Conservative leaders across America like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are cracking down on so-called Zuckerbucks, the potential malign influence of private money on the conduct of our public elections. But there is an even bigger threat from private money that could deform classrooms and communities right under our noses—Civicsbucks.
Readers will remember that the term Zuckerbucks refers to the more than $400 million dollars that was donated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to local election boards across America during the 2020 election, distorting the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and elsewhere. The Zuckerbergs spent as much money as the U.S. Congress did in the CARES Act to build election infrastructure with a disproportionate amount of the funding going to Democrat areas.
In Pennsylvania’s Democrat Delaware County, for example, this Zuckerbucks funding was used to install 1 drop box every 4 miles for every 4,000 voters, whereas in the 59 counties that Trump had won in 2016, 1 drop box was placed every 1,100 miles for every 72,000 voters. In Wisconsin, Zuckerbucks allowed areas of the state that had previously voted Democrat in the 2016 election to spend $47 per voter, while Republican areas had only $4 to $7 to spend per voter.
It is hard to imagine anything that could erode trust in our nation’s public institutions more quickly than leftwing billionaires and foundations using private money to fund the administration of our elections.
But there is one thing—a growing movement to use private money to inject woke ideology into public schools. Call it Civicsbucks. Its purpose is to put the most radical Democrat organizations and billionaires in the driver’s seat of our education system. Instead of altering the manner of an election, Civicsbucks help critical race theory proponents and leftwing activists alter the minds of our young people. Illinois is blazing a path to this nightmarish future. In 2015, the legislature there passed a bill to allow local school districts to “utilize private funding available for the purposes of offering civics education.”
Innocent enough, right?
Wrong. Like Zuckerbucks, when private money flows into public schools, pernicious partisan goals trump public needs. The change in Illinois law allowed for leftwing organizations like iCivics and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to spend over $1 million in private funding to design and implement a new woke agenda for Illinois public schools.
In 2021, with the aid and direction of the McCormick Foundation, Illinois went even more woke and passed new “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” that mandates that teachers acknowledge “the wide spectrum and fluidity of identities.” The Illinois State Board of Education now recommends as part of their reading list for teachers an article advocating white fragility training to help teachers “move past their whiteness.”
Allowing for private funding of civics education has given leftwing activists de facto control of the civics curriculum and teacher trainings statewide to infuse them with leftist orthodoxy on race and gender. Illinois civics materials are now steeped in critical race theory polemics such as White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo and Ibram Kendi’s textbook that asserts: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
The radical historical revisionism of the New York Times’ 1619 Project also features prominently in Illinois civics materials, and Shawn Healy, who is a leading figure behind the Illinois civics law and Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy at the leftwing group iCivics, says that parents who do not want their children to be indoctrinated with critical race theory should be refuted by teachers relying on “highly reputable sources” such as the 1619 Project. Healy maintains this position even though the 1619 Project has been roundly rejected as a “highly reputable source” by numerous prominent historians. In addition, Illinois civics materials exhibit a clear partisan bias. One lesson plan, for example, requires students to read former President Trump’s tweets and then answer the questions: “What characteristics would make someone a cyberbully?” and “[D]o you think he is perpetuating racist narratives?”
As AMAC Newsline has reported, the new civics that is being hailed today has little to do with the teaching of civics in the traditional sense. It’s “action civics.” And it’s a bait-and-switch game. When action civics is the name, leftism is the game. And it’s an action civics curriculum in public schools that leftwing billionaires and foundations like the McCormick Foundation want to fund.
In the new civics curriculum, students are not taught how to be citizens. They’re taught how to be activists. And, like the name warns, they’re required to put their teachings into action.
Action civics projects have organized students—for school credit—to publicly push and protest to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, raise the minimum wage, and support unionization, among other leftist priorities.
Illinois was one of the first states to allow lefty organizations to infiltrate the teacher training operation and provide de facto management and direction to action civics as practiced in the state. But it’s unlikely to be the last. A broad leftwing controlled coalition led by iCivics recently pushed for similar legislation in Texas.
In Arlington, Virginia, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ company Amazon recently donated hundreds of copies of a book by critical race theory proponent Ibram Kendi to an Arlington County high school as part of a Black History Month initiative. Amazon also paid the book’s co-author $10,000 to indoctrinate faculty and students with divisive concepts that the book itself readily admits are “not history[.]” (The book literally starts with the words: “This is not a history book. I repeat, this is not a history book.”)
Considering how important schools are in shaping our culture, these examples of Civicsbucks represent a dramatic escalation and a fundamental change in tactics. Leftist activists now seek to use private funding to buy out public-school classrooms and impose their own radical notions on everything from marriage to religion, from abortion to the Second Amendment, and from free speech to critical race theory onto the very curriculum that is being taught to America’s children.
Schools are where we decide what kind of a people we become. In schools, an anti-American narrative put forward by teachers can be treated as gospel, to be worshipped and acted upon by students, but never questioned. This is what makes Civicsbucks so dangerous to the country and so appealing to the left.
It was precisely this danger that former Attorney General Bill Barr addressed in a recent speech in Naples, Florida. Barr noted that most of today’s public schools offer an “indoctrination into an affirmative belief and value system” so thoroughly that it “tak[es] the place of religion.” The former chief law enforcement officer of the United States said that “We are rapidly approaching the point—if we have not already reached the point—at which the heavy-handed enforcement of secular-progressive orthodoxy through government-run schools is totally incompatible with traditional Christianity and other major religious traditions in our country.”
Barr went on to acknowledge that a simple solution to the problem of the religion of secularism that so thoroughly pervades our public school system is to allow every parent the right to take their child’s share of public funding and use it to attend the school of their choice.
Ironically, if the leftwing “action civics” activists who are pushing to allow private financing of civics education were logically consistent, these same groups would support Barr’s call for universal school choice. After all, if private groups can decide what core civic values are best for public school students, then certainly their own parents can make such a choice.
If Civicsbucks continue to infiltrate America’s public schools, then there are only two outcomes for the future of education. Either big money leftwing donors will erode our children’s understanding of their own history, purpose, and very identity from within, or more conservatives will address this problem seriously, as a few including South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem have already pledged, and treat Civicsbucks like Zuckerbucks.
Just as states are working to ban Zuckerbucks from manipulating elections, states across the country also need to take action to ban Civicsbucks. At the same time, we need to take seriously the urgency of providing universal school choice in K-12 education. The question before each school district now should be whether parents or billionaires — and their partisan leftwing foundations flush with billions in private funding — will oversee what our children are taught in school about their country.
With the already-growing backlash against critical race theory underway, the kindling of the school-choice-for -all movement is slowly catching fire. The threat of Civicsbucks could very well be the spark that leads to a grassroots revolt that has even more energy and intensity —and impact—than the Tea Party and anti-Common Core movements did in their time.
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