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Parents push back

Their message is clear: Get political and cultural extremism out of public schools

A rally supporting family values in Leesburg, Va., in October, the month before Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s governor’s race. Associated Press/Photo by Cliff Owen

Parents push back
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In February, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 1557, which prohibits teaching public school students about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade. The bill would also order that nothing be taught “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The state Senate still has to pass the bill and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis needs to sign it before it becomes law. (Editor’s note: The Florida Senate passed the bill on Tuesday.)

If you’ve been paying attention to the hysterical media coverage surrounding this legislation, they would have you believe the bizarre notion that right-wing voters were the aggressors in the culture wars. Corporate media has been hostile, to put it mildly, focusing on hyperbolic charges that this bill would somehow harm kids who identify as LGBT.

Of course, virtually none of the coverage addressed the most obvious questions: Do ordinary Americans think kindergarteners should be taught about gender identity? So far, Florida politicians don’t seem convinced the bill will hurt them politically—it passed the House in a decisive 69-47 vote. Blueish Virginia recently elected a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade after a campaign where a trans student’s alleged rape of a female student in the girls’ high school restroom was a major flashpoint.

Not that long ago, the idea of teaching students—in any grade—about esoteric and morally dubious notions about pronouns and gender fluidity was a non-starter. It’s pretty reasonable to ask why there is a sudden push to teach this stuff to kids, and if there’s a political agenda behind it.

And if there is a political agenda at work here, the media are clearly in on it. Nearly every single major media report referred to the legislation as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, even though that nickname was created and used by the legislation’s opponents, and the legislation doesn’t actually prohibit anyone from saying “gay.”

Of course, HB 1557 is part of a much broader pushback to what’s happening in schools. Some 19 states have introduced legislation mandating curriculum transparency so that parents can see what’s being taught—and the American Civil Liberties Union, of all organizations, has dutifully lined up to oppose transparency. Still, more states have teed up bills that are more obviously controversial, aimed at prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory and other controversial ideologies.

It’s pretty reasonable to ask why there is a sudden push to teach this stuff to kids, and if there’s a political agenda behind it.

All of this sudden legislative action makes it easy for the radical left and its enablers to portray this as some sort of aggressive onslaught, rather than a defensive response. Even one prominent Christian pundit has objected to such legislation saying, “Growing up a conservative Christian public school kid, it never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t be exposed to contrary ideas (even very challenging contrary ideas) and it never crossed my mind that my teachers should be censored from expressing their own opinions on matters.”

It may have never crossed his mind as a kid that he shouldn’t be taught “contrary ideas.” But we are not just talking about “contrary ideas.” We are talking about teaching young children that America’s “true founding” was in 1619 for the cause of slavery, that there are more than two genders, or that there should be comic books on high school library shelves with graphic depictions of sex acts. Further, school administrators once understood that shielding children from fringe propaganda explicitly designed to warp inchoate minds and use them as political pawns is common sense—nor are such limitations incompatible with teaching the value of debate and free expression.

The clear suggestion is that the pushback to this radicalism in schools right now is abnormal, whereas letting teachers say anything or teach any ideology to young children is normal. Yes, teachers are allowed to have opinions in classrooms—but this assumes they are expressing opinions within a responsible range of moral and political discourse that is broadly acceptable in the community and country at large. And until recently, this was mostly the case.

We’re now at a place where schools are so soaked in politics and cultural extremism that San Francisco voters just recalled three school board members for being too left-wing. Clearly, San Francisco voters don’t want their kids exposed to certain ideas, such as the notion that Abraham Lincoln shouldn’t have a school named after him because he’s associated with “racism, sexism and other injustices.”

I don’t think San Francisco voters suddenly became right-wing reactionaries. The truth that the corporate media and liberal activists (but I repeat myself) don’t want to admit is this: The political center in America agrees that we need to get political and cultural radicalism out of America’s schools.

The left is increasingly losing battles over the public schools. They are losing because parents are not willing for their children to sign up at school for an all-out assault on America’s history and culture.

Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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