A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee meeting on Tuesday spiraled into a debate about racism after Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters claimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has influenced Oklahoma public schools through its Confucius Classrooms.
Key details: Confucius Classrooms are an extension of the Confucius Institute program, which promotes Chinese culture and language at educational institutions and in local areas. During the subcommittee hearing, entitled “Academic Freedom Under Attack: Loosening the CCP’s Grip on America’s Classrooms,” Walters claimed that the CCP “actively set up schools both in higher education and K-12” with the Confucius Institute to “spread communism and undermine the United States.”
“We must protect our kids and not allow a hostile foreign government to indoctrinate them,” he added.
He also said that parents had previously talked to him about China’s alleged interference in Oklahoma education.
Republicans’ views: Rep. Aaron Bean (R, FL-4), who also serves as the subcommittee’s chairperson, supported Walters’ claims at the hearing, claiming that several Confucius Classrooms are “strategically located around U.S. military bases” and that teachers are not permitted to tackle topics like the Tiananmen Square protests or Taiwan.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R, MI-9) accused Democrats of not noticing the alleged risks, telling them that “China is not our friend.”
“They are coming after us. Educationally, militarily, academically, I mean, turn the news on,” she declared.
“Unsubstantiated”: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D, OR-1) called Walters’ claims “unsubstantiated” and pointed out that past investigations conducted by Congress and think tanks did not find any security risks or threats to children in connection to the Confucius Classrooms.
“Unfortunately, today’s hearing has been another part of the majority’s extreme MAGA
[Make America Great Again] agenda to inject culture wars and partisan politics into our public schools in a way that can fuel anti-Asian American bias and provide a platform for claims that have been found by a comprehensive investigation to be unsubstantiated,” Bonamici
“Repeating history”: Gisela Perez Kusakawa, executive director of the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), was one of the witnesses at the hearing and stated that Walters’ claims are reminiscent of the same dark history that Japanese Americans faced during WWII.
“We find ourselves repeating history as Asian Americans are treated as ‘perpetual foreigners’ and economic or national security threats,” Kusakawa said, pointing out that “Asian Americans and immigrants face the backlash at home and become collateral damage” whenever the U.S. has tensions with an Asian country.
Another issue: Walters also said at the hearing that he found a “disturbing connection” between Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and the CCP through the Confucius Classrooms, a claim TPS refuted in a statement to News 4, saying, “The district takes no funds from the Chinese government and has no Confucius Classroom programs in its schools.”