FORT WORTH — There are a lot disappointing elements in the story of Georgia Clark, the Fort Worth Carter-Riverside High teacher whose recent social media tirade about unauthorized immigrants prompted FWISD’s board of trustees to recommend that she be terminated.
Clark, an English teacher, was apparently quite concerned by the number of students at the high school where she teaches (whom she believed) to be in the country illegally. She was so alarmed that she personally took her pleas that these students be “removed” to President Donald Trump, via her Twitter account, and even supplied her phone number so someone on his staff could call her to discuss the problem.
The real problem was that Clark did not understand how to properly use Twitter. What she thought were direct messages, for Trump’s eyes only, were public posts. Disappointing.
Clark is entitled to express her views, that’s not the issue here. We may graciously grant that Clark’s Twitter rant was an honest mistake, but her personnel file illustrates a pattern of intolerant behavior towards students; she was moved to another campus after a previous incident. It’s a disappointment, really, that the district failed to act more decisively until now.
And while Clark is not a civics teacher, she is an educator. She should know that children are guaranteed access to public education regardless of their citizenship status. There was a U.S. Supreme Court case about it involving Texas, after all.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Georgia Clark saga is how leftists will use it as fodder in the culture war against conservatives. It’s happened countless times before — Rep. Todd Akin’s absurd comments that a woman’s body can prevent pregancy in cases of “legitimate rape” come to mind. Comments from the fringes are conflated as being mainstream conservative ideology, even when legitimate policy questions — and lots of mainstream opposition — underlie the pertinent issue.
Far more importantly, is how this framing — “See! They’re all ignorant bigots!” — gets replicated against conservatives even when the subjects are completely reasonable people making completely reasonable, widely believed arguments. It happens during important constitutional debates, such as whether a person with sincere religious objections can be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding; and in more ordinary instances, such as when an elderly white woman’s silent rosary outside an abortion clinic is broadcast by a hateful activist on social media as illustrative of white supremacy. The intent is to drive anyone who dissents from “progressive” thinking out of the public square.
This is the world that conservatives are living in. And it’s the context in which the great right-of-center intellectuals of the day are debating how conservatives should respond to this deluge of ruthless illiberalism from the left.
Those following the Sohrab Amari/David French debate know that it already has generated thousands of column lines in publications and social media platforms, and it deserves a greater airing than I can give before this column closes. An abridged summary of the argument is whether small-l liberalism — the philosophy from which stems our democratic government — is still relevant in a nation that no longer has shared moral values.
Those on the French side of the debate believe that rights — such as free speech and free exercise — should be secured through traditional, liberal channels and focus on individual liberty and autonomy.
Amari’s supporters take a harder stand. Having watched their side incur defeat after defeat, and seeing their fellow conservatives ridiculed and punished by so-called conservatives, they perceive the goal of the ongoing “culture war” as “defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”
It’s a fascinating and necessary debate. One deserving of its own column.
One thing is for sure: Conservatism, however it moves forward, is not helped by people like Georgia Clark. The conservative mainstream has enough to handle, in dealing with the left and managing its own internal struggles. But it will have to continue to fend off the fringes as well.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.