In his annual report for 1906, A. C. Nelson, Utah’s state superintendent of public instruction, proclaimed that the Beehive State’s schools must teach patriotism. “It is in our public schools that our national unity is to be conserved,” Nelson explained. Although Utah had achieved statehood a decade earlier, many outsiders viewed it with suspicion due to the outsized social and political influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, to the horror of many Protestant moralists, had sanctioned plural marriage until 1890. To assuage these concerns, educators in Utah made a point to emphasize what Nelson described as “American ideas” in the classroom.
The recent uprisings for Black lives have led to calls for the restructuring of society. The principal targets have been urban police forces, which have received lavish funding and organizational impunity for many years. However, these forces are beginning to be held accountable by those they purportedly serve. The actions of protesters have even brought the potential of police abolition to the mainstream conversation for the first time. Abolitionists argue that by using public funds to meet a community’s needs, the senseless violence commonplace in the country’s legal institutions can be mitigated or eliminated. While police have been the primary target thus far, other institutions, especially public schools, have begun to receive more attention. Public education, like the police, has long been used to discipline and assimilate workers, immigrants, and indigenous communities and thus protect racial capitalism.