AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
The best offense is a good defense. But if you’re really going to score, you not only have to prevent the other team from scoring; you have to score yourself. The GOP should have learned that lesson over the last year about all sorts of issues. Given the utter destruction wrought by Democrats in pretty much every area of life, the possibilities of depressing the “D” vote turnout are endless. Almost every catastrophe these days has one of those stickers with Joe Biden saying “I did that” on it. But to really take advantage of the Democratic horror show and to build a big red wave in the fall, Republicans have to both show they are preventing as much damage as they can and are working to actually improve things. Nowhere is this more evident than the topic of education because parents and grandparents will do and vote for what they need for their kids to be well and thrive. Glenn Youngkin’s win last year and Ron DeSantis’s superstar status today were built on a number of good moves, but chief among them is understanding this lesson with regard to education.
Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race last fall was predicated in large part on his promise of protection of students from the depredations of teachers’ unions, educrats, and ideologues. The unions wanted to keep schools closed and classes online due to fear of Covid, an illness that threatens the old, the sick, and those with numerous co-morbidities, but has at most moderate risk for healthy adults and almost no risk for children. When schools did open, the unions and the educrats demanded that children be masked up, again despite the fact that the risks for them were minuscule and the effects of masks were deleterious to learning (without even getting into the question of whether masks had any positive effects—even CNN’s Leana Wen now says cloth masks were always useless facial “decorations”).
Youngkin has also fought the educrats and the ideologues who were preaching racialized ideology and ideological sexuality-and-gender lessons. In fact, it was on the last issue that he most likely got the final push in his campaign when Terry McAuliffe reiterated his view that parents shouldn’t have any say in what their children were learning in this area: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Ron DeSantis has similarly made protection of students from the public health bureaucracy a priority, sparking massive in-state migration to Florida from blue precincts that bade fair to keep the youth either online or muzzled forever. He has also made protection of kids from inappropriate curricula and teacher interactions a priority through his signing of the Parental Rights in Education (HB 1557) bill this past month. Despite the dishonest attempts to paint the bill, which prevents age-inappropriate instruction in sexuality and gender up to third grade, as some sort of “anti-LGBT+” or “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it is clear that this commonsense legislation is popular not just with Republicans but with independents and even many Democrats. In fact, a recent Yahoo/YouGov poll shows that, despite the propaganda campaign against it, only 52% of Democrats oppose it. The depiction of the bill as “anti-groomer” has gained traction since most parents left, right, and center don’t want adults having private conversations about these matters with young children, especially given the federal government’s own estimate that approximately one in ten students in public schools is subjected to either verbal or physical forms of “Adult Sexual Misconduct.”
A number of state Republicans in Alabama, Ohio, and elsewhere are now coming up with similar bills in their own states (Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey signed theirs into law) while Democrats and establishment Republicans are doubling down on the stupid. The Maryland state education department’s framework for health education now has pre-k students learning about “gender identity and expression” and no rules requiring teachers to tell parents when their children want to change genders, yet GOP Governor Larry Hogan approves. In New Jersey, they are giving the kids a break until second grade when they will be treated to teachers using lesson plans such as “Define gender, gender identity and gender role stereotypes.” The examples of such insanity in other states are too numerous to mention.
Get ready for more migration from places such as Maryland and New Jersey to places such as Florida and Alabama. And even for those who don’t migrate, as Adam Coleman argued in Newsweek, there are a lot of people being driven to the Republican Party. The red wave is already building simply based on a blue typhoon of ideological stupidity.
But simply acting to keep horrific stuff from happening in schools isn’t enough. Parents and voters want to see that the schools are actually getting better. Though beating back the sexuality-and-CRT stuff was key for Glenn Youngkin, part of what needed to be beaten back was the dismantling of advanced education. The Virginia plan was to get rid of advanced math until 11th grade because of “equity,” meaning racial disparities in who took it early. One of the first things Glenn Youngkin did in office was to axe this plan that would have denied some students the opportunity to succeed because not all students could.
So too with Ron DeSantis. While all the attention was going toward the Parental Rights in Education bill, much less noticed on the national stage—though likely not among Florida parents—was another Florida bill signed in the same week. On March 22 Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill requiring Florida high school students to take a course on financial literacy in order to graduate. Now students will take a course on opening financial accounts, managing money, and avoiding debt. As Suzanne Costanza of the Florida Council on Economic Education said, DeSantis’s signing of the bill “really cemented that Florida is going to be a state of progress.”
Such a statement may seem crazy to establishment left media, but it’s true. Conservative government means progress and success in education for all races. Today, however, it is easier and easier to show it. Republicans around the country should be imitating Youngkin and DeSantis in both their fearless defense of kids from the worst of modern education and their bold attempts to move the ball over the goal line when it comes to actually making education better.
Conservatives who govern well prevent kids (unmasked) from being locked out of schools. The defend them from divisive racial doctrines, radical gender theory, and inappropriate sexual conversations. And they go on offense to make advanced math available for promising young students and they demand financial literacy of all students.
Now, if we can only get President Biden and Congress to take a financial literacy course. . . .
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.
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