Education & Political Interference in the Death of Democracy

18 Jun


In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book Farenheit 431, Captain Beatty states that, ‘A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it, Take the shot from the weapon. Breach one man’s mind. Who knows what might be the target of the well-read man’.  In this dystopian novel, Beatty is justifying the burning of books.

While Farenheit is a novel, there is a long history of book burning going back centuries. 

The burning of books is intended to control knowledge, to prevent free thinking, to make sure everyone thinks the same and an affront to liberalism. Book burning is a political issue, Similarly, the 21st equivalent is Internet Censorship, which, in a political context, has became a hot topic since the propagation of mistruths became so visible during the Trump Presidency.

There are myriad reasons politicians want to interfere with the distribution of knowledge, not least of which is to avoid scrutiny. But, the most frightening, as highlighted in Farenheit 451 and Orwell’s ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’, is the need for complete control of ideology-what we think.

Texas has become the latest State to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools, joining  several others that have banned it or thinking of doing so. While Critical Race Theory was conceptualised over 40 years ago it has become a target for politicians as racial tensions have grown, arguably since the murder of George Floyd, and continue to be at flash point across America. Some states have also banned Project 1619  from being taught in schools becoming another target of  revisionist conservatives.

There is little doubt that both Critical Race Theory and Project 1619 are ‘in your face’ accounts of the history of slavery and racism in the United States that started with the first slave ship arriving on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Critical Race Theory describes the social construction of racism and how it’s relationship to power, civil rights, advantage and disadvantage. What gets conservatives jumpy is that at the heart of Critical Race Theory is its attack on white supremacism. Critical Theory , in general, is a scholarly approach to research, well understood and accepted in universities around the world. It is less liked by the institutions and ideologies that are scrutinised by it because Critical Theory attempts to unearth who are the beneficiaries of the actions of others, and the institutions in which they reside, who are the disadvantaged and what are the real social, political and economic effects. Institutions are not great fans of Critical Theory because it investigates truth to power.

We should be very concerned about political interference of this type when it comes to school curricula. It is a blatant attempt by conservatives to control what people think and, if not to exactly revise history,  to control and suppress it. Along with the events at Capitol Hill, the normalisation of lie telling in the media, legislation to suppress the vote, and divisiveness of American politics, and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, we should be concerned with the threat to democracy. We may be observing the death of another republic.

And we should be concerned, as well as watchful, here in Australia about the control of knowledge and information. There is a slow but steady shift to the right in democracies across the globe. This shift reflects people’s propensity to seek simple solutions to complex problems that populist right wing politics provides, underpinned by authoritarianism-tell us what to do. Simple explanations such as, it ‘their fault’ (xenophobia and racism) make it easy for the masses to shift responsibility and to stop being curious as we are fed misinformation that helps us explain our world. We are not immune from this in Australia. It simmers just below the surface.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

7 Responses to “Education & Political Interference in the Death of Democracy”

  1. Greg Hamilton June 20, 2021 at 3:51 pm #

    Jeez, how depressing; truthful, but nevertheless depressing.
    From the cradle to the grave life is a struggle and then we get politics thrown in to add some extra grief.
    I wonder, sometimes, whether those that turn off and fall in (the path of least resistance) are not making a smarter choice: ignorance IS bliss.
    The autocrats’ and plutocrats’ m.o. (any evil bastard actually) is to have dominion over us and it’s not that hard if you’re ruthless, greedy and hungry enough.


  2. doug quixote August 6, 2021 at 8:52 pm #

    Swings and roundabouts – the populist right wing nut jobs are having their day, ever since their reaction to the sensible ones who chose a black man as US President, and then the absurd US system allowed a narcissist demagogue with Russian backing to take an election with 3 million fewer votes . . .

    and it took 80 million Americans to get off their fat arses and vote to jackhammer the bastard out – that 74 million wanted him to stay is the frightening thing, incompetent and deranged as he obviously was and is.

    Burning books is what the rwnj’s do best, they always have. Their problem is that when they have rewritten history to fall in with their ideology, by definition they cannot learn from history since what they have is fiction. So they make the same mistakes over and over and wonder why they fail.

    And so it goes.


    • rakum8 August 31, 2021 at 6:22 pm #

      Ned and Fred applaud with me


  3. Gladys the Ruby Princess August 11, 2021 at 5:45 pm #



  4. paul walter August 29, 2021 at 10:02 pm #


    The corpse twitches.

    In the last month or two we have witnessed how propaganda becomes ramped up; more overt and crass as the conservatives have floundered over their Covid fantasies and tragic resulting policies and how Sleepy Joe in the US has been caught out for actually believing US brainwashing of the Caped Crusader type as he has been caught with his jocks down by the Taliban.

    Surprised the Wilson has not included her recent related article included elsewhere involving more eyewash from “cant stay locked down forever ” Tories while the epidemic explodes in NSW and perhaps Victoria.

    It is important that the few who see thru fascist propaganda alert the rest in this of all grim times.


    • doug quixote September 6, 2021 at 9:39 pm #

      Speaking of corpses . . . long time no see, Paul!

      The absence of the non-sheep here has been a downer in recent years – Jennifer Wilson, we want more! And more often.

      We surely aren’t short of topics.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gill's Practical Bookkeeping August 31, 2021 at 10:05 am #

    I still feel like there are many people prepared to read and think and grow. I still feel like participating in democracy is an important duty as a citizen. I’m grateful that this post exists.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: