Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

If you use an accountant to help you do your taxes, do you tell the accountant what the tax law is? No, you rely on his or her expertise to guide you through the process so you’ll save money and comply with the intricate machinations of the federal tax code.


If you go to a restaurant, do you go into the kitchen before a chef cooks your meal and tell her how to do it? No, you rely on her knowledge and experience to prepare it the way she sees fit. And if you don’t like it?  You don’t return to the restaurant.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a conversation before somebody’s cut my hair and that could have disastrous consequences,” one person quipped earlier this week.

Do you tell a lawyer how to practice law or a doctor exactly how to treat your cancer? What about farmers — do you go to their farms and tell them how to grow the food you eat? As your house burns, do you stop a firefighter and ask his qualifications to put out the fire?

All of these situations seem absurd. Except these days when it comes to some elected officials. In a time when too many everyday citizens can turn to the internet to spout their instant expertise on everything from how to treat COVID-19 to Russian geopolitics, it’s not surprising state lawmakers think they know better than our teachers on how to teach history.

But it’s sad. This is what we’ve come to when discussing issues: Nobody really seems to trust anyone any more.

It’s sad to read how a Charleston teacher on March 2 had to ask members of a House committee to back off on so-called “critical race theory” legislation that would limit how they can teach history or discuss current events — even though South Carolina’s schools don’t use this non-curriculum theory to guide lessons.  

It’s simply the fear among conservatives — and perhaps the scent in the air of yet another way to divide people politically — that they could use an obscure legal theory to whip up a storm of people getting worked up about how teachers teach students about race. 

In South Carolina. A former slave state. With a racist past. Where Black slaves once outnumbered white residents. Go figure.

“I’m here to ask you to trust the system,” teacher Patrick Martin is reported to have testified earlier in the week at a S.C. House hearing on five bills related to critical race theory. “Trust teachers. Trust students. And trust parents.”

According to a 2021 report from Gallup, just 24% of Americans believe they can trust our government to do what’s right “just about always” or “most of the time.”

“Low levels of confidence in government … suggest that increased trust in government could have mitigated the impact of COVID in the U.S. — and, in theory, could do so in the future,” the Gallup report noted, highlighting how unvaccinated Americans have a much lower trust level than those who were inoculated.

A 2021 Pew Research Center survey was even more disturbing as it reflected a clear partisan divide on trust in government. Just 9% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they trusted the government to do what’s right always or most of the time with Joe Biden as president. When Donald Trump was president, only 12% of Democrats felt the same way. The trust percentage for each party was about three times higher if a president was in the same party.  

For South Carolina and America to work, we actually do have to trust the system. Let’s stop the legislative grandstanding on how we teach race to South Carolina students and focus on real issues like reducing poverty, improving health care, offering more opportunities and bettering our long-term quality of life. 

Andy Brack is publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment?  Send to:

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