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‘Indoctrination’ witch hunt comes up short

by THE IDAHO STATESMAN EDITORIAL BOARD
| May 26, 2021 1:00 AM

Over 100 students gathered at the Idaho Statehouse in protest of the Legislature’s H337 bill aimed at 'indoctrination' of students in its schools, including reference to “critical race theory.” They sat in the Senate gallery to hear the vote.

For those keeping score at home, here’s the updated scorecard on the far-right obsession in Idaho with rooting out what it thinks is left-wing, anti-American, socialist/communist, social justice, critical race theory indoctrination in education:

• rejection of a $6 million federal grant to pay for early childhood education.

• the establishment of an “indoctrination task force” charged with rooting out imaginary indoctrination in education.

• new state legislation that tries to ban critical race theory in schools.

• a cut of $1.5 million in funding to Boise State, part of a $2.5 million defunding of higher education, over fears of social justice programs at the university.

• the creation of a so-called Institute for Advancing American Values at Boise State, an apparent reaction to accusations of liberal indoctrination in higher education.

• weeks of debate in the Legislature, diverting legislators from solving problems that actually exist.

• a temporary shutdown of the entire University Foundations program at Boise State amid an allegation that a student was demeaned for his or her beliefs.

• a university-paid investigation by a law firm into those allegations.

On the other side of the scorecard:

• zero evidence of any wrongdoing or indoctrination.

So it turns out that allegations of a student being demeaned for his or her beliefs in a University Foundations class at Boise State didn’t pan out, and video of the alleged incident couldn’t be found, according to a report released Monday from Hawley Troxell, the law firm that did the investigation.

Further, the law firm could find no evidence of so-called indoctrination going on at all.

Even after interviewing about 30 students, several instructors of the UF 200 course, and other university employees; reviewing class syllabi and other course documents; and setting up an email address and asking the nearly 3,000 students who had been enrolled in any section of the course during the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semester to submit concerns or information — either identifying themselves or anonymously — related to their experience in the class.

Nothing.

Investigators were able to track down the person who initially complained, a “community leader” who is not a student but reported seeing a video showing a UF 200 student being “forced to apologize … for being ‘white’ or for the student’s ‘white privilege,’” while classmates taunted the student.

“The Complainant declined to identify any student and declined to describe in any detail what he has seen or heard from students other than that it was ‘really inappropriate,’” according to the report. “The Complainant stated that he did not have possession of the video he had seen and declined to provide any information on how it could be obtained.”

What a waste of time and money.

The law firm found one instance that maybe, possibly could have been related: A student reportedly called an instructor’s logic “stupid” during a debate about universal health care in a UF 200 course. After the comment, other participants in the class objected to the student’s word choice. The student, who later told investigators that she had not called the instructor “stupid” but rather said the “instructor’s logic” was stupid, reportedly left the class early that day in tears.

Based on interviews with the concerned student, the instructor and eight other students in the section, the firm determined that the instructor — who told the class that she understood the student had intended to speak only about her logic and who checked in with the student after class — had responded “appropriately.”

The report notes that no other incidents the law firm uncovered came “anywhere near matching the alleged incident.”

All of this leads to the question: Where is all of this coming from? Who’s pushing these buttons? And why?

Let’s face it: This is a manufactured witch hunt, and the far-right fringe of Idaho’s politics is falling for it.

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Idaho Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh; editor Chadd Cripe; newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser; and community members J.J. Saldaña and Christy Perry. McIntosh teaches a class at Boise State.