Katie Couric and a handful of other progressives are in hot water for their suggestion that Trump supporters need to be “deprogrammed.” While it’s not likely that 74 million Americans are rounded up for “reeducation” camps, it’s clear that the political left understands how the education system can serve their cause in propagating their ideology.
The Biden administration has already signaled a willingness to use public schools for a cultural “deprograming” of the next generation by pushing top-down social justice theories about race, discipline, and sex. This approach generally seeks to limit school choice, because when more students exit the public system, they also escape its attempt at political brainwashing. For students, the best hope still lies with state legislatures, who make most decisions about education policy.
Joe Biden himself has remained fairly tight-lipped on school choice, which is broadly popular across both parties and racial groups, but his appointments and actions so far should not encourage reformers.
His pick for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, remains somewhat of a cypher. However, Biden’s choice for Deputy Secretary, Cindy Marten, is primarily known for keeping San Diego schools firmly closed and injecting critical race theory into classrooms, including praising a proposal to send all white teachers to “antiracist therapy”. And with the First Lady already signaling her friendship with teachers’ unions, it’s safe to say that the Biden administration will not be the friend to education freedom that the Trump administration was.
Biden’s Executive Order requiring schools to grant biological boys access to women’s sports teams and locker rooms will be just the beginning. Expect a restoration of the Obama administration’s “restorative justice” guidance that supplanted on-the-ground decision-making on discipline with a woke mandate from on high, and has already had tragic consequences.
But states have a huge opportunity to push back. Both parties sometimes have cause to lament it, but the overwhelming majority of education decisions still rests in state hands. If the federal government is going to be heavy handed with the nation’s public schools, state legislatures should support parents in opting out. So far, nearly two dozen states have introduced viable bills to expand school choice, and more may join them in the coming weeks. States will be key in pushing back against the Biden administration’s cultural overreach.
The pandemic has revealed two things to many American families.
First, they have been abruptly disabused of the notion that the adults who work in the education system—especially unions—put the needs of children first. In Chicago, teachers’ unions went on informal strike to avoid reopening in person. In Los Angeles, they demanded Medicare for All and that police be defunded before reopening schools for suffering students. In Virginia, some unions continue to insist that schools should not open until 2022, even as they urge that teachers skip to the front of the vaccine line. It is only possible to ignore parents’ voices because the system is set up in such a way that there are no consequences for doing so; nothing is more telling than the fact that private schools are fighting to stay open, while public schools often fight to stay closed.
Second, because of virtual learning, families have gotten a kitchen-table seat to the radical indoctrination that now passes for core subjects in public schools across the country. Thousands of schools have adopted the historically debunked 1619 Project. Many more have or will embrace curriculum additions from Black Lives Matter or craft lesson plans around the tenets of critical race theory, which teaches white students that they are inherently evil, and black students that they ought to have no love for an oppressive America.
Republicans and independents have a fork in the road ahead of them. They can consign their children to the hands of a culturally radical Biden administration, which will continue to fundamentally transform the country. Or, they can empower families of all needs and political stripes to regain control over their children’s educations, by prioritizing broad-based school choice programs that ensure that they have both leverage and options.
Every year, we celebrate national School Choice Week, to highlight and honor the public policies that give education freedom to families. But after the experience we’ve all been through since March of last year, this week is more important than ever.
Eventually, one way or another, the nation’s schools will reopen. What they teach, and whether they will respect parent voices going forward, depends on what we do today.