A just-released Education Update sent out by Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, notes that his department and the Oregon Health Authority have created a toolkit centering on safety, health and belonging as schools transition to face covering optional policies.
In his determination to cover all his bases, he says the goal of the toolkit is to create safe, supportive, welcoming schools, particularly for “students who experience disability and those who are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x/e, People of Color, Tribal members, and/or are members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.”
Gill clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups.
In a Medium article, Benjamin Morawek posited that there are two types of identity politics.
“The first kind is what I call inclusive identity politics and it is synonymous with the term “common-humanity identity politics” used by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind. This kind of identity politics, they explain, mobilizes identity “in ways that emphasize an overarching common humanity while making the case that some fellow human beings are denied dignity and rights because they belong to a particular group. This is the identity politics of the civil rights movement and a shining example of its use is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.”
“… the second kind of identity politics, exclusive identity politics, calls for the value of marginalized groups based on the very identity that makes them different,” Morawek wrote. As Oberlin College professor Sonia Kruks said in Retrieving Experience, “The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of ‘universal humankind’ … nor is it for respect ‘in spite of’ one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.”
One problem with Gill’s identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.
Gill’s reference to “the LGBTQ2SIA+ community” illustrates this point.
The Oregon Department of Education says this “…means a term that encompasses multiple gender identities and sexual orientations including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, and Asexual. The plus sign (“+”) recognizes that there are myriad ways to describe gender identities and sexual orientations.”
“Originally LGB, variants over the years have ranged from GLBT to LGBTI to LGBTQQIAAP as preferred terminology shifted and identity groups quarreled about who should be included and who come first,” Chua wrote.
“How can we come together on anything big…when we keep slicing ourselves into smaller factions?”, wrote Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post. “Down this road lies, ultimately, state breakdown and failure,” warns Stanford University political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, in Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment.
At some point, the left is going to tie itself up in knots trying to categorize everybody. In the meantime, the country will slowly break down into warring factions and we will all pay the price.
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