Most Americans want schools to promote knowledge and champion principles of human decency. They want schools to be safe. They do not want children race-shamed, or exposed to the anomic and depraved. A fourteen-year-old boy wandering around campus — any campus — wearing a floor-length dress doesn’t sound wholesome to them.
What’s going on in “our” schools, some ask, and not in a sunny way. Too many know from experience, at least in metro and blue-liberal districts, that any parent who avows the Ten Commandments or praises the Boy Scout Law might get the fish-eye from the principal. If dad objects to critical race theory or transgender bathrooms, heads explode. A frosty diversity lecture might not suffice. Should we call security or 911? Educators for their part tend to think of parent-dissidents as mentally unstable and possibly dangerous. So apparently do shadowy figures inside the Biden administration.
A growing number of parents oppose local educators pitting their children against the nation, history, and values that they have been raised with at home. iPhones hoisted at school board meetings across the nation record the division and dismay. So far — but this might soon change dramatically — public-school educators interpret brewing parental discontent as illegitimate right-wing mobbing. #Resistance feminists who comprise a large share of the public teaching force fall in political line not so much out of conviction but intense, obsessive Trump hatred.
Loudoun County, Virginia’s school follies have aired for months, with Fox News and conservative activists gleefully stirring the pot. Beleaguered school superintendent Scott Ziegler likens disruptive parents to the January 6 Capitol rioters. Board president Brenda Sheridan personifies the zealous equity commissar, relishing power like a suburban Beria. Ziegler, salaried at $285,000 with benefits, tried to cover up a sex assault and got caught red-handed. When are the abject apologies and resignations coming, Loudoun parents have asked for months.
Now, the unexpected outcome of Virginia governor’s race has provided a cautionary tale. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe’s remark that parents should leave school policy to the pros triggered an astonishing political death spiral. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he said, when across the country distraught parents are wondering why “our” schools have lost touch with the normal and mundane. His desperate, last-minute campaign claim that Virginia’s teacher corps is too white was sad and disgraceful. Virginia’s new Republican governor-elect Glenn Youngkin repeatedly talks up local parent control.
CRT is not a theory but a rallying cry. It is lay shorthand for the many “equity” programs, diversity training sessions, and lesson plans that single out white children as inherently privileged and insist white supremacy saturates American institutions past and present. There are other parent complaints tangled up with CRT, not least of them transgender rights. The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which seeks to reframe U.S. history in terms of slavery and racial oppression, and California’s recently adopted ethnic studies curriculum are also well-aired irritants. Freestyle sex education, multilingualism, and restorative justice leave parents cold. They do not fixate on one or another phobia, coming climate disasters, gun violence, or suicide prevention. Pride months and self esteem-building birthday parties are not their idea of school reform.
Teachers’ unions and allied organizations expect elected politicians to follow their edicts, most sedulously in Democratic states with strong labor networks: New York, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois, for example. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, with some 3.6 million members combined, demand homage to ossified theory and failed practice. The NEA has pushed anti-white racism for decades. “All white individuals are racists,” its 1973 classroom manual Education and Racism declares. “Even if whites are totally free from all conscious racial prejudices, they remain racists, for they receive benefits distributed by a white racist society through its institutions.”
Almost forty years later, the NEA maintains that many Americans deny their racial culpability and “want to ignore the systems of oppression that have harmed people of color.” The National School Boards Association, American Association School Administrators, National Association of State Boards of Education, and Council of Chief State School Officers follow suit. The education schools and certifiers do the rest. For the progressive left — public education’s dominant metro faction — conservative insurgents are not just wrong. They are morally impaired or evil.
The AFT’s ghastly Randi Weingarten oversees an army of hardened urban educators and teacher aides. During the last eighteen months, she has done her best under the guise of teacher protection and health concerns to keep schools closed and extort new goodies for her constituents. Children who depend on schools to provide basic services, medical care, meals, order, and shelter have been the most truant and underserved.
Public education cannot reform itself at the state or federal level. Many intrepid personalities have tried and failed. Any turn to open competition — not to say higher academic standards and restored affection for the humanities — would require educators to forego budget lines, salary points, work-to-rule contracts, sinecures, and residual ideals, if any. Those who are responsible for managing the nation’s public schools have created an elaborate charade designed to disguise inadmissible differences of aptitude, human nature, individual drive, and family background. They intend to keep it that way.
While activists wave banners, a larger number of parents quietly try to make arrangements to shield their own children from calumny and follies in safe, functional schools. In blue metro areas, even for those who have dollars to afford expensive property or tuition, they might be hard to find. Selective privates and high-performing public schools in gentry districts are often the most flamboyant left-wing virtue signalers.
School reform going forward means escape from Leviathan’s regulative maze and soulless mediocrity through public charters, private alternatives, and home schools grown into neighborhood clusters. It means uncoupling local operations from state and federal mandates, guidelines, and standardized ideological compliance, and invigorating parent choice.
Parents who pursue academic adequacy and demanding codes of conduct will be ruthless in their revealed preferences. They will not permit their children to be equity’s guinea pigs. So islands of scholastic quality will survive, and new oaks will grow out of acorns. In public education, systemic racism isn’t the quality killer. Systemic rigidities, legal protocols, union cartels, and self-interested bureaucracies are.
A parent-fueled school revolt surging nationwide looks to have momentum, and Virginia confirms the up-thrust. Levelheaded education traditionalists, including Youngkin, project common sense and sanity, promising restored public faith in “our” local schools. To do so, they must steel themselves for vicious attacks from powerful education interests happy to scuttle forever in the gloom of government-enforced stasis, mediocrity, and propaganda.