Of Prurient Interest

What happens when the very far edges of a political party take control? Welcome to Kansas politics. I’m not talking about conservatives, or Republicans, or people who support conservative principles; I’m talking about the very, very far right-wing of the GOP in Kansas. I want to take a moment to show you their faces and their agendas.

Kansas ultra-conservative’s motive for pushing voucher programs stems from their dissatisfaction with the culture and climate of public schools, not with the performance of the schools themselves. They’ve lost battle after battle to oppose evolution, support censorship, and elect durable candidates who will serve as a staunchly conservative voice. They have redefined themselves as the mainstream – making all social, political, and academic institutions seem obscenely liberal by contrast. 

At issue is their perception that our schools are wildly out of control. In one local district, hundreds parents have taken to sending signed letters to teachers demanding that they not teach students about bestiality, show X rated movies, or put students in trances. The issue isn’t that these things are happening, it’s that these parents have convinced themselves, and each other, that they are. Fueled by their own ignorance and the support of churches and political action committees, their attacks on public schools are unceasing. They are politically organized, politically active, and politically connected. They have elected their own to the legislature, and their agenda is regularly represented on the dockets of both the house and senate.

In one instance last year, legislation was introduced that made it a jailable offense for a teacher to possess any obscene material in the classroom (HR 2200). Sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong. The bill broadly defines obscene as “any material that appeals to the prurient interest.” What is prurient interest? It’s anything that arouses you, according to Merriam Webster. I work with teenagers, folks. The pencil sharpener is of prurient interest. So is Shakespeare.

The bottom line is that if you are convinced that our public schools are showing X rated movies and teaching kids about bestiality, you’d certainly feel morally justified in doing all that you can to punish public schools at every turn. You’d oppose every dime of state funding. You’d push for vouchers. You’d vote against bond issues. You’d aggressively oppose any tax increases for schools. You’d pass sweeping legislation to remove every obscenity, however prurient it may be, from every classroom. That’s exactly what’s happening in Kansas.

And that’s the point I’m trying to make. Our public schools are under attack from politically inspired people who are funded by national organizations, fueled by national agendas, and founded by those who have move so far to the right that everything to the left of them is an attack on their sensibilities, worthy of fiery outrage.

The ultra-conservatives are gaining ground, not because they are armed with the truth, but because they are blinded by fear. Its McCarthyism, and the Salem Witch Trials, and the McMartin preschool trials all over again. Not that I could teach my kids any of those historical events; communism, witch-craft, and pedophelia aren’t allowed in my classroom. I just got a parent letter telling me so.


2 responses to “Of Prurient Interest

  1. When you’re right, you’re right. As a grandmother of 3 Kansas kiddos this scares me for their education.

  2. Are these individuals “closet” ultra-conservatives? I have not met anyone who I feel I could claim was an ultra-conservative driven by fear to recreating McCarthyism. I’m a fairly liberal, democratic, christian living in a republican neighborhood and state. Most of my friends’ and neighbors’ views seem conservative compared to my own but I couldn’t accuse them of being the people you speak of. So if us “normal” republicans and democrats are the majority then how is this ultra-conservative minority wreaking so much havoc?

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