California’s new ethnic studies curriculum is making national headlines. The state’s overhaul is heavy on academic social justice gobbledygook like “cis-heteropatriarchy” and, with its placement of capitalism alongside hateful ideologies like white supremacy, short on truth.
The blatantly left-wing curriculum, which reads as though ripped from a Berkeley seminar on “critical whiteness studies,” is raising accusations of indoctrination. The Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers called it “training [for] … ideological activists and proponents of identity politics” in The Wall Street Journal.
This is not the first clash over public school left-wing ideology in California; earlier this year, parents were up in arms over a new sex education framework that prevented them from opting their children out of learning radical, biology-defying gender ideas at young ages. And similar clashes between parents, districts, and politicians have become more common across the country.
In Colorado, following parent backlash and widespread school rebellion against a new Planned Parenthood-approved sex ed curriculum, the state passed a law mandating that public schools teach the new curriculum or nothing. In New Jersey, state legislation was introduced recommending that school districts drop Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as offensive.
If you’re a parent thinking, “This stuff happens in deep-blue states like California and New Jersey, but it doesn’t happen in my red state, or my child’s school,” think again.
In Chandler, Arizona, students were suspended following a demand from the school that they remove their MAGA gear. In Texas, education board commissioner Mike Morath has introduced a recommendation that sex ed begin in Kindergarten. In Alabama, middle schoolers in the Gadsden City School District were selected into “privileged/white people” and “oppressed/black” groups for a series of activities that parents complained led to increased bullying.
Families across the country often raise the alarm about individual assignments or classes, taking to PTA meetings and local media. Even in my ultra-liberal hometown of Palo Alto, California, 1600 parents signed a petition expressing concern about the district’s sex ed curriculum, which teaches 7th graders about sex toys and includes graphic descriptions of sexual acts.
But because teachers, principals, and district administrators get paid regardless of whether or not parents are happy, it’s hard for families to get enough leverage over their children’s schools to change the overall agenda. In the business world, the consumer is king, but in education, the bureaucracy rules.
An Education Week Research Center survey found that teachers are 32 percent more likely to be Democrats and 37 percent less likely to have voted for Donald Trump than the average American. And powerful union influence often leans much further left than teachers themselves; the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, recently voted down a resolution to prioritize student learning, but did pass a series of resolutions supporting abortion, Black Lives Matter, and reparations.
Even the mainstream education reform movement trying to change the system mostly leans left, leaving the majority of moderate or conservative parents with concerns about curriculum few places to turn for help.
In the face of record numbers of millennials and Gen Zers reporting that they prefer socialism over capitalism, conservatives shouldn’t comfort themselves with the old canard about youthful hearts leaning left and mature brains right. It’s not an ironclad rule of nature that 20-somethings lean left; Ronald Reagan won the youth vote in 1984.
In his farewell address, Reagan asked the country an all-important question: “are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?”
Add our astounding civic ignorance to the increasing indoctrination in our public schools, and the answer is clear.
Conservatives should be looking to break the ideological monopoly in education that has taught a generation of Americans that men could be women, the classics were the power-preserving ramblings of dead white men, and that America wasn’t worth being proud of. Our day-to-day political battles will matter little if we fail at this one.
Fortunately, the solution is right in front of us. School choice can re-imbue parents with the right to decide what their children learn, and the ability to take the enormous taxpayer investment in their child’s education to a school that takes those demands seriously. Nothing else can realign incentives so that the teacher, principal, or district administrator has to listen when called to the carpet by those paying his salary.
Frustrated parents from coast to coast know that the only way to make their voices heard is to attach consequences to their dissatisfaction. Otherwise, we will all reap the consequences of inaction.