Trump Taught Teachers Conspiracy Theories. Now They’re Teaching Them To StudentsHistorians in the News
tags: conspiracy theories, teaching history
As he spoke to his students during a Zoom lesson earlier this month, the northern Virginia middle school social studies teacher called the attempted coup at the Capitol on Jan. 6 “a setup.”
He would know, he said. He was there.
“That’s what I witnessed. That’s what I saw,” teacher Benjamin Plummer can be heard saying in a video of the incident published by Fox 5 DC. “When I heard the media just blaming Trump supporters the whole time, I knew then that it was a setup.”
Plummer defended the mob that marched to the Capitol as “incredibly peaceful” and “Christians,” and instead told his young class at the diverse Fred M. Lynn Middle School that the summer’s Black Lives Matter protesters were to blame for “destroying cities.”
Plummer, who did not respond to a request for comment, was subsequently put on leave over his Zoom rant after a student recorded it and it was posted to Twitter. The Prince William County school district told local news outlets that while employees are permitted to “engage in political activity on their personal time,” they are not to do so during work hours or using school resources.
The district noted that employees who “engage in criminal activity which calls into question their fitness as a role model” may be fired, but there’s no evidence that Plummer actually participated in the storming of the Capitol and he has not been charged with any crimes.
A high school teacher in the district, who is a person of color and asked to remain anonymous so as not to risk his job, told BuzzFeed News he felt sick watching the video and worried how painful it was for students at the school, who he said are largely Latino, to sit through it.
“This wasn’t a teachable moment in any way — this was a monologue. It’s indoctrination of our kids,” the high school teacher said. “He violated that sacred trust that’s placed in us by parents, by society.”
Plummer is just one of several teachers who’ve faced consequences for their actions related to the insurrection. There’s the high school history teacher in Wisconsin under investigation for telling his students he was going to DC to defend “election integrity.” There’s the Florida substitute dismissed for telling students falsely the rioters were antifa. A Pennsylvania social studies teacher was suspended pending an investigation for attending the Trump rally before the Capitol attack and saying on Facebook he was “doing [his] civic duty.” And then there was the Cleveland school therapist who stormed the Capitol with a QAnon sign, resigned in a letter saying she was switching careers “to expose the global evil of human trafficking and pedophilia,” and was then arrested by the FBI.
In the aftermath of the attempted coup at the Capitol, Americans are contending with what we should do with the people who hold special roles in society — from police officers to politicians to military veterans — who took part in the day’s deadly events, as well as those who helped fan the flames of incitement by spreading the debunked conspiracies both before and after the attack. But the role played by the country’s teachers who participated or supported the coup has not been extensively discussed. The political atmosphere is so tense nationally that some teachers are even holding their tongues, or facing disciplinary consequences, as their conspiracy-minded colleagues poison the historical record. These educators, who like millions of other Americans wrongly believe the 2020 election was stolen, are not only responsible for teaching children what happened that day, they’re helping to build the next generation of voters.
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