Republican elected officials continue to rail against comprehensive education about the history of the United States, damaging the validity of higher education institutions and increasing skepticism of education itself.
Republicans from former President Donald Trump to Congresswoman and prominent conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have accused educational institutions at all levels of "indoctrinating" America's youth. The cardinal sin of these institutions, according to many Republicans, is teaching documented facts like the centuries of racism embedded in the U.S. government through institutions like slavery, Jim Crow, and their more current remnants.
In lockstep with that perception, Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced legislation called the Ivory Tower Tax Act earlier this week.
In a statement on the legislation, Cotton claimed:
"Our wealthiest colleges and universities have amassed billions of dollars, virtually tax-free, all while indoctrinating our youth with un-American ideas. This bill will impose a tax on university mega-endowments and support vocational and apprenticeship training programs in order to create high paying, working-class jobs."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the legislation in a Thursday daily press briefing.
When asked by one reporter if President Joe Biden agreed with the premise of the legislation—that schools are indoctrinating young people with "un-American" ideas—Psaki responded with a question of her own:
"Now you've intrigued me. What are the un-American ideas that are indoctrinating our youth?"
The White House correspondent noted that Cotton's statement didn't specify particular ideas, but that Cotton himself had been critical of comprehensive texts on race in America, like The 1619 Project.
"Without much detail of where he thinks our youth are being indoctrinated—sounds very 'mysterious' and 'dangerous'—I don't think we believe that educating the future leaders of this nation about systemic racism is indoctrination, that's actually responsible. I would say if he's trying to raise money for something ... We know that a number of corporations hugely benefitted financially during the pandemic. They can pay more taxes. We think the highest one percent of Americans can pay more taxes."
Cotton wasn't even in the briefing room—but he soon responded on Twitter.
Cotton went on to decry critical race theory, which according to Perdue University, simply "emphasizes the importance of examining and attempting to understand the socio-cultural forces that shape how we and others perceive, experience, and respond to racism."
Critical race theory—or any comprehensive examination of racism and the United States' perpetuation of it—can lead to the confrontation of hard truths, especially if you're a white Republican Senator from the South whose last name is Cotton.
That may be why Cotton proceeded to share a series of articles from Republican outlets like National Review and the New York Post tabloid, coupled with his own captions sensationalizing critical race theory as un-American propaganda.
His attempts to refute Psaki fell flat.
They praised Psaki's response.
Cotton's legislation likely won't pass in the Senate, given the Democrats' razor-thin majority.