Will we have to leave? That’s the question I keep asking myself about my native Northern Virginia, given that those calling the shots here do not seem to like or want people like me and my family.
As my friend Joy Pullmann has noted, there are many benefits to leaving the increasingly blue suburbs for flyover country: more conservative- and Christian-friendly communities, lower cost of living, and bigger homes among them. As each year passes — and the aggressiveness of leftist ideology becomes more acute — I wonder how long my family can last here, even though I intended to do all in my power to remain in beloved Fairfax.
The threats to my family’s way of life are manifold. One could point, for example, to the public school systems, which have accommodated themselves to the fallout of the sexual revolution.
Radical Sexual and Racial Agendas in FCPS
In Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) this year, the school board unanimously approved an updated “Students Rights and Responsibilities” policy that enumerates “essential rights and protections for transgender and other gender-expansive students” including to be called by their preferred pronouns, to use their bathrooms and locker rooms of choice, and to compete on the sports teams as the sex with which they choose to identify.
The neighboring Loudoun County School Board in August approved a similar measure. The FCPS sex education program is even more alarming, introducing “oral sex” to kids as young as 12, and “anal sex” to 13-year-olds.
Embracing guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, FCPS is also promoting an “Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.” Many of these efforts are based on the materials of “Learning for Justice,” a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center that many Virginia educators are embracing. As Asra Nomani has written in The Federalist, FCPS is increasingly beholden to the tenets of critical race theory, including paying prominent anti-racist proponent Ibram X. Kendi $20,000 in 2020 for an hour-long presentation.
Much the same ideology can be found in the county’s otherwise very professional and accessible public library system, which promotes “anti-racist reads” and whose libraries feature prominent displays of so-called “anti-racist” and pro-LGBT material even for kids. When my wife recently took our children to pick up new library books, she had to direct our younger daughter away from titles like “Little Feminist Board Book Set.”
An audiobook featured as a great text to introduce pre-K kids to the subject of bullying turned out to be about a child with two mommies. Meanwhile, schools repudiate their so-called racist monikers, and various localities are changing street names. Perhaps even Lord Fairfax, a slaveholder, will be canceled.
Not the Fairfax I Grew Up In
This has been a hard pill to swallow. Both sets of my grandparents sent their kids to FCPS. My mother — as well as one of my dad’s sisters — attended West Springfield High School the year they played the T.C. Williams Titans during their fabled 1971 football season. My mother worked in FCPS for more than 30 years. I attended FCPS from first through 12th grade, then coached tennis and taught high school history in FCPS not far from where I grew up in Lorton.
When my parents’ families — both of which were Catholic — attended FCPS in the 1960s and 1970s, Northern Virginia was predominantly white and Protestant. I don’t recall ever hearing of any anti-Catholic curriculum taught to them, nor anything denigrating conservatives. Indeed, the Arlington Diocese, which includes Fairfax County and a broad swath of northern Virginia, is well known as one of the strongest Catholic communities in the United States.
By the time I was in FCPS in the 1990s, Fairfax County was certainly far more diverse, but not aggressively leftist or anti-Christian. The county voted Republican in a presidential election as recently as 2000. My schools were composed of children of all races, many from first-generation American families. My high school featured flags for every country represented by the student body.
In music class we learned both Christmas and Hanukkah songs, as well as folk songs from Japan and Africa. The high school football team was majority white, but had sizable numbers of black, Latino, and Asian players. If there was any racism, it was not tolerated, especially since many of my teachers and several principals were racial minorities.
In other words, my experience of FCPS, as well as that of both my parents’ families, was one of diversity, inclusion, and integration into an American society that believed in itself. Students learned about U.S. history — the good and the bad — but were encouraged to be proud of what made our nation truly exceptional both in world history and in comparison to nations around the globe.
By no means was it a perfect education — I remember postmodernism was already working its way into the literature in my English classes — but it seemed both coherent and welcoming to people of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Many of my teachers were devout Christians of one stripe or another.
How Long Can Families Like Mine Hold Out?
It’s bizarre to think how quaint that all seems, only 20 years removed from my graduation from high school. Unless financial circumstances were to unfortunately (and disastrously) force my hand, I would never send my children to FCPS. Its sexual and racial curricula are aggressively opposed to my family’s Catholic beliefs, and teach an understanding of America and its history that I interpret as anathema to our nation’s political and cultural preservation.
Despite homeschooling my children, it is progressively difficult to avoid woke dogmatism. The libraries my wife uses to supplement her curriculum push an aggressively radical leftist ideology. Even the grocery stores have bizarrely capitulated to every new whim of woke activists, urging their patrons to buy products from only people of certain ethnicities. Medical offices push the HPV vaccine on little children, presuming (if not celebrating) that kids either before or shortly after puberty will be sexually active.
At least for now the Arlington Diocese remains a bastion of faithful Catholicism and even cultural conservatism. “The Church teaches that a person is created male or female,” my bishop, Michael F. Burbidge, recently declared. “No one ‘is’ transgender.” That was welcome, and I applaud Bishop Burbidge for (unpopularly) holding his ground.
If they are not up to the task of homeschooling, northern Virginia Catholic parents can send their kids to Catholic schools and trust that their kids will at least enjoy some shielding from the destructive evils of the sexual revolution and wokeism. That is, of course, if they can afford it, even with generous financial aid.
That, I would argue, remains the larger problem for people like me in aggressively dogmatic and non-inclusive leftist enclaves like that in Northern Virginia. Can devout Catholic, recently immigrated Latino families afford Catholic schools? When English is not their first language, will they even understand what public school teachers and administrators are feeding their children?
For now, my family will stay where their ancestors have been since the Civil War (if you count my great-great-grandfather who served in the Union Army in Northern Virginia). Yet I’m increasingly pessimistic that my children will be able to do the same.