Maher sounds alarm on 'climate of fear' in US schools: Parents afraid of 'not being woke enough'

Maher sounds alarm on 'climate of fear' in US schools: Parents afraid of 'not being woke enough'

“Real Time” host Bill Maher led a panel discussion Friday night on a subject he said he has been “taking a lot a s— for” in the past for pushing against, which is the current state of education in America. 

“There is something going on in the schools. … These are the schools that funnel kids to Harvard — and Harvard, you know, funnels them out to important parts of the media, television, government and they control a lot of how people think,” Maher began.

“Two things that are different: Parents don’t have the back of the teachers anymore, they always side with their little brat … and the biggest thing, I think, is the shift away from moral teaching from the parent to the school.

“It used to be the school would be afraid of what the parent thought. Now the parent is afraid of going against what they’re teaching in school — even when they don’t agree with it. That’s a huge shift that we should stop and at least notice and debate and talk about, right?” Maher asked. 

“It used to be the school would be afraid of what the parent thought. Now the parent is afraid of going against what they’re teaching in school — even when they don’t agree with it.”

— Bill Maher

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“Of course,” Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Flanagan responded. “When we have public schools, thousands and thousands of public schools, where parents are really afraid to challenge what’s going on in the classroom, that’s really a problem. That’s really a serious problem in education.”

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argued that the problem is that the “distinction” is being lost between “education” and “indoctrination.”

“A lot of what’s happening is really indoctrination,” Stephens explained. “I studied Marxism in school. It’s important to understand what Marxism is. It’s different from being taught from a Marxist perspective, right? One exposes you to ideas, the other makes you kind of a soldier in a given perspective. There’s something kind of totalitarian about that. You’re not producing independent thinkers, you’re producing Red Guards.”

“A lot of what’s happening is really indoctrination.”

— Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist

Flanagan called out the hypocrisy of how children of “actual billionaires” who attend wealthy schools are “being turned into Baby Marxists” because “that’s how rich your daddy has to be for Marxism to work for you personally,” saying the country has to “get some of this crap out of these schools.”

From left: Bill Maher, Caitlin Flanagan, Bret Stephens.

From left: Bill Maher, Caitlin Flanagan, Bret Stephens.

Maher then invoked pieces written by Flanagan as well as journalist Bari Weiss about “this climate of fear that people are living in these schools — fear of not being woke enough, of not speaking woke enough.”

“[Weiss] says, ‘Power in America comes from speaking woke,’ Maher quoted Weiss’ piece. “She quotes this math teacher who says, ‘I’m in a cult. Well, not exactly. It’s that the cult is all around me and I’m trying to save kids from becoming members.’ He sounds like a Scientology defector.” 

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Flanagan opined about the “period” that schools are in amid the cultural upheaval following the death of George Floyd and while she called the social movement “important,” she warned that the “lessons that they’re introducing on the backs of that protest are grotesque.”

Stephens also pointed out that the “climate of fear” goes far beyond schools, affecting “institutions, companies all over the country.”

“People just have to start calling bulls— on it,” Stephens said. “I mean, the only way this thing ends is people who are in authority say, ‘No, we’re not going to be bullied. If you don’t want to work here, go elsewhere. These are our values and we’re going to stick by them. They include fair play and openness to a variety of points of view.'”

Maher later complained that the word “privilege” bothered him, suggesting that people could have “certain advantages” over others, pointing to “race” as an example. 

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“Of course, race is the biggest issue in America. I will always put that at number one, but it’s not the only one,” Maher said. “There are so many factors that affect people’s lives and they only want to see this one thing!” 

“If you’re truly a Marxist … tell your parents, ‘I don’t want to go to this expensive school anymore. This is too elite. I want to be part of making public schools better,'” Flanagan said. “They want to be super woke and they want to go to Yale and that’s really offensive to people who can’t afford either of those things.”