Guest column: Critical thinking and the cover up

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

Oklahoma recently passed a law censoring education in our public schools.

While many people focus on the law’s intent to prevent teaching critical race theory, the following sentence in the law is the most dangerous.

“No teacher, administrator or other employee of a school district, charter school or virtual charter school shall require or make part of a course the following concepts:”

Regardless of the concepts listed after the colon, this law violates our right to freedom of speech promised in the first amendment.  

Aside from the fact that the law will almost certainly be overturned by the courts, it attempts to close the barn door after the horse is out.

Basically, this is an attempt to hide any part of American history that demonstrates people have been treated differently on account of race.

This law, and others focused on restricting education about race relations in America are an effort to continue covering up a national scandal. Experience teaches that attempts to cover up a scandal eventually bring even more attention.  

We still remember the Watergate scandal in large part because of the attempts of President Nixon and others to hide their wrongdoing.  

Today, we know the Tulsa Race Massacre will be forever etched in our collective memory, in part because it was so well-hidden for almost a century.

When facing accusations that it was wrong for military leaders to study critical race theory, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded forcefully.

He stated in no uncertain terms that it is important for military leaders to be open minded, well-educated and widely read.

"I've read Mao Zedong. I've read Karl Marx. I've read Lenin. That doesn't make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding — having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?"

He also pointed to the reason it is vital to study race relations in our nation.

"I want to understand white rage, and I'm white, and I want to understand it," Milley said. "So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out."

Milley was obviously trying to contain his rage as he spoke the following words.

"And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, 'woke' or something else, because we're studying some theories that are out there."

Perhaps as important as the words Milley spoke was the intensity behind the words. He spoke with the conviction of a true patriot defending our nation against an attack, because that is exactly what he was doing.

As a well-educated widely read individual, General Mark Milley understands that censorship is one of the tools authoritarians use to destroy democracies.

Milley spoke of the three-fifths compromise in the Constitution that counted slaves as 60% of a human being, giving more political power to slave owners, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws and the voting rights act as examples of our history of race relations.

Those topics could serve as a beginning point of a long overdue discussion our nation needs to have about race relations in this country.

While some do not think we should be critical of any aspect of race relations in America, critical thinking is vital to seeing our history clearly and working to ensure we learn the lessons it has to teach.

What Milton wrote in 1644 remains true to this day.

"Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple, who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"

 — Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.