Published February 2, 2022
Glenn Youngkin is governing Virginia according to the implicit campaign slogan that powered his victory: stop messing with our kids, you freaks! That’s the polite version, anyway. Other Republican officials should follow his lead and solidify the GOP as the party of parents.
Youngkin ran as a conservative champion of normalcy, especially in schools. His campaign was assisted when his opponent declared parents should not have a say in what their children are taught, thereby confirming everything Youngkin was running on.
Since being sworn in, Youngkin has banned school mask mandates, banned teaching racist ideas from sources such as critical race theory, and requested the new state attorney general, Jason Miyares, to investigate the apparent coverup by Loudoun County officials of a rape committed by a skirt-wearing boy in a girls’ bathroom. He has also started cleaning house in the bureaucracy.
These measures have provoked pushback from the usual suspects. Left-wing teachers are now worried they’ll get in trouble for teaching the race essentialism derived from critical race theory. Some counties have defied the governor over school mask mandates, and are punishing students who choose not to wear them. But Youngkin is holding firm, knowing this is what he was elected to do.
Across the nation, parents are in revolt against the Democrat-led educational establishment, and Republicans should eagerly join the fray. After all, it was the Democrat-loving teachers unions that fought to keep schools shut down long after we knew that children were at almost no risk from Covid-19. Likewise, it has mostly been Democrats and their allies forcing children to wear masks when school is open, even though (as a few on the left are finally admitting) masks are particularly harmful for children, while offering no real benefits.
There are other indignities and cruelties, of course, from shutting down outdoor playgrounds to forcing schoolchildren to study or eat lunch outdoors in freezing temperatures. And these miseries have been inflicted long after any plausible ability to defend them as emergency measures, or to plead ignorance of the consequences. Under pressure from the teachers unions and education bureaucracy, Democrats have chosen to sacrifice the well-being of children. Even many liberals now want an alternative to the endless school shutdowns, masks, and other pandemic security theater.
But the parents’ revolt is also about what is, and isn’t, being taught in schools. When children are in school they are often being indoctrinated, rather than educated. This is why Youngkin’s opposition to teaching critical race theory and its derivatives in schools was such an effective campaign issue.
Parents saw through the lie that CRT was not being taught, or that it was misunderstood. Instead, they recognized it had infiltrated the curriculum with racial essentialism and hatred for our nation, and they knew that it needed to be excised from our schools.
Contrary to the claim that this is all white backlash, minority parents also know that their children don’t benefit from being taught leftist ideology in place of a genuine education. Yet mostly white leftists, such as those who run my home state of Oregon, persist in lowering or even abolishing standards in the name of racial equity.
Eliminating standards does help bad teachers and administrators hide their frequent failures to give poor and minority students a good, or even adequate, education. At the opposite end of the social scale, it allows college administrators, especially at elite schools, more leeway to choose the “right” kind of people.
In the broad middle, parents realize the education system has become less competent and a lot more ideological. They also notice that many teachers and administrators behave as if they are running a missionary school, with the task of proselytizing to the children in their care and prying them away from their parents’ values. Hence the unceasing stream of examples of schools funding and promoting radical ideology, only for many to then cover them up as parents find out.
Pushing Schools to the Extremes
At the extremes, this secretive form of public education has even taken the form of predatory grooming, with parents accusing teachers and staff of pressuring kids into adopting new sexual and gender identities, which are kept hidden from the parents.
Very few parents, even those who lean toward the left, support these radical ideas, let alone the exclusion of parents from education. Some Democrats are recognizing the peril of being the party of closed schools and masked toddlers, but there are few signs they will shake free from the radicals who have captured the educational bureaucracy and are using schools to wage culture war against parents.
But parents will fight for their children, including by voting across party lines. Thus, Republican leaders must make their party the parent party. They must support parents who are appalled at their children being taught to be race conscious.
Most Americans do not want their children to be racially obsessed, which gives the GOP a chance to do the right thing morally and politically. Likewise, the GOP must fight for parents who are concerned about allowing males into girls’ locker rooms, recognize that rainbow identities have become socially contagious, and are horrified at chemical and surgical gender transitions for children.
The message from parents is clear. They want schools to effectively teach math, science, writing, and so on; they do not want radical educators to use children for woke social engineering. That’s why, at the end of the Virginia election season, one simple yard sign popped up everywhere and said it all: Parents for Youngkin.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Nathanael Blake, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has included work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is currently working on a study of Kierkegaard and labor. As a cultural observer and commentator, he is also fascinated at how our secularizing culture develops substitutes for the loss of religious symbols, meaning and order.