Robin Meyers
Robin Meyers

I alone will indoctrinate your kids.

Ryan Walters, the new Oklahoma schools superintendent, claims to be saving students from liberal indoctrination — by replacing curriculum with an overtly conservative agenda.

Oklahoma’s new state schools superintendent is about to take a desperate situation and make it awful. 

His plans for stamping out “wokeness,” critical race theory, and boys using the girl’s bathrooms sounds nothing like a plan to advance education, and more like a platform to become Ron DeSantis Jr. The irony of this culture war approach to education is transparently hypocritical. Walters claims to be all “for academics and against indoctrination,” while making it clear that he alone will decide who gets hired, who gets raises and what gets taught in our schools. That is the very definition of indoctrination.

Beware the zealot who is going to save you from something that may or may not exist and intends to burn down your house to do it. Beware the fearmonger who incites the masses to muzzle free and open discourse about dangerous ideas so that he can make duplicate zealots for even worse ideas. Beware the evangelist who rails against other people’s sins while lining his pocket from two jobs at taxpayers’ expense while vowing to cut wasteful government spending. Ryan Walters makes more than the governor.      

Oklahoma is in a death-spiral when it comes to public education but the problem is not “woke” Santas and drag queens. It is an unlivable wage for one of society’s most important jobs with working conditions so abysmal, even dangerous, that teachers are burned out and leaving the profession in droves. Many are moving to Texas where they can earn far more, proving that we have lost the only Red River showdown that truly matters.

Walters’ answer is to impose a hiring and spending freeze, a decision “he alone” can make to fix it (just as Donald Trump put it), and then “he alone” will review every personnel and budget move so that “we” will hire folks who are in lockstep with his goals for our kids. Walters was a teacher, but he needs to review Venn diagrams, where “he” and “we” do not overlap.  

In his attack on critical race theory, he has the audacity to quote Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of living in a time when his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (Walter’s campaign version of the quote is backwards, but hey, even teachers make mistakes).  

“Unfortunately,” he continues, “a philosophy that teaches the opposite of this principle is ‘infecting’ our classrooms, and we need to put a stop to it.” CRT, he says, “is a dangerous and racist philosophy, and all it does is divide and characterize entire groups of people solely based on the color of their skin.”   

If Walters said this in a classroom, one would hope that some very bright student might raise her hand to point out that characterizing entire groups of people based solely on the color of their skin was the norm before CRT. It is what King was fighting against and gave his life for. What sort of dream world is Walters living in? Or is that letting the whole Fox News crowd off too easily? They know exactly what they are doing.

They pretend that there is no separation of church and state because we were founded as a “Christian nation.” So, taxpayers of any religious persuasion, or no religious persuasion, can be forced to support white, wealthy, private Christian schools, while black and brown children can be warehoused in what’s left of the public schools. Then we can lie to them by pretending that America’s original sin is not systemic racism, but elite universities. We can’t assign books like Killers of the Flower Moon about the atrocities committed by white settlers against the Osage so they could steal their oil. That might make somebody “feel bad.”

Good teachers are what every kid deserves, says Walters, so let’s do merit pay based on student performance. This will guarantee that if you teach in a poor, underperforming school you will never get a raise, but if you teach in Deer Creek, you will end up making a six-figure salary. That will teach even the most idealistic among us to ignore the words of Jesus about helping “the last and the least of these.” 

Walters is 100 percent pro-life of course, protecting who he calls “our most vulnerable.” But after they leave the womb, heaven help them if they are not straight white Christians. Their last, best hope to climb out of poverty would be a great public school education or a great teacher and mentor. Meanwhile, there is a mass-exodus of our best teachers, and it is about to accelerate.    

As for diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will end up graduating students who don’t even know what those words mean or why they matter. As for the Second Amendment, Walters quotes the corrupt and disgraced NRA, saying that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This after more than one mass shooting a day since Jan. 1. Truth be known, what stops a good student with a good mind is a bad teacher with an emergency certification.

I did notice that Walters graduated from Harding University, where my father once taught.  In the late 1950s, Harding was a totally segregated Christian school, which is an oxymoron. When my dad circulated a petition to integrate Harding, the president in those days said in chapel that admitting black students would lead to more crime and disease. Then he fired my father, who had won multiple awards for excellence in teaching. So things haven’t changed all that much. 

But they are about to get much, much worse in Oklahoma. The Trump-inspired Tucker Carlson of Education is in charge now, and he is the real indoctrinator-in-chief. 

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers is pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Norman and retired senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. He is currently Professor of Public Speaking, and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, and the author of eight books on religion and American culture, the most recent of which is, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age. Visit

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