Would California's SB5 Lead to More
Incidents Like Operation Red Scare?

I recently was targeted by members of my college’s Republican club.  In an action a California College Republicans press release dubbed “Operation Red Scare,” students taped a flyer on my office window.  On top of the flyer was a bright red star.  Below it was California Education Code Section 51530, which prohibits “the advocacy or teaching of communism with the intent of indoctrinating or inculcating a preference in the mind of any pupil for such doctrine.”  The code defined communism as the “theory that the presently existing form of government of the United States or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.”  Since I discuss neither communism nor overthrowing our government in my classes, I was curious to understand why these students targeted me.  While I didn’t satisfactorily explain this, I did discover that some of these students are promoting California State Senator Morrow’s ‘Student Bill of Rights’.  I suspect this wasn’t a coincidence.

While this bill refers to well-established educational principles, it applies them vaguely.  For example, declaring the humanities and social sciences “unsettled” topics, it directs educators to "provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints.”  Among this passage’s problems is that it’s addressing disciplines which don’t teach viewpoints.  These disciplines help students think about viewpoints.  The fact the ‘Student Bill of Rights’ muddles this distinction is significant.  For, criticizing the reasoning used to support a viewpoint can be misconstrued as criticism of the viewpoint.  Suddenly, teachers who point out flawed reasoning can be accused of being biased against one view and indoctrinating a contrary view.  Given this, I fear ‘Operation Red Scare’ would become a sign of things to come.

Michael Aparicio
Philosophy Department
Santa Rosa Junior College