AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
They just don’t get it, do they? Public schools in the U. S. have been hemorrhaging millions of children over the last few years. This wasn’t caused merely by the widespread abandonment of in-person education during Covid or even the absurd demands for them to be masked or given Covid shots. It involved the revelation of how little modern teachers have been focusing on the three r’s (“readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic,” in the traditional formulation) and how much they have been focusing on CRT and LGBTQ and whatever other letters have been added this week. Parents in America have reacted either by pulling their kids or fighting back against out-of-control school boards, administrators, and teachers.
Yet the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) has decided that what will win parents back is an ad calling parents who criticize them “extremists” who are “attacking our schools” because they merely “want to score political points.”
This is, to put it politely, insane.
Yet it is what we have come to expect from the education blob, of which teachers’ unions are one of the most notable excrescences, these days. After all, it was with the connivance of a national school board group that Merrick Garland decided to prioritize treating American parents as would-be terrorists last year. It was the largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), that allocated $140,000 this year for opposition research against an enemies list of groups opposing radical gender theory in schools. And Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), declared in April of this year that parental rights bills such as those in Florida and Texas are the way “wars start.”
To be fair, however, these groups aren’t purely negative. The NEA has been hard at work on kids and reading. The difficulty is that all the evidence points to the parents being right about what’s going on. The NEA’s 2022-23 Read Across America Calendar encourages kids to read Ibram X. Kendi books. The end result is that one fifth-grader in Atlanta learned that Frederick Douglass was a racist.
This is at least better than the AFT. As one Illinois teacher who managed to suffer through the insufferable Weingarten’s 2022 AFT convention address noted, education itself seems to be a lot further down in Weingarten’s priority than political points are:
“It was 23 minutes into her speech before Weingarten mentioned students and a foundation that addresses reading, math and science skills. The first part of the speech addressed political issues such as the pandemic; the attempt to overturn the 2020 election; gun laws; the war in Ukraine; and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade, changed how Miranda rights work, and made other controversial decisions.”
Who exactly are the extremists? Who exactly are the ones who are trying to score political points?
I think we all know. The problems in American primary and secondary education are not caused by parental involvement. Instead, they have been caused by those in charge of American education itself. Yet the discussion above may be somewhat misleading. Though there are many dissenting teachers and administrators in this country, the problems are not limited to the large unions to which I have been referring.
Chris Rufo and Chaya Raichik (Libs of Tik Tok) have served our country well by exposing what has been going on in countless school districts across the country concerning the teaching of topics related to race, sexuality, and gender. In all too many schools, it is local administrators, counselors, and teachers who are bringing misguided and destructive ideas to our children. More simply than introducing ideas, many of them are explicitly acting to assist children in going against their parents to “transition” to another “gender.” The Libs of Tik Tok social media posts are usually simply the reposting of teachers bragging about such teaching and action. Quite often they explicitly say they are posting about how they get around parents and political authorities in more conservative areas so that others can do the same thing.
This topic is very close to this writer’s heart right now. We moved to Texas this summer and, for a variety of reasons, are in the position of having all five of our school-age children in public schools this year in the greater Houston area. I am not terribly happy about it. Last year they were in a very solid Catholic school in Minnesota where traditional Christian (and human!) understandings of the human person were backed up. This year we have to be on alert in a different way.
We’ve visited the schools thus far and haven’t seen any explicit signs of focus on CRT and LGBTQ; it’s been all three r’s kind of stuff. One of my kids says of course that is the case. He tells me not to worry. “It is Texas, Dad!” Well, maybe. I have warned him that education everywhere is largely the same. The same education schools pump out all the teachers and administrators. And they are all bad. As a friend whose kids went to public schools down here told me, “You have to watch these things; they can turn on a dime.” So they can.
I’ll give the teachers unions one thing. They are right that American parents will go to extreme lengths to protect their kids. They will even “start wars”—not violent ones, of course, but political and legal ones—to make sure that their children’s educations. I know I will.
Do not mistake me. I am not looking for a fight for the sake of fighting. Nor am I looking for one to score mere “political points” in some tribal sense. But I am looking to make sure my kids are getting teaching that is not a warped take on race or gender or the United States or anything else. And though I am not going to physically attack anybody, I will indeed go to nonviolent war in all sorts of other ways if my children and the children in my community are being malformed by teachers, counselors, and administrators.
Though it might seem extreme to do so, I think it’s right to say that extremism in defense of my children is no vice at all. Instead, it is a virtue I hope to encourage in others.
David P. Deavel is an associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and a senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on Gettr @davidpdeavel.
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