Katie Couric and a handful of other liberals are in hot water for their idea that Donald Trump voters should face “deprograming.” While it is unlikely that 74 million Americans will get rounded up for reeducation camps, it is clear that the political left understands how the education system could serve their cause with propagating their own ideology.
The new administration has signaled a willingness to use public schools for a cultural “deprograming” of the next generation with social justice theories about sex, race, and discipline. This approach has a tendency to limit school choice. When more students exit the public system, they also escape its attempt at political brainwashing. For students, the best hope still lies with states to make decisions in education policy.
President Biden has been fairly mum on school choice, which is popular across both parties and racial groups, but his nominees and actions so far should not encourage reformers. Miguel Cardona, his pick for secretary of education, remains somewhat of an enigma. But Cindy Marten, his choice for deputy secretary, is known for keeping San Diego schools closed and injecting critical race theory into class, including praising one proposal to send all white teachers to “antiracist therapy.” With the first lady signaling her friendship with teachers unions, the new administration will not be the friend to education freedom the last administration was.
The executive order signed under Biden which requires schools to grant biological boys access to female sports teams and locker rooms is just the start. Expect a restoration of the “restorative justice” we saw under Barack Obama, with guidance that supplanted decisions on discipline with the “woke” mandate from on high and has had tragic effects.
But states now have an opportunity to push back. Both parties sometimes have cause to lament it, but the majority of education decisions still rest in state hands. If the federal government is going to be heavy handed with the public schools, legislatures should support parents in opting out. So far almost two dozen states have introduced viable bills to increase school choice, and more could join them in coming weeks. States will be critical to push back against the cultural overreach of the new administration. The pandemic revealed two things to many American families.
First, they have been disabused of the notion that adults who work in the education system put the needs of children first. In Chicago, teachers unions went on an 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 the voices of parents because the system allows it. Nothing is more telling than the fact that private schools are fighting to stay open, while public schools are still battling to remain closed.
Second, because of virtual learning, families have a kitchen table seat to the radical indoctrination which now passes for core subjects in public schools across the country. Thousands of schools have adopted the 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 they are inherently evil, and black students they ought to have no love for an oppressive country.
Republicans and independents are at a crossroads. They can consign their children to the hands of an administration of cultural overreach that will continue to transform the country, or they can work to empower American families of all needs and political stripes to regain control over the critical education of their children by focusing on broad school choice programs to ensure that they provide both leverage and options.
Every year, we celebrate National School Choice Week to highlight and honor the public policies which give education freedom to families. But after the experience we have been through since March of last year, this week is more important than ever. In the end, in one way or another, the public schools will reopen. What they teach and whether they will respect parents going forward will depend on what we do today.
Inez Stepman is a senior policy analyst for Independent Womens Forum.