, education, criminal justice, housing, surveillance, and healthcare.” To accompany the lesson, the teacher includes a video presentation in which the speaker directly accuses the children of being racist themselves: “Our society speaks racism. It has spoken racism since we were born. Of course you are racist. The idea that somehow this blanket of ideas has fallen on everyone’s head except for yours is magical thinking and it’s useless.” The speaker then tells the students that if they don’t convert to the cause, they will “affirm the status quo of certain bodies being allowed resources, access, opportunities, and other bodies being literally killed.”
The final modules present the solution: students must immerse themselves in “revolution,” “resistance,” and “liberation.” The teacher introduces these principles through photographs of child activists, Colin Kaepernick, the Black Power fist, and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, as well as protest signs reading “White Silence = Compliance,” “Black Lives > Property,” “AmeriKKKa,” and “Stop Killing Us.” The goal, according to the curriculum, is for students to become “change-makers” and “antiracist in all aspects of [their] lives.” They must actively fight “white supremacy, white-dominated culture, and unequal institutions,” or they will be guilty of upholding these evils. In the concluding lesson, the curriculum instructs the third-graders to “do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems,” “do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems,” and “learn how to listenand accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
A parent who emigrated from Iran to the United States told me that the lessons were “absolutely unacceptable” and reminiscent of the political indoctrination in the Islamic Republic. “I moved here because this is America, because of the rights and the opportunities that we have. And this is not where I want my country to go,” the parent explained. When I asked about her own childhood in Iran, she became emotional. “I remember when we would line up in the morning in an assembly. We had to chant ‘Death to America.’ I remember being in elementary school and thinking, ‘I don’t want to chant this. I have aunts and uncles in America. I don’t want them to die.’ ” Her husband sent a letter to the Beaverton School District, blasting the curriculum as “presenting racist material under the guise of ‘antiracism.’ ” (When reached for comment, the Beaverton School District replied that it “does not advocate for overthrowing the United States.”)
“They’re trying to indoctrinate the children,” the father observed. He believes that the intention is to turn child against parent. After the antiracism lessons, his child felt torn between school and family, sometimes crying in confusion. “They’re slowly going to get behind their defenses, get behind the parents’ defenses, and create little social-justice warriors,” the father said. “They’re trying to hyper-empathize and hyper-emotionalize the children in order to get them to be more receptive to . . . some sort of revolution.”
The parents decided to pull their child from the social studies program and now hope to transfer to another school next year. Though they were able to opt out of the program for now, they fear that, left unchecked, the campaign to turn children into the “pointed sword for revolution” could lead to wider social consequences. The mother reminded me that many Iranians initially supported the Islamic Revolution in order to depose the shah and usher in a better world, only to be bitterly disappointed. The revolutionaries promised a new utopia but ended up transforming their country into a tyranny. “I’m fighting this at the school and even at my work, because I see this country going that way.”
Unfortunately, this kind of curriculum is fast becoming the rule in Oregon. In 2017, state legislators passed a bill overhauling the state curriculum and installing a mandatory “ethnic studies” program that reflects the emergent racial orthodoxy. As a term, “ethnic studies” is another euphemism that obscures more than it reveals. It connotes a cheerful pride in cultural tradition, but the actual discipline is rooted in cultural Marxism.
According to drafts of the ethnic studies standards, teachers will require kindergartners to learn the “difference between private and public ownership” of goods and capital and “develop understanding of identity formation related to self, family, community, gender, and disability.” In first grade, they will learn how to “define equity, equality, and systems of power”; “examine social construction as it relates to race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation”; and “describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite, and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups.” In third, fourth, and fifth grade, students must deconstruct the U.S. Constitution, uncover “systems of power, including white supremacy, institutional racism, racial hierarchy, and oppression,” and “examine the consequences of power and privilege on issues associated with poverty, income, and the accumulation of wealth.”
If the elementary school curriculum sets the premise that the United States is the great oppressor, then the middle school and high school curricula deliver the conclusion. The learning standards read like an old left-wing pamphlet: students must internalize the principles of race-based “subversion, resistance, challenge, and perseverance”; they must fight against the “structural and systemic oppression” of capitalism, authority, religion, and government; and they must commit to the “pursuit of social justice.”
The internal documents for the Oregon Department of Education make it quite clear that the point of ethnic studies is not academic achievement; it’s “social change.” Education is the means; politics is the end.
If the cities of Tigard and Beaverton represent the categories of theory and praxis, Portland represents their result: power. In recent years, Portland has emerged as the leading hub of left-wing, Marxist, and anarchist movements. After George Floyd’s death, Portland’s radicals attacked police officers and laid siege to federal buildings. They armed themselves with rocks, bottles, shields, knives, guns, bricks, lasers, boards, explosives, gasoline, barricades, spike strips, brass knuckles, and Molotov cocktails. A year later, many downtown businesses remain closed, and insurance companies have either raised premiums or refused to issue policies because of the ongoing risk of property destruction.
Meantime, Portland Public Schools has institutionalized the philosophy of social justice and codified political activism into every aspect of the bureaucracy. In the district’s 2019 Racial Equity and Social Justice Plan, the administration pledged to make “antiracism” the district’s “North Star” and to create “an education system that intentionally disrupts—and builds leaders to disrupt—systems of oppression.” The superintendent hired a new equity czar and announced a “Five-Year Racial Equity Plan,” which promises a dizzying array of acronyms and academic catchphrases like “intersectionality” and “targeted universalism.”
It’s hard to overstate how entrenched the political ideology now is in the school system. A veteran elementary school teacher who described herself as a longtime liberal told me that the district’s “antiracist journey” began with good intentions a decade ago. But over time, the leadership has hardened “antiracist” principles into dogma. Today, she and other teachers must submit to mandatory antiracism training each week. “From the beginning, we were told that we couldn’t question [the antiracism program],” she said. “I called human resources and asked them if I needed to profess that I believe [in critical race theory] and if I had to teach from this perspective. And I was told that I need to understand it, I need to know all about it, [and] I could probably lose my job [if I didn’t teach that way] if my principal is super into making sure that teachers are using this lens as they teach.”
In one recent antiracism session, this teacher had to participate in a “line of oppression” exercise. The trainers lined up the teachers and shouted out various injustices (racism, homophobia, and so on), and asked teachers who would suffer from these harms to step forward. The trainers then divided the room into oppressed and oppressors, with straight white men and women forced to reckon with their identity in the oppressor category. The objective, according to the teacher, was to intimidate white teachers into submission through collective guilt and fear of being labeled a racist.
The ideology of “antiracism” has permeated every department in the district. Even educators in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program have begun teaching the principles of critical race theory to immigrants and refugees. According to a document that I obtained, ESL teachers are told to develop “counterstories” to the dominant American culture and to focus instruction on “advocacy for racial equity for emergent bilingual/multilingual students.” As part of the curriculum, they are asked to teach immigrants that “racism in the USA is pervasive and operates like the air we breathe” and that “civil rights gains for people of color should be interpreted with measured enthusiasm.” To combat the pernicious influence of their own “Whiteness,” the district recommends that white teachers adopt a series of affirmations, beginning with “getting to know myself as a racial being” and then “[deconstructing] the Presence and Role of Whiteness in my life and [identifying] ways I challenge my Whiteness.” Finally, after shedding their racial limitations, the teachers can begin the work of “interrupting institutional racism” and “the perpetuation of White Supremacy.”
This is a bewildering curriculum decision. Portland has a significant population of immigrants and refugees from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These families have escaped some of the most nightmarish conditions in the world, including civil war, genocide, starvation, and grinding poverty. Portland is not perfect, but it is certainly a haven of peace and opportunity for the foreign-born. In my own experience with the Eritrean community in the Pacific Northwest, most families have fled civil war and spent years in refugee camps. They express nothing but gratitude for their new lives in the United States. Yet Portland schools are intent on teaching the children of this community that their adopted country is systematically racist and will deprive them of opportunity.
How does all this translate in the classroom? At Forest Park, Whitman, and Marysville elementary schools, a teacher named Sarita Flores, who runs the information technology program, has transformed her role into that of a political inquisitor. According to leaked internal documents and whistle-blower testimony, Flores holds weekly “antiracism” sessions in which white teachers are expected to remain silent, “honor the feelings of BIPOC”—black, indigenous, and people of color—and “make space for and amplify BIPOC educators.” In presentations resembling Soviet-era struggle sessions, Flores instructs teachers that they must “deepen [their] political analysis of racism and oppression” and “start healing with public apologies about [their] racism and then go back and apologize through an audit through an anti-racist lens.” During one of these sessions, Flores hosted an exercise resembling Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, in which minority teachers were allowed 90 seconds to berate their white colleagues. During the exercise, Flores denounced one of her white female colleagues by screaming, “You make me feel unsafe, you make me feel unsafe” repeatedly for 90 seconds. Afterward, Flores boasted on Facebook that she had publicly humiliated a racist, despite providing no evidence of racism or misconduct. It was a pure display of racial dominance. (Flores did not return request for comment.)
For Flores and other teachers in the social-justice wing of Portland Public Schools, the only solution is revolution. During one presentation to teachers, Flores claimed that “an educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor.” In a folder hosted on the district website, Flores shared a meme with teachers that justified the ongoing political violence in Portland: “The root cause of every riot is some kind of oppression. If you want to end the riots, you have to end the oppression. If you want to end a riot without ending its root cause, your agenda isn’t about peace and justice—it’s about silencing and control.”
Her message to students was similar. In a series of videos delivered to her elementary school students, Flores declared: “Black people were used as slaves in the U.S.” and therefore students must become “justice fighters.” At the height of the Portland riots, Flores released another video message telling the children that “protesting is when people hold up signs and march for justice. You’ve trained for this moment all year: the fight for justice.”
By high school, the basic education about “skin color” and “justice fighters” turns into advanced race theory and live-action street protesting. At Lincoln High, a wealthy public school with only 1 percent black student enrollment, some students take two full years of “critical race studies.” The courses, taught by Jessica Mallare-Best, begin with training on racial identity, white supremacy, institutional racism, and racial empowerment, with the goal of providing “methods in which students can begin to be activists and allies for change.” The following year, students take two semesters of critical race theory—studying white fragility, intersectionality, “whiteness as property,” “the permanence of racism,” “collective organizing,” and “being an activist,” with an eye toward training them to “do [their] part in dismantling white supremacy.” The abstract becomes concrete, theory is transformed into action, and the young people of Portland come of age steeped in race analysis and revolutionary logic.
The next step is obvious. Children, endowed with conviction in their own moral purity, head to the front lines. In 2018, Ockley Green Middle School invited “police abolitionist” Teressa Raiford to hold an assembly on social justice, after which she led hundreds of students into the streets to perform a “die-in” in the middle of an intersection—without seeking permission from or notifying their parents. During the Floyd protests, the teacher- and student-led protests accelerated. Children as young as five held a mock protest at Sabin Elementary School and raised the Black Power fist alongside their teachers. Middle school students in northeast Portland led a public march advocating for defunding the police. High school students marched through a neighborhood in southwest Portland—“the whitest part of the city”—demanding that residents provide “reparations” to blacks.
The conclusion of Portland’s educational program is a grim one. More than two millennia ago, Aristotle understood the connection between education and the political regime: “That the legislator should especially busy himself about the education of the young would be disputed by no one, as the regime is damaged in cities where this is not done. The young need to be educated to the regime, since the character proper to each regime is what customarily preserves it and establishes it to begin with.” In Portland, the educators have abandoned this classical insight and implemented a revolutionary program—pedagogy, praxis, power—explicitly against the regime of the U.S. Constitution. They have discarded Aristotle for Marx and enlisted children as their revolutionary foot soldiers.
Violence has followed. The Youth Liberation Front, one of the most active and violent protest groups in Portland, was founded by teenagers and has recruited hundreds of young people to fight against the American regime. The group is organized into autonomous cells to avoid law-enforcement infiltration and has armed itself with shields, weapons, gas masks, and explosives. The group organized a walkout of Portland high schools and then rioted for more than 100 consecutive nights following George Floyd’s death. “We are a bunch of teenagers armed with ADHD and yerba mate,” the group declared on social media. “We can take a 5 A.M. raid and be back on our feet a few hours later. We’ll be back again and again until every prison is reduced to ashes and every wall to rubble.” Over the course of the summer, Portland and Multnomah County law enforcement arrested dozens of minors, including members of the Youth Liberation Front, for protest-related crimes, including rioting, burglary, property destruction, throwing rocks and bottles at police officers, brandishing a handgun at a crowd, setting fire to the police union headquarters, and stomping a man unconscious.
Their teachers, too, have immersed themselves in the destruction. Over the course of the summer unrest, police arrested at least five school teachers for riot-related crimes: Rose Addis, an award-winning Portland Public Schools elementary school teacher, was arrested for felony riot, disorderly conduct, and attempting to steal an officer’s baton; April Epperson, a Portland Public Schools elementary school teacher, was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer; Jacob Soto, a Portland Public Schools middle school band teacher, was arrested for felony riot and interfering with a police officer; Cody Porter, an avowed Communist and Multnomah County school instructor, was arrested for assaulting a federal officer; and Hannah Fewster, a preschool teacher, was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. All except one were released immediately without bail; according to publicly available directories, at least two of the Portland Public Schools teachers appear to be still employed by the district.
In one case, the eventual consequence of Portland’s bad education was a grisly death. Throughout the summer, a 16-year-old girl armed with a metal baseball bat accompanied her 48-year-old father, antifascist radical Michael Forest Reinoehl, to protests and riots across Portland. In July, the elder Reinoehl was arrested for rioting and possessing a loaded gun in public; at a separate protest, he was shot in the arm during a violent confrontation outside a bar—all in his daughter’s presence. As Reinoehl told reporters: “I have my daughter here with me because I’m trying to give her an education. The fact is, she’s going to be contributing to running this new country that we’re fighting for. And she’s going to learn everything on the street.” The following month, Reinoehl hunted a Trump supporter through downtown Portland, lay in wait for him behind a parking garage, and then seized him from behind and fired two shots, with one bullet piercing the man’s chest and killing him on the spot. Reinoehl fled to Washington State and, after an armed confrontation with law enforcement, was shot and killed by U.S. marshals.
Educators and parents in Portland are playing with fire. They have filled the heads of the young with dark visions of America and then told them to find fulfillment through revolution. But that revolution is devoid of positive values; it is a war of negation, destruction, and death. The child soldiers have been promised “a new world from the ashes,” but the real outcome, if they get their way, would be a world of ruin—cold, empty, and salted over. It’s hard not to see this as a cynical game: teachers and administrators, ensconced in the public bureaucracy and secured by the public trust, engage in an absurd theater of cultural Marxism, spinning stories about the “pedagogy of the oppressed” to their privileged, suburban, predominantly white students. For all the talk about “liberation” and “critical consciousness,” they are indoctrinating these children in a profoundly pessimistic worldview, in which racism and oppression pervade every institution, with no way out but revolution.
We have reached the strange reality in which the state, through the organs of education, agitates for its own destruction. Educators have condemned the entire structure of the social order and celebrated those who would tear it down. They might get what they wish for, though not in the way they imagine. The ancient Greeks warned about the degeneration of democracy into ochlocracy, or “mob rule,” which occurs when the populace loses faith in constitutions and the rule of law. The result is anarchy. In Portland, educators are shaping the character of the young into this regime of disorder. When the city’s rioters chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” in call and response, we should heed them—and beware of what’s to come.
Originally published in City Journal.