Following a wave of parent outrage at finding their children’s public schools pushing racism under the guise of antiracism this past school year, states have begun to ban the ideology. Parents are engaging with local school boards all across the country, demanding they stop teaching racial division and start educating children. The outrage is not just among Republicans, but also Independent and even Democrat voters, making Democrats nervous enough that the Biden administration recently pretended to backtrack.
What's going on in Loudoun County, VA, schools is so far beyond scandalous that it's almost unbelievable. So many people need to be removed from their professions and never let near state power or children again. pic.twitter.com/zASFzGTpL2
— James Lindsay, magnificent beast (@ConceptualJames) July 9, 2021
After more than a year of the nearly entire government and cultural edifice in this country suspending Americans’ constitutionally guaranteed rights, with apparently unlimited submission from many Americans, this wave of the American people’s assertion of their civic duties is heartening. But all the energy being directed into this salutary movement must be directed to effective outcomes or there’s no point.
It is hard for parents to organize. For their own kids’ sake, they need to be in this to win, not just to emote. And traditional political activism is rigged against their success. How do I know? I watched it happen endlessly in the last decade. Mostly, parents lost. The few times they thought they won, they were either being tricked or their victory was overturned within a few election cycles. The education blob is Lucy with the football, and has been for a century.
Sadly, Replacing Your School Board Isn’t Enough
There’s a long history of grassroots activity fizzling out after being denied effective representation among the politicians to whom they loudly appealed. The topmost recent example is the Tea Party. In American education, this dynamic is perhaps even more established than in politics more broadly: as I documented in my last book, parents turn out in droves to oppose some leftist education fad about once every decade. At most, they are able to tinker around the margins or get meaningless concessions, while leftism marches on.
This happened also with Common Core. Tens of thousands of parents busted their rear ends to get rid of it, and they changed nothing, not even in states controlled by Republicans who falsely claimed they “got rid of Common Core.”
Before Common Core, it was No Child Left Behind (which Common Core was supposed to “fix” by mostly replicating), then Goals 2000, then Outcome-Based Education, then “rainforest math” and the other leftist curricular insanities of the 1970s, all the way back to when public schooling was taken from parents and local communities and handed over to increasingly centralized bureaucrats starting around the turn of the twentieth century. (Thanks, Horace Mann, Sen. James Blaine, and U.S. Supreme Court!)
This stolen self-rule foments cycles of outrage that becomes despair when people discover their expression of discontent was futile, or become too tired to keep fighting. And in no place are Americans more poorly represented today than in so-called public education.
Like the Tea Party, parents fighting critical race theory are making a fundamentally flawed assumption: That the government entities to which they appeal are responsive to them. I believed the same pre-Common Core, although I should have known better, but reporting out that saga taught me many things that hopefully can help those rightfully enraged about CRT to win instead of lose.
Why the Odds for Winning Are Long
Let’s do an overview of what parents are institutionally up against with the CRT fight. This could be changed by them getting institutional help from an army of lawyers funded by the conservative movement or Republican Party, but so far, as usual, Democrats have moved instantly to defend their institutional capture while most Republicans have at max tinkered around the edges even though this opportunity crawled into their laps and has been purring at them for months.
So parents are at a significant disadvantage in this fight. Just think about what it requires them to do to get rid of CRT in a couple of basic scenarios: 1) Replace the school board. That requires finding candidates, fielding campaigns, and waiting until the next election to see whether they won. Meanwhile, they are subject to intense personal smear campaigns that can affect their kids, and the objectionable instruction continues, possibly for years. 2) They could go through the state legislature, which also requires lobbying lawmakers and crafting strong legislation and could take years. 3) They could file lawsuits, but lawsuits usually take even more years to work out, their opponents are well-funded, and courts are a crapshoot.
Hey @DavidAFrench, @kmele, and @thomaschattwill, we filed the civil rights lawsuit. Now we just sit back for a few years and let public schools, which have the power of state coercion, tell children that their "whiteness" is the devil?
Is that the principled position here?
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) July 8, 2021
This is traditional political activism, and some of it has been working, although counter-backlash is inevitable and will narrow the victories.
If parents manage to get this far, however, which is enough of a challenge in itself, then their local schools are subject to reimposed CRT due to factors such as 1) Lawsuits to stop anti-CRT measures and defend CRT proponents, from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and teachers unions 2) Retaliation from a federal government controlled by leftist extremists 3) Teachers teaching CRT anyway, expecting that parents will not find out and not be able to punish them even if they do and 4) Democrats repealing anti-CRT laws or policies when the political pendulum swings again in a few years and they retake school boards, state legislatures, and governorships. All of these things are already in the works.
Randi Weingarten, union president of American Federation of Teachers, is investing $5M into future legal fees for when state legislatures try to sue her members for teaching critical race theory. https://t.co/20pKf6VY5B
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 10, 2021
Extremist unions are lawyering teachers and schools up, making battles more protracted. Under Biden, federal agencies are putting taxpayer resources and enforcement behind this ideology.
In addition, teachers who believe in racism are not going to stop because some Republican governor told them to, and there are many true-believer teachers. Many have tenure or union backing. A college-level textbook on the ideology from New York University Press noted even way back in 2012, “Today, many in the field of education consider themselves critical race theorists.”
“Whitewashing our history” pic.twitter.com/bfQgDRv2xA
— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) July 7, 2021
Even passing laws to ban CRT are likely to be undermined by public schools and teachers, because the entire industry is broadly sympathetic to the leftism CRT represents. I thank Richard Hanania for pulling this information together to save me the time:
More important than what CRT bans say is who will be interpreting them. A 2017 survey of school teachers and education bureaucrats showed that they voted for Hillary over Trump, 50% to 29%. …there’s evidence that Democratic teachers are more committed to politics than Republican teachers, just as liberals care more about politics more generally. In 2020, educators who donated money to a presidential campaign were six times more likely to support Biden than Trump… And teachers are probably conservative compared to the kinds of people who write textbooks, design curriculums, and work in education departments. [Having studied this intensely, I can confirm this is 100 percent true. –Joy]
With those kinds of numbers, there’s really nothing conservatives can do to make the schools friendlier to their ideas and values. …A state can ban CRT, but if it does, kids are still being taught by the same people who thought CRT for kindergartners was a good idea in the first place. Instead of passing the right law and relying on liberals to teach things more consistent with conservative values, simply transfer money from those liberals to people who would teach something else.
The education establishment is wholly controlled by CRT true believers and their enablers. The last century shows that when these extremists are exposed and restricted, they just repackage and carry on with their program. Any changes imposed by parents outraged they moved a little too fast can be reversed in one election cycle, and usually are. That’s one major reason the U.S. public school system is notoriously impervious to parent and taxpayer control.
You’ve Got to Be Realistic, Not Idealistic
For decades, conservatives warned Americans that ideological extremism like critical theory was going to trickle down to K-12 from higher education, and most parents didn’t believe us. Now I’m going to tell you something else and you’re not going to believe me, but here it is.
Critical race theory is absolutely worth fighting, but many people who discover it in their local schools will fail to eradicate it, or at best most efforts to do so will take many years and have many twists and turns. Even victories that do change what some children are taught will take massive investments of time and money, and be subject to reversal, sabotage, or subterfuge.
Therefore, parents should make decisions about their kids’ schooling assuming that this is the case. If state-sponsored racism really is a hard line for you, put your time and money where your mouth is. Don’t put your kids in schools that are either teaching them these things openly or that have openly declared their intellectual and moral bankruptcy by allowing something as egregious CRT in the first place.
That said, I think parents should keep raising Cain with local school boards and state legislatures over this issue, because we’re still paying for these schools no matter where our own kids are educated. Tons more people need have the same realization CRT-awakened parents are having about what American public education has come to and its need for systemic reform. That requires us paying attention and informing others so the authorities apply accountability.
Reform, Replace, Destroy, Restart
Aaron Renn writes insightfully about the two major options for addressing institutional failures based on the analysis of economist Albert O. Hirschman: exit and voice. Renn extends them by highlighting forms of exit and voice that are either primarily defensive or primarily offensive. Here’s his basic illustration from a more recent blog post applying this framework to another issue. He has more insights and illustrations here in the original essay.
In brief, I think people aiming to eradicate CRT should use all of the above options, as it suits each person’s abilities. So, people whose kids are about to graduate from middle or high school may be more likely to keep their kids in a compromised school and advocate from within.
People whose children face many more years in a compromised school system, however, would be wiser to withdraw their children while staying politically involved to “destroy or delegitimize” the school system while their children are protected from its evil influences. Those with the time and resources should consider starting a local charter or Christian school to offer an excellent and affordable non-racist local schooling option, pooling resources with other families and local institutions such as churches to do so.
All families should demand that their state legislatures and Congress devolve education funding to parents and stop forcing Americans to eternally sponsor these decrepit, morally bankrupt institutions that are so systemically resistant to reform.
Any institution that has allowed, let alone condoned, CRT has irrevocably destroyed its credibility and moral authority. So CRT proponents are right about one thing: Public education’s problems are indeed systemic.
The difference is in identifying the systemic problem, which is this: Public schools are designed to condition people for the end state of critical race theory, which is a backbiting, drama-infested, learned-helplessness, other-directed collectivist society easily controlled by self-appointed elites.
Even if CRT is gone or repackaged, you don’t want your kids or any kids to be conditioned into that way of life. The solution is to defund public schools, and once again devolve education authority and funding directly to parents.