As education continues to grow as a political issue, leftist media outlets are fighting back the only way they can: by demonizing the opposition. Earlier this month, Sarah Jones, a writer for New York Magazine’s Intelligencer outlet, equated the parental rights movement to authoritarianism. A former evangelical Christian-turned-“atheist and socialist,” she likened parents’ efforts to reform government-funded education to training a dog or a horse, claiming, “To certain right-wing Christians, the concept is simple: A child can be broken, or stamped into shape, much like any domesticated animal.”
Her screed, which also smeared homeschooling parents as child abusers and denounced the pro-life movement as contributing to “the subjugation of women,” ended with a totalitarian plea that “Children aren’t private property, then, but a public responsibility.”
Jones isn’t the only ideologue to carry water for the failing educational establishment. In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Michael Harriot, a columnist for Grio.com, denounced the recent rise of interest in classical education:
The viewers should know classic education is a dog whistle that means CRT is not taught here. Those people like the Moms of Liberty oppose CRT. They say they want their children to have a classical education, which means the stuff that the Daughters of the Confederacy stuff, the stuff that says George Washington was not a slave owner. That’s the stuff that they view as a classical education…
Not surprisingly, Harriot offered no evidence for this race-baiting slander, and Reid did not press him on the subject.
This circling of the wagons comes in the wake of reports showing that American students remain below grade level in both reading and math thanks in large part to Covid lockdowns imposed by establishment leaders like American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. But by defending educrats who are desperate to avoid any accountability or reform, the Democrat Party risks alienating much of its own base on this crucial issue.
Newsflash: Liberal Parents Want What’s Best for Their Kids, Too
Education reform was once the sole province of a relative handful of conservatives who could easily be dismissed as cranks. Then the lockdowns hit, and parents across the political spectrum saw just what their children were being taught during the failed experiment in “remote learning.” The parents’ revolution began not in some red stronghold in “flyover country,” but in reliably blue Loudoun County, Virginia, a state that went on to elect Glenn Youngkin in 2021 in large part because of his stance on education.
Since the lifting of the lockdowns, calls for education reform have increased among not only conservatives and independents but leftists as well. In March of 2022, as Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law was being savaged by Democratic politicians and media figures alike, a national poll found that 55 percent of Democrats actually supported the law once they knew what it actually said. Democrats’ support for school-choice legislation, another conservative mainstay, has shown similar growth: A RealClear Opinion poll from June of 2022 revealed that over two-thirds of Democrats surveyed wanted to expand educational options, up 9 points from 2020.
These strong numbers are reflected in real-world action. Student enrollment in government schools continues to decline as parents embrace other options, most notably homeschooling. Meanwhile, in the opening months of 2023, state legislatures in Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, and Florida have passed sweeping efforts to secure parents the right to true school choice by “funding students instead of systems.” Other states are considering similar bills in the coming months.
A Conundrum for the Left
Given this data, you would think Democrats would be rethinking their decades-long alliance with the educational establishment. Yet the party remains unstinting in its support for the educrats despite their manifest failures and the ongoing controversies surrounding their policies. The school-choice initiatives noted above all passed into law with at best minimal support from state Democrats.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the establishment gives a huge amount of money to the left every year. In 2022 alone, teachers’ unions donated $55 million to political causes, a new record for a non-presidential election year; virtually every cent of this money went to Democrats. This largesse translates into a massive amount of political clout as we recently saw in the runoff mayoral election in Chicago, where the Chicago Teachers’ Union and its affiliates bankrolled Brandon Johnson’s victory to the tune of nearly $2.5 million. The establishment also uses this power to persecute those who dare to question it, as revealed by the Biden DOJ’s efforts on behalf of the National School Boards Association.
The second reason is cultural. Despite their pious claims to the contrary, Democrats are very interested in the culture war, and schools are the chief battlefield where that war is being fought. The left’s dominance at all levels of American education has paid great dividends, especially of late; millennials and Gen Z, the chief targets of woke educational policies, came out in droves in 2022 to turn the predicted “red wave” into a mere splash. Continuing the indoctrination of the youth plays a vital role in the left’s quest for total societal power, so we can expect little effort from moderate Democrats to break ranks on education reform.
As the battle lines are drawn for 2024, we can expect more vicious totalitarian rhetoric from the likes of Jones and Harriot on this key issue. Since Democratic thought leaders have no incentive to pay attention to their concerns, liberal parents must reject the idea that their children are a “public responsibility” at the ballot box, even if it means joining forces with conservatives they’ve been taught to despise.