A worksheet in a Virginia middle-school civics class that identified the Ku Klux Klan as a “right wing” group was removed after complaints.
The worksheet, circulated in an eighth-grade class at Harmony Middle School in Loudoun County, was titled “Political Spectrum.” A completed, handwritten version that circulated online described different political ideologies, from “left wing” to “right wing.” It said liberals “support change or try new ideas,” for example, while conservatives are “traditional” and “cautious.”
The edges of the chart proved more controversial — particularly the “right wing” section, which said that “reactionaries are willing to use extreme methods, such as repressive use of government power, to achieve their goals.”
“Ku-Klux Klan is an example of a reactionary group,” the completed sheet read.
Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard said the document was authentic and has been removed from the curriculum.
“The document in question in not a resource used across the county,” he wrote in an email. “It was a teacher-made activity used at one school. Our Supervisor of Social Sciences and Global Studies worked with the principal and staff to develop a more appropriate activity. It was withdrawn from the teacher’s curriculum. It will not be used again.”
Loudoun County School Board member Eric J. DeKenipp said he learned of the document after being contacted by talk-radio station WMAL.
“When one of our students brought it home, parents were alarmed,” DeKenipp said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It jumped off the page — they were offended that the right wing was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.”
DeKenipp said he thought students should be “more focused on issues rather than affiliation with organizations.” The document also characterized those who are “radical” as “left wing,” and said they support violence, such as campus riots of the 1960s during the civil rights movement.
“If I saw antifa or Black Lives Matter on the left side, I would also argue that’s inappropriate,” he said. “To correlate an organization such as the KKK, which has no official affiliation to the [Republican] party . . . that’s not factual. That’s an opinion. I’m not sure that that belongs in the curriculum.”
Elaine Frantz, a history professor at Kent State University in Ohio and author of “Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction,” said that, except in its incarnation in the 1920s, the KKK is a decentralized organization with members drawn to different political parties at different times in American history.
“Politically, it seems completely accurate to me to say that the Klan is always coming from the right,” she said. “It’s more accurate to say it’s always been coming from a place of white supremacy.”
Linda Gordon, a New York University professor and author of “The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition,” reviewed the worksheet and said that it had multiple errors, but that she thought the KKK was characterized correctly. She said that the left wing in the United States has “always been overwhelmingly nonviolent” and that conservatives sometimes do seek change, such as current efforts to repeal environmental and consumer protections.
“Right-wing extremes are characterized above all by bigotry,” she wrote in an email. “Many of these groups can be called fascistic . . . because they respect and even elicit violent behavior. In this definition of right-wing extremism, the KKK fits of course because its basic ideology is about white supremacy.”
In an interview with WMAL, meanwhile, DeKenipp cautioned that public education is “inherently liberal.”
“Frankly, from my perspective, it’s going to take a coordinated effort from the grass-roots level to kind of level the playing field to make sure our kids are getting a balanced-scorecard education,” he said.