CounterCurrent: Week of 11/21
2020 was a rollercoaster of a year, to say the least. After all of its ups, downs, and loop-the-loops, I wasn’t sure how things could get any crazier. Then came 2021, and along with it the thought that “we’re gonna be on this ride for a while, aren’t we?” The last year’s twists and turns have made for a resounding “yes, yes we are.” We’ve had one of the most contested elections in recent memory, continued civil unrest, both in our major cities and in the capitol itself, and battles at every level of government, education, and industry regarding COVID-related mandates. Will we ever get off this coaster? Only time will tell.
Despite all of this, it remains important to stop and reflect on the things for which we are thankful. In fact, it’s probably even more important during times like these. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are five encouraging developments from 2021 we’d like to share:
1. Celebrating America Webinar Series
In February, the National Association of Scholars launched our Celebrating America webinar series. As of now, our two active series are the “American History, American Character” series and the “Great American Novel” series. Through these events, we aim to teach the great moments of American history and literature from a positive perspective, one aimed at building support for our national values, institutions, and history. The webinars have been a great success thus far, with over two dozen events and nearly 8,000 viewers. We’re thankful for our speakers and our participants, and we cherish the opportunity to have these vital discussions at the time in which they are needed most. We hope you join us for our upcoming Celebrating America webinars—learn more and register here. You can also view past webinars here.
2. Pushback Against Radical Ideology in Schools
Three words sum up education news in 2021: Critical Race Theory. No matter where you look, you are bound to find story after story debating the merits of CRT in education—as well as whether it’s even in education at all—and covering the many CRT-related battles that have been waged in government and in schools. On the federal level, House members have introduced legislation to restrict the use of CRT in American education. On the state level, numerous states including Idaho, Texas, and South Dakota have taken action to stem the proliferation of CRT in their schools. Perhaps most important, though, has been the local-level pushback against CRT through school board meetings and grassroots parents’ organizations. This came to a head in the 2021 election, which saw huge wins for those opposed to CRT and other radical ideologies. For example, the 1776 Project Pac reports that 75% of the candidates it endorsed won their school board elections. Contrary to what Attorney General Garland may believe, these voters are not domestic terrorists. They are concerned, courageous parents who are taking their schools back from radical activists, and we are thankful for their efforts.
3. Alternative Education On the Rise
While many fight to salvage our existing educational infrastructure, some are taking matters into their own hands and building from the ground up. This has taken the form of entirely new universities, such as the recently announced University of Austin, as well as brand new curricula available for teachers everywhere, including the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum. We don’t need legacy higher ed anymore in order to provide young Americans with a quality education. The soil is fertile for many more entrepreneurial efforts, and we are thankful for those brave Americans who have devoted themselves to develop excellent alternatives. We commend their work and encourage many, many more to follow suit.
4. Minding the Campus Running on All Cylinders
2021 is the first full year after the NAS acquired Minding the Campus, a popular forum for commentary on American higher education. I have had the great privilege of serving as MTC’s managing editor and am pleased to report that the publication is as strong as ever. Earlier this year, we completed a wide-ranging, timely symposium on white fragility and related “new racism” concepts, a series which we are now working on publishing as a small book. We also welcomed on board two new columnists: Wenyuan Wu of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation and University of Texas investigator extraordinaire Louis Bonham. We even inaugurated a new MTC award, the Trofim Lysenko Award for the Suppression of Academic Speech. We are so thankful for all of our writers and readers, and we look forward to bringing you great MTC content for many years to come.
5. Confucius Institute Closures Continue Apace
Alright, I’m almost done. But before we pass the bread and butter on Thursday, let’s not forget about one of the NAS’s bread-and-butter projects: Confucius Institutes. When we first published our bombshell report Outsourced to China in 2017, there were a whopping 103 Confucius Institutes (CIs) in the United States. Now, that number is a meager 36. To be sure, this is 36 too many, but we continue to see more CIs close and a strong public push for politicians and regulators to curb malign foreign influence in American higher education. Over 25 of these closures have been announced and/or completed in the last year alone. We’re thankful that more and more universities are taking seriously the threat that CIs pose and are taking action to close them.
I hope that you find these victories as encouraging as we do. Thank you for joining us in protecting academic freedom amidst its many threats. We wish you a restful, joyous, and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.
Image: Jed Owen, Public Domain