The 17-page document that landed in reporters' inboxes Wednesday seems innocuous enough.
Labeled “Parents Bill of Rights,” the handout includes cheerful photos of schoolchildren in a classroom, a few with their arms raised. A teacher appears in another, intently working with students on what appears to be a math problem drawn on a chalkboard.
There are tips on participating in school board meetings and background information about how state educational curricula and standards are formed.
Look closer, though, and the real message is clear.
“... CRT (critical race theory), The 1619 Project and other similar ideologies attempt to create their own truths through historical concepts and Marxists ideologies, seeking to abolish individual rights and redistribute wealth,” it says.
That's not a Bill of Rights; it's a taxpayer-funded lesson plan for political division.
It comes from Todd Rokita, Indiana's attorney general and a man forever willing to throw himself into the manufactured controversy du jour. This time it's critical race theory, a once-obscure and still poorly understood academic pursuit that has inflamed Republican-fueled tensions across the country.
Rokita, still in his first year on the job as the state's top law enforcement official after earlier stints as a congressman and Indiana secretary of state, can't be given credit for crafting the attempt to fan the divisive flames.
He's following a playbook, one already well-worn in other places.
At least three states have passed measures to ban critical race theory, and USA Today reports a dozen others are considering similar legislation.
A raucous recent meeting of a suburban Washington, D.C., school board in Virginia featured the walkout of elected officials as enraged attendees railed against critical race theory – which the district and many others in the U.S. have said is not taught. There's no indication it's being taught anywhere in K-12 schools. When taught, it's primarily in graduate-level courses.
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, joined Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott – who will be keynote speaker at a GOP dinner here in October – on a resolution this month condemning the theory in schools.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, this week unveiled a toolkit with tips on “how to stop CRT in your school district,” including submitting records requests to school districts. Rokita's Bill of Rights also devotes space to instructions on obtaining curriculum information.
Critical race theory, which dates to the 1970s work of a Harvard Law School professor, centers on systemic racism rather than the idea that racism is simply borne of individuals with prejudices and biases.
“The theory holds that racial inequality is woven into legal systems and negatively affects people of color in their schools, doctors' offices, the criminal justice system and countless other parts of life,” a Washington Post primer says.
For Rokita and others, despite evidence, it's much more.
“CRT's teachings have a discriminatory effect against students who are inappropriately defined as having 'privilege' or being 'oppressors' based solely on their race,” his Bill of Rights says.
A tweet from Rokita touting the document says he's “heard firsthand the concerns of parents troubled by ideologies being imposed in their children's school curriculum.”
The Parents Bill of Rights makes clear the issue is not ideologies. Instead, it's an argument over whose ideologies are furthered.