Center for Progress and Innovation Director Julie Gunlock joined The Ben Domenech Podcast to discuss VA Governor Youngkin’s executive orders and the state of education in Virginia.
Julie explains why she believes so many parents across the country are fed up with the current state of public education. Plus, she gives insight into how parents can pursue a change to public schooling that can help kids get the most out of their education.
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Today we are talking to Julie Gunlock, who is the Director of the Independent Women’s Network, a new project of IWF that looks at a lot of different issues across the country. She’s someone who’s been very much focused on the development of the school clashes within the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the new incoming governor, Glenn Youngkin, was just inaugurated. He followed through on his promise during the campaign to issue a number of executive orders and directives that would shut down critical race theory teaching throughout the Commonwealth schools, but also would address a number of the different mandates that have been put in place by local jurisdictions.
Those same local jurisdictions have already announced that they’ll be fighting back, leading to a legal process that’s probably going to play out in the coming months and potentially year that could end up at the highest levels of the court in terms of determining the powers involved and whether the state has the power to essentially enable parents to make the decision about whether their children are required to wear masks in schools all day or not. Keeping in mind that the CDC itself has said that such a requirement is not something that potentially really benefits any of the children involved.
Julie Gunlock from the Independent Women’s Network coming up next.
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Julie Gunlock, thank you so much for taking the time to join me to today.
Thanks for having me.
So one of the things that I think a lot of people have been paying attention to not just in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but nationally is the tension that exists between the state executives and authorities there and local school districts and the public school, the whole kind of hierarchy, which has been very much in favor of these mask mandates and of remote learning, things of that nature.
We knew there was going to be a clash that would happen as soon as Glenn Youngkin was confirmed, was inaugurated as the latest governor of the Commonwealth. And he followed through on his promises when it came to his executive orders and the like.
Walk me through kind of what’s happening there in terms of the conflict between the governor, the public school districts, and the response that has happened basically to him demanding that there be a real accountability when it comes to the mask mandates involved, and one that would be very much in terms of his own assumptions bias toward those parents and caregivers who would not require their children to wear masks in schools.
Yeah. When Youngkin’s executive orders came out, which again, they don’t ban masks. They leave it up to the parents to decide if they want their children masked. The school district that in Alexandria, Virginia, where I live, the superintendent, Greg Hutchings immediately issued a statement, which apparently is not unusual for this region. I’ve now heard that Arlington superintendent did the same and so did Fairfax County basically saying we’re continuing the mask. We are going to require kids to mask.
The interesting thing with the Alexandria School District is it went a little bit further. They are now going to be giving out these N95 masks, which personally I find suffocating, and they’re going to be delivering other masks so kids can double mask. So to a lot of parents that I’ve talked to, this is a new turn. And in fact, it certainly comes off and it is essentially doubling down on the masking.
Obviously, Alexandria is a very … I always say it’s the deepest blue you can find on the color wheel. It’s a deep, deep blue city. And we have a school board that is very liberal. School boards are supposed to be nonpartisan, but they are very liberal. And they, I mean, if you check the Twitter feeds of any, which I have today, of many of the school board members, they don’t hide their political affiliations.
What’s interesting also-
Doesn’t one of them work for Randy Weingarten?
Yes. We have a school board member named Kelly Booz, who was just elected this past year, which is just astonishing to me given what Randy Weingarten did. This is a woman who is one of Randy Weingarten’s director. So at the American Federation of Teachers, one of the biggest unions in the country, she’s a director, she is a high up within this union and she was elected to our school board.
So while a lot of people in the country, a lot of parents in the country are sort of angry at Randy Weingarten, or at least, at the very least, sort of understand the role of the unions, in my city that doesn’t matter. And in fact, I’m sure a lot of people see her as sort of an expert in education because of her role with the unions.
So we do have an extremely political school board. We have a very sort of hyper liberal school in general. The officials, on their Twitter feeds, you see praise for Biden and there was a lot of criticism of Betsy DeVos. And so, no one’s really surprised that they’ve doubled down or that they’ve sort of reasserted that they’re going to keep masking kids. But I think this discussion or talk of these N95 masks and double masking was a surprise to several parents.
And I think it’s terrible, and I think it is a way for this school district and this superintendent to not only snub and thumb his nose at Youngkin. It is a way to convey to parents that they don’t matter. Don’t even try. We’re not … It’s interesting. They didn’t say let’s have a discussion of masks. They went further with this talk of double masking and N95. So it is a way to convey to parents that we’re done talking, this is the policy, and you’d be wasting your time to come and talk to us.
So let’s talk about that for a minute, because I think it’s important to understand. One of the elements that I think has been underestimated in terms of the developments the last several years at the federal level, but also at the state level, is that because of the power of the bureaucratic state, the administrative state at both the federal level and within these state super structures where you have bureaucrats who, again are virtually unfireable, who are in positions where they believe they can outlast governors, particularly in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Just for those who don’t know and who are not residents here, Virginia has this weird, archaic approach to the governorship where you can actually hold the governorship as many times as you want. You just can’t do it sequentially. So as soon as you are elected, you are not running again.
You’re a lame duck.
You are essentially a lame duck, which is I actually think a very interesting political position because it both empowers and disables you. It means that you’re free of any kind of obligation to respond to the electoral interest of voters four years from now. But it also means that you’re viewed as less powerful than people in other offices.
And so you have a situation here now where Glenn Youngkin was clearly swept into office by a lot of people who were angry about a lot of things. And a lot of them were non-traditional Republican voters, including a lot of Asian immigrants, a lot of people who were frustrated with what they were seeing in schools. You had this rare combination of the pickup trucks with Trump stickers on the back and the Subarus that had I am a parent of a gifted student, basically voting the same way.
And that is something that has enormous promise for conservatives across the nation who are very much fed up with the antics of these public school teachers’ unions and the like. But, then there is the thorny matter of actually delivering on the promise of pushing back against them. And you knew from the get go, Julie, I know you’re smart enough to know this, that the bureaucracy was going to throw up as many roadblocks as they could to prevent this kind of thing from going through.
So tell me a little bit about those roadblocks, what nature they’re taking on, because I feel like this is going to be something that isn’t just going to end up in court. It could end up going all the way to Supreme Court, in terms of the kind of things that we could see.
Well, look. I’ll tell you honestly one of the biggest roadblocks, and this has really, I feel bad kind of bringing this up because it doesn’t really actually have anything to do with these institutions that you’re talking about. But I do think it’s really important to frame this correctly. What we have in Alexandria is a … I feel really strange living here sometimes, I have to say among, especially being a parent and obviously a conservative, because it is so deep blue that people really don’t mind some of these impositions.
And in fact, when the ACPS Twitter feed tweeted out we will remain masking, I mean, you had parents [inaudible 00:11:10] their thanks to ACPS. I mean, it wasn’t … It’s like, it’s one thing. I feel like it’s one thing to be like, “Okay, fine.” They sort of, “Whatever,” like roll your eyes and say fine, or even kind of say, “Well, fine. If they think it’s necessary for another couple months or something.” But I mean, you had parents, like if a tweet could have tears in their eyes, these tweets would have tears in their eyes about how thankful they are to ACPS for keeping our people safe, keeping our children safe, and keeping our teachers safe.
I mean, it is astonishing to me that this still works on people, that without a mask everybody’s going to drop dead, when it’s clear, if it’s this disease … I mean, I feel like it’s kind of boring to even go into this. It’s like, it’s clear that this disease does not affect kids at the same rate it affects other people or other populations.
And so I think it’s important to understand that unlike Loudoun, which is not deep blue, it isn’t, I think there’s a lot of Alexandria conservatives, and not even conservatives. There’s an awful lot of that I have spoken to, people who formerly were on the left that are so fed up with Superintendent Hutchings and some of the shenanigans going on. So I don’t want to say it’s … I like to say that common sense parents who are fed up and yet we are surrounded by people who won’t say anything.
So again, it’s not like Loudoun County where there’s this rush of people that are fed up. It’s really, there are pockets, but Alexandria, because the population again is so liberal. And it’s not just that. There’s an awful lot of people in this community. It is a very wealthy community that simply just send their kids to private school. And so they don’t care. They genuinely don’t care. And frankly, there’s a lot of private schools in this community that will return to mask-less, to kids being mask-less once they have this, once this EO goes into effect.
So one of the barriers I would say is the fact that you do feel a little alone, maybe not as alone as I used to feel, but there’s just an awful lot of compliance with what your government better tells you to do. And that is a source of intimidation I think for a lot of people. Certainly not me, but people who are not used to this sort of feeling like they could be attacked, they kind of shrink from the fight.
So I think Alexandria may benefit from a lawsuit brought on by another school district because I don’t foresee that happening here.
There was a response from the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, about her opinion on this. And I found it kind of, I mean, I’m not going to say it, sent a thrill up my leg, but I mean, it was rather insurrectioning. What a bad girl. But no, it really was something that basically said we don’t care if you want or not. We’re still going to do this thing.
But the problem obviously with that is there’s a difference between saying I’m going to do this thing and my sons or daughters are going to do this thing, and I believe I have the power to require every son or daughter of anyone in my district to do this thing. There’s a logical problem there. So I wonder, what were your thoughts on seeing that?
And also, I know that IWF and the whole IW network has been at the forefront of pushing for school choice for a long in time. But school choice has never really been something that was all that sexy as a political issue. It was something that the donors liked and conservatives who were logical and principled, they certainly liked it. But they also didn’t necessarily have the kind of pickup for it in minority communities. And in terms of the people who would actually benefit from it on paper, they didn’t seem to be as into it.
Do you feel like something like that has changed? And do you think that the Psaki attitude basically has been a part of changing that?
Yeah. And look, really quickly on Psaki. She’s such a mean girl. She’s just such a typical mean girl. Again, she’s so grotesquely full of herself. And I feel like that attitude turns people off and it turns women off. And how to connect that? I will connect that.
There is intense interest in homeschooling, in shifting kids to educational alternatives. And I do think it’s become sort of edgy and sexy. And I do feel like there’s this sort of movement out there of rejecting these broken institutions now and I want to take control.
I am a COVID homeschooler. I did … I pulled … All my kids are out of Alexandria public schools now. Two of them are in Catholic school and then I homeschool my oldest, who is a teen. So I feel like I deserve extra credit for that. It’s not easy. It is not easy. But he’s a very good boy and he’s very bright and we do have some fun, but I-
I do want the answer to this question, but do you use a curriculum?
I do. I use Memoria Press, which I’m in love with, and they do sort, they’re considered one of those curriculum in a box. They give me a weekly schedule that I don’t necessarily follow anymore. It’s interesting, as I’ve gone further into, and I know this isn’t a homeschooling podcast. And see, I’ve become such a-
Well, no. No, it is kind of a homeschooling podcast-
Oh, that’s fine.
Considering that I was homeschooled from beginning to end. Yeah. But see, back when I was homeschooled, there were way fewer, way fewer opportunities in terms of, especially in terms of high school age kids. There were actually a lot of curriculum in the box kind of things that were for elementary school students. And especially because, Calvert School in Baltimore, which is what we used through eighth grade was the primary way of homeschooling if you were a Diplomat’s kid. They would just send you the box or whatever. But go ahead.
Well, it’s funny, but the minute people, I could be, I could literally be on a podcast about Obamacare and somehow I will manage to turn it into a conversation about homeschooling because I love it so much. And it’s been very transformational for me.
You sort of touched on homeschooling when you’re in elementary, but I’m now homeschooling a kid, and we get to learn. I get to learn about the heroes of Greece and Rome and all these really interesting things that I frankly needed some brushing up on. So it’s been, and okay, I won’t lie, I didn’t really even know a lot of the stuff that I’m learning. So it’s been … It’s really been joyful and like …
Did you go to public school yourself?
I went to public school. I went to public school. And not a particularly remarkable one in the Midwest. I mean it’s fine, but-
Well, there is one thing that I will say. I have always said, homeschooling is not for everyone. It is something that demands an enormous amount of work on the part of at least one parent. And not everybody can really manage that. And so it’s not something that I would necessarily say everybody should do. I’m not that kind of [inaudible 00:18:49].
But I do think that the one thing that it really does do, and I believe that this is consistent is it is much better at allowing the student to learn at their own pace, which means that they can rush ahead in topics that they’re actually interested in and that you have to kind of keep them up with the things that they’re not interested in. And so it’s a challenge in both ways, but in my case, what that meant was, I was reading way ahead of where I should be reading at a very young age because I was allowed to. And that that was something that set me on a path that I really appreciated.
And you were likely allowed to read things you wanted to read, not necessary-
… you had to sort of like roll your eyes. And my son, I remember when I gave him Anne of Green Gables and he was like, “I could not.” Literally like his eyeballs rolled out of his head. He was like, “Ugh,” you know that, and like at 14 like the 14 [inaudible 00:19:48], they’re, “Argh.”
How much do I have to care about the color auburn for the next-
Yes. And then … Yeah, exactly. But then I watch him sometimes when he’s reading. Sorry if there’s any spoilers here, but when Matthew died, you could see he was emotional. And he talks. And the wonderful thing about Memoria Press is there’s all these essays that you have to write. Well, Jack and I actually, we do a lot of conversations about the books that he reads, and it moved him deeply. We talked a lot about the meaning of that book. So he’s even learned that, hey, maybe there are some books that I don’t think I will like. But he’s discovered new authors and new genres, and that’s been really rewarding.
But I will tell you, just to bring it back to ACPS, which is always fun to kind of use my experience with homeschooling and how remarkable it’s been, to compare it to his homeschooling experience. Because Jack, my son did go through to seventh, finished seventh grade in the public schools. And my son had really good grades. He would get … In math he had consistently Bs. I think he was even getting As when he was a little bit younger. But he was a good student.
And when he was starting seventh grade, we had him … Or I’m sorry, when he was starting homeschooling, before he started, I wanted a full assessment of where he was in math. And I’m telling you, Ben, this poor kid was just at about a fifth grade level. He had been taught so poorly-
We’ll have more of my interview with Julie Gunlock right after this.
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These are considered, in terms of the Washington Metro area, these are considered some of the most desirable public schools to be sending your kid to. People will fight tooth and nail in order to live in the districts where they can send their kids to these schools. And that’s not a new thing. It’s been that way for a long time.
Well, and let’s talk that. Alexandria city public schools, this is similar in Arlington and Fairfax and frankly Loudon. I mean, ACPS, I know specifics because I live here gets nearly $20,000 per student. And my son who had an IEP, which is an Individualized Education Plan, which is to accommodate a few of his learning needs $36,000. And what did I get for $36,000? A kid who was deficient in math and who yet got As and Bs. So he works …
But this is the really wonderful thing. He worked so hard that he is now in algebra, he’s in fully algebra one, he’s taking advanced physics because we did really intensive reviews. We actually went all the way back. Because if your kid is getting As and Bs, and he’s not really getting As and Bs, he’s just being pushed along in a broken public school system, you’re going to have real problems down the line. And it is really tempting. And I really was one of those parents I’m ashamed to say, that would look at my children’s report cards and go, “Oh good. They’re doing fine.” But I would talk to them.
I remember once. This is kind of a sad story. My kid would not … My oldest wouldn’t play Mad Libs. And I was like, “Why won’t you do this?” And he finally admitted. He was like, “I don’t know what these things are.” We were fully a year into homeschooling and we had … He had had to memorize all of the grammar rules. And there are a lot. And we used to do flashcards and he would feel so accomplished. And he was so proud of himself. And that was great to see. But he said, “I couldn’t. I used to not be able to play Mad Libs because I really didn’t have a handle on what a noun and adjective and adverb was,” because again, the instruction. But guess what grades he was getting? Great grades.
So I think it’s an uncomfortable reality for parents who, maybe they’re fine with the public school, but maybe they’re not doing enough examination. And I really don’t want to make people feel bad, but I do. It came as a real shock to me. And then, when you take a moment and go, “Oh my gosh, that school got $36,000.” Think of what I could have done and other families could do with that kind of money. And I know this is like a tired argument that you’ve heard a million times.
No, no, no, no, no. The argument you’re making, essentially, what could I have done with $36,000 on a library card that you couldn’t have done? I mean, it’s really insulting.
And one of the things, Julie, that I think is so critical to understand about how this has changed is that, yes, the pandemic resulted in these public institutions and unions being able to claim access to absurd amounts of money, the vast majority of which has been left unspent because they claimed they needed it. At the same time it has revealed for the first time to a lot of Americans who were not particularly political, how terrible the school systems that they were counting on to train their kids really are in terms of what they’re putting out there.
And I don’t mean that necessarily in political terms. People think of it. When you criticize that sort of thing, they say, “Oh, well, you’re talking about critical race theory,” or you’re talking about something that’s deeply, politically controversial. Well, that’s part of it, but it’s only part of it. Actually the real anger I believe is coming from parents who believe, “I have spent my hard earned tax dollars on sending my kid to this school, living in a place that I might not normally choose to live, paying the real estate taxes there in order to send my kid to what I thought was the best school. And then I find out that it’s not the best school. They’re not even teaching them the things that I knew grades before they were learning them.” And that’s a huge opportunity for an argument that hasn’t really been made to that community yet.
I mean, you’re in this activist orbit, Julie. How are you going to be able to connect the argument in favor of school choice to those same people who have not been previously part necessarily of the movement, but are now eager to hear about alternatives when it comes to education that would actually get their kids to the point where they want them to be?
Well, it’s a great question and it’s a good way for me to kind of talk a little bit about what I do with this new network, which is the Independent … I am a policy analyst with the Independent Women’s Forum, but they’ve launched this brand new project called The Network. And it partly was launched because over the last couple years, I mean, not breaking news here, I think there’s been this sense of, okay, I can’t to even talk about politics if I’m a conservative without being accused of, my goodness, I can mildly complain for instance about masks and be called all sorts of names. Again, it’s very intimidating to face that. And I think a lot of women sort of feel alone. They really do want to have interesting conversations with other women and men, and men as well, but they want to grapple with these issues and kind of figure out what is the best course of action. And suddenly there’s a whole slew of things that they’re not allowed to talk about.
So we launched this IW Network as a way to grapple with these issues and to really kind of figure things out. And we’ve got a bunch of resources with talking points, but also letters that we’ve written. And it’s so funny because Hadley Heath who I’m sure you know, or Hadley Manning, who I’m sure you know, she’s our policy director at IWF. She wrote a very mild letter to her preschool director saying I really hope that you’ll consider not masking the kids. This letter, Ben, could not have been nicer. She even said at one point in the letter, she said, I have tremendous respect for the difficulty of your job and I know you’re trying to do what’s best.
And The Washington Post did this hit piece specifically because of this letter. They got some mole who paid the $5 and got into the site and took this letter. And of course it’s behind a paywall, so they could write about it and suggest that it was this vicious, angry letter when in fact it was this very mild letter, just saying, hey, we hope you’ll consider these other data points.
And this kind of network of women kind of working together, talking about issues, grappling with issues, it’s a huge threat to the left. They don’t want us because I feel like conservatives tend to be a little bit quiet about things. But we’re done. We want to create these chapters and these groups that can support each other and go together to school board meetings and council meetings where you might feel outnumbered and sort of intimidated, but there is safety in numbers. It’s an old phrase, but I think people do feel better when they have support.
And so that’s the way in which we’re tackling this issue. We already have started several chapters around the country. I started one in Alexandria, Virginia, would you believe it? I have 25 women who come to the meetings, and we have a great time. And we really … It’s nice that we have found each other. We talk about the issues that concern us. And we do plan to get active and go to school board meetings and go to council meetings.
And even though I don’t have kids in the public schools anymore, there are so many kids still trapped in the system. There are so many kids and it’s becoming more and more that the public schools, especially in very wealthy areas like Alexandria are increasingly the vulnerable kids whose parents really might not be able to get them out of the public school.
So I think, it’s really important to fight no matter where your kids go to school, to fight for the kids that are left in that broken system.
I think one of the things that I would be interested about from you is talk a little bit about the level of effort that’s necessary to engage on these things. Because one of the things that I detect in the stories that you’re telling about your own experience is you’re obviously a politically engaged person with strong opinions. You have an undergirding philosophy. And yet, like so many parents who share those attributes across the country, you were someone who basically counted on your local school system to deliver a quality education.
And it’s not like you were divorced from what they were learning. It’s just that you assumed logically I’m paying so much money. I’m living in such a nice area. Everybody says these schools are great. I have to assume on some level that they’re going to deliver an education that will equip my child to be able to go to a quality college, to be able to have a good future, et cetera. And then you have this whiplash experience of learning what they’re actually being taught.
And I think that there are a lot of parents across the country who, they don’t really want to wake up to that, but they are being forced to. And with that comes an obligation to engage. And for the parents who I’ve met across the country who care about this, a lot of their questions are, “How do I do that? What’s the best way to go about doing that?” What do you say to those people?
I feel on the homeschooling front, I think it really is hard, but there are ways to do it if … First of all, one of the silver linings of COVID and I hate even saying that, but one of the things that has changed during COVID, I think for the better is a recognition that people can get a lot of work done at home. For instance, my husband works for a federal agency and is still working from home, and he’s been home essentially the whole time. And there’s real questions as to whether he will go back in the traditional sense of working the nine to five thing.
So I think there are opportunities now. And since people have been working from home, many people have been working from home for a long time, this is the time to negotiate that if your kid is really suffering in school and you want to approach homeschooling, this is the time to make that a conversation with your employer.
Now, I know I’m not talking about the working poor here or people who struggle with that, and that’s a whole different conversation. But I think for the parents like me, who repeatedly said, “I can’t do this.” And I will tell you, Ben, I have mentioned earlier, my oldest had an IEP in the public schools. And I was told from the time he was a kindergartner that you can’t do this, that you need help, that he’ll special services. And I’ll be honest here. He doesn’t have anything serious. But they suggested to me that I was unqualified and that I couldn’t do this and that I couldn’t figure it out and he really needed services.
So you need to, I would say to new parents approaching this, you need to steel yourself for that kind of conversation. The public schools are very good at making you feel like they are … It’s this whole credential class, like they’re the only ones who can handle this. You need to steel yourself against that. But if you’re already in the system and you want to get your kids out, and maybe you’re working from home, that is a really good arrangement. And I will tell you, I work in …
One thing a 14-year-old loves to do a actually more than playing video games and watching YouTube is sleep. So our arrangement is I actually let him sleep in and he sleeps till around nine and I get up early and I do my work. And I’m on with Larry super early in the morning some mornings. So I’m free to do more homeschooling with him later in the afternoon, or sort of mid-morning. And we take breaks. But I will tell you, homeschooling is done quick. Homeschooling is not like … It’s not an eight hour day. We usually finish in three or four hours. Actually it’s more usually like three hours because we can condense it.
And so I think what parents have to first understand, they need to … Homeschooling needs to be demystified a little bit. If you have older kids, you can often give them a number of tasks and they can do things on their own. And then you check it. You might have to do a bit of a lesson. I will tell you, I also have a tutor for math because as I mentioned, my son is in algebra and I have trouble with long division. So there’s no math going on.
I think there are different arrangements that parents can do. And the greatest thing about homeschooling is you can make it the best situation for your family.
I think that that’s great advice. And I also think that it’s one that a lot of parents need to hear. I hope that they respond to it.
Julie, just to close this out, is there a way that you would recommend people engage on this? Is there something that you think they should read or they should follow that has really helped activate the people who want to make the fight for school choice a part of their engagement with their local community school board, et cetera?
It all depends on where you live. There are some communities that have really strong homeschooling communities. I actually live, and it’s funny, this summer, I’m actually going to be speaking on a panel with Memoria Press on homeschooling alone. That’s what the panel’s called. And because I have sort of … there isn’t a strong homeschooling community here in Alexandria, and I’ve often felt sort of isolated and alone.
But there are tremendous resources out there online and with many. Many of the curriculum companies have sort of how-tos. HSLDA, sort of the legal arm of homeschooling that sort of defend parents, they have a ton of information on their website. And it’s a small fee for a membership there and it gives you access to a ton of resources. Actually the network, I have to plug my network here, Ben, but the network, we actually have homeschooling resources, and we also have Inez Stepman who knows everything about homeschooling and educational alternatives.
But look, the bottom line is that homeschooling is not, is no longer something you do if you’re kind of like, I don’t mean to be mean, but if you’re like sort of a little strange. I feel like homeschooling used to be sort of like these enormous families who did it, and now anybody can do it. And it’s really been demystified and there’s so many resources out there, and there’s so much information about how to do it. Facebook, I’m part of Facebook communities. I’m part of sort of chats with other homeschoolers, none local, but it’s a wonderful, vibrant community.
And this is what I will say about homeschooling community more than anything. They really want to help and they want to bring other people in. They’re the kindest people, the most understanding, most patient people that I’ve ever met.
So I think once you start, you dip your toe in, it’s almost overwhelming how much information there is out there. And for goodness’ sake, examine what your children are learning in the public schools. And it’s not just looking at the curriculum, although I do suggest you take a deep dive into the curriculum. But maybe have an outside assessment. Maybe ask some questions. Really talk to your kids and find out how they’re doing in school. I think a lot of people would be surprised that it’s not as glowing as maybe some of these public schools would have you believe.
Julie Gunlock, thank you so much for taking the time to join me today.
Thanks for having me.
I want to read from you from an article by Kylee Zempel at The Federalist on the situation with Novak Djokovic, the best men’s tennis player in the world, she says, who has been ordered that he cannot play in the Australian Open. It’s not because he choked or forfeited in some way she writes, but because he hasn’t gotten a COVID shot and must be punished for this cardinal sin.
Just as an aside, Djokovic himself has actually been someone who lived through COVID, came out on the other side, said he wasn’t going to be vaccinated, was allowed into Australia initially in order to participate in the Australian Open, which is one of the most vaunted tennis tournaments in the world, has been held in high esteem for a century. And then was essentially made an example of and pushed out by the country.
As Kylee writes: “Unlike 97% of his peers on the men’s tennis tour, Djokovic refuses to be vaccinated because he is in thrall to wacky New Age ideas about health.” This is from Max Boot in The Washington Post. “But he tried to game the system so that he could play the Australian Open anyway. He claimed to be eligible for an exemption from the vaccination requirement because he had tested positive for the coronavirus on December 16th. How convenient. Was he planning to skip the Australian Open if he didn’t catch a potentially deadly disease the month before?”
Network anchors such as MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin have referred to Djokovic as anti-vaxx sports stars who think the rules somehow don’t apply to them, and other trolls have also jumped in the ring, such as Bulwark editor Bill Kristol, who snidely reminded his followers on Twitter that getting vaccinated is the adult and civilized thing to do.
Boot went on to speculate about whether the tennis star’s positive test was even legitimate and pontificate that, if it was, Djokovic recklessly endangered others by fraternizing with them as a mild variant of an endemic virus sweeps the globe.
There were other complications, of course, such as a travel exemption, followed by a revoked visa, procedural irregularities that resulted in release from his refugee hotel purgatory, another visa cancellation, and an error on his immigration paper that was either a lie or an honest mistake, depending on who you ask.
Ultimately, however, the primary argument from Boot, Kristol, and others who would cheer the star’s deportation isn’t one of legal significance nor concern for immigration protocols. The prime contention is that Djokovic transgressed by not falling in line with the left’s pandemic requirements and the rules of COVID morality as dictated by the coercive ruling class.
“If Djokovic wants to continue playing tennis, he needs to get vaccinated, and to stop trying to circumvent the pandemic requirements that apply to everyone else,” Boot said with the self-serious authority of a fifth-grade hall monitor. “He needs to decide if he is going to be the number one men’s tennis player in the world or the number one anti-vaxxer. He can’t be both. Djokovic may be the most skilled men’s player in tennis history, but his COVID misconduct shows that true greatness still eludes him.”
There you have it. Djokovic shouldn’t be punished because he might have lied on a government document. He should be punished because his private medical decisions don’t live up to the COVID Code of Moral Conduct. According to the left’s scolds, the only way to achieve greatness, in tennis as in life, is to comply with their preferred policy prescriptions.
There’s one more layer to this that’s worth probing, which is that Djokovic’s detractors are not only rooting against him; they’re cheering in support of the Australian government to deport him.
And on that level, this is more than a debate about who should be allowed to play sports or what the punishments should be for an individual lying about his COVID diagnosis. It’s beyond whether vaccines are effective and how far one person or group of people can go to force another person or group of people to inject themselves with a substance against their will. While these are all valid debates, this Djokovic dust-up brings into focus something that’s somehow a little nastier.
Amid a mild wave of an endemic virus, which even premier health expert Anthony Fauci has admitted will infect just about everybody, you can pick only one of what boils down to two sides in the Djokovic debate. One side recognizes bodily autonomy and doesn’t care what one tennis star thinks about vaccination because he’s athletic and healthy and independent, and it’s none of their business.
The other side is cheering on an authoritarian regime that’s imprisoned people it considers COVID risks and forced them into isolation in state-sanctioned quarantine camps, locked down its citizens in their homes and prevented them from even going to work, and sicced the police on its people, arresting those who don’t fall in line with the health experts.
The left’s talking heads are free to bloviate about civilized society, pandemic requirements that apply to everyone, and what it means to be a morally responsible adult, but it’s safe to say that when your side resorts to cheering on authoritarians, you’re probably not the hero.
I’m Ben Domenech. You’ve been listening to another edition of The Ben Domenech Podcast. We’ll be back soon with more. Until then, be lovers of freedom and anxious for the fray.
Listen to be part of the conversation with me, Brian Kilmeade. I’ll talk about the biggest stories of the day and get your take along with some of the biggest news makers around. Listen live on the FOX News app or get the podcast at briankilmeadeshow.com.