Regret puts it mildly. The below-the-radar grassroots movement to make public schools accountable to parents in the midterms succeeded well beyond the scope of the midterm toplines on Tuesday, both in terms of geography and amplitude.
One might expect a left-wing platform to cheer democracy and accountability in this election cycle, but not New Yorker Magazine. They clearly aren’t happy about the success of democracy when it comes to public schools, which is understandable. However, the sneering derision in this Daily Comment analysis from Jessica Winter yesterday has to be read to be believed:
The 2022 midterm elections offered many snapshots of the contemporary school wars, but one might start with the race for Superintendent of Education in South Carolina, a state that languishes near the bottom of national education rankings and that’s suffering from a major teacher shortage. Lisa Ellis, the Democratic candidate, has twenty-two years of teaching experience and is the founder of a nonprofit organization that focusses on raising teacher pay, lowering classroom sizes, and increasing mental-health resources in schools. Her Republican opponent, Ellen Weaver, who has no teaching experience, is the leader of a conservative think tank that advocates for “education freedom” in the form of more public funding for charter schools, private-school vouchers, homeschooling, and micro-schools. …
In short, the two people vying to run South Carolina’s public schools were an advocate for public schools, and—in her policy positions, if not in her overt messaging—an opponent of public schools. The latter won, and it wasn’t even close: as of this writing, Weaver has fifty-five per cent of the vote to Ellis’s forty-three.
One could also frame this choice another way: Lisa Ellis, the Democratic candidate, has twenty-two years of service in a state that languishes near the bottom of education rankings. Her Republican opponent, Ellen Weaver, supports choice for parents that allow them to opt out of these schools and take funding to private schools instead, allowing their children access to education choices that wealthy families already have.
And had it been written that way, the last part of that excerpt would make perfect sense. Winter is aghast that Weaver got support from grassroots and think-tank groups that favor school choice and follow-the-student funding policies. Why does she think that the education establishment groups backing Ellis — whose work produced the failing monopoly imposed on parents at present — is any less problematic?
If that wasn’t bad enough, Winters derides school-choice activists as “ghost chasers”:
Ellis maintained that those who profess to be hunting down proponents of C.R.T. in schools are “chasing ghosts.”
The ghost chasers bagged plenty of votes on Tuesday. A clown-car school-board race in Charleston, South Carolina, ended with five out of nine seats going to Moms for Liberty-backed candidates. Governor Ron DeSantis—the maestro of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and a home-state hero to Moms for Liberty—endorsed six school-board candidates, all of whom won their races; Moms for Liberty endorsed a total of twelve in Florida, winning nine. In Texas, ten out of fifteen spots on the state school board appeared to be going to Republicans, including three seats in which G.O.P. incumbents either lost or dropped out of their primary when facing opponents who took a harder line against C.R.T.
I guess because Ellis claims that CRT-related material is a “ghost,” it must be true, eh? The education establishment loves to claim that no one’s teaching critical-race theory in schools, but the curricula used is CRT infused, and so is the training that teachers have been getting for the last generation. Thirteen years ago, I wrote about the University of Minnesota’s short-lived requirement in its education programs for all future teachers to confess their woke sins as a condition of getting credentialed. Columnist Katherine Kersten blew the whistle on this effort almost exactly 13 years ago, in fact:
The goal of these exercises, in the task group’s words, is to ensure that “future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.”
Future teachers must also recognize and denounce the fundamental injustices at the heart of American society, says the task group. From a historical perspective, they must “understand that … many groups are typically not included” within America’s “celebrated cultural identity,” and that “such exclusion is frequently a result of dissimilarities in power and influence.” In particular, aspiring teachers must be able “to explain how institutional racism works in schools.”
After indoctrination of this kind, who wouldn’t conclude that the American Dream of equality for all is a cruel hoax? But just to make sure, the task force recommends requiring “our future teachers” to “articulate a sophisticated and nuanced critical analysis” of this view of the American promise. In the process, they must incorporate the “myth of meritocracy in the United States,” the “history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values, [and] history of white racism, with special focus on current colorblind ideology.”
What if some aspiring teachers resist this effort at thought control and object to parroting back an ideological line as a condition of future employment? The task group has Orwellian plans for such rebels: The U, it says, must “develop clear steps and procedures for working with non-performing students, including a remediation plan.”
A public outcry scotched this effort at that moment. It took a very public intervention from FIRE with then-UM president Robert Bruininks to get the university to reverse the policy, and likely only temporarily and for public consumption. FIRE warned at the time what would result from such a forced political winnowing of teaching prospects:
If the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group achieves its stated goals, the result will be political and ideological screening of applicants, remedial re-education for those with the “wrong” views and values, and withholding of degrees from those upon whom the university’s political reeducation efforts proved ineffective. While the task group appears to have attempted to take matters of “social justice” to heart, it seems to have persuaded the College of Education and Human Development to adopt requirements that, by any non-totalitarian standard, are severely unjust and impermissibly intrude into matters of individual conscience. As these demands for “cultural competence” stand today, they are a severe affront to liberty and a disservice to the very ideal of a liberating education that appears to be behind the task group’s ideas. It is a shame that the College of Education and Human Development has embraced such an illiberal view of education.
Thirteen years later, that reality has arrived. It’s not education that children receive from educators produced by such systems, in fact, but indoctrination. Parents belatedly discovered this when remote learning finally gave them a window into the education their children were receiving from teachers trained in that CRT paradigm during the pandemic — when the same education establishment fought tooth and nail to keep schools closed despite lots of evidence of no additional risk.
Even educators fought back against the argument that CRT had no impact on K-12 education. And yet the New Yorker just blindly swallows the “ghost” argument and sneers at parents who want to wrest back control of their children’s education.
Democracy is only good when it serves the Progressive Purpose, it seems.
Parents-rights efforts had a good night in Minnesota too, John Hinderaker reports at Power Line, even in yet another dismal outcome in my former state. The Minnesota Parents Alliance flipped 49 school-board seats:
[S]chool board candidates backed by the upstart Minnesota Parents Alliance had a very good election night. Forty-nine candidates running with the official MPA endorsement won election to the school board last night, a tremendous accomplishment for an organization that was founded just nine months ago. Dozens of other candidates who received support from MPA such as campaign training, technical assistance, and educational resources also cruised to victory. In fact, 22 out of 38 candidates who attended one of the MPA campaign schools won their elections. Several more winning candidates throughout greater Minnesota benefitted from online access to MPA training sessions and support.
More importantly, the Minnesota Parents Alliance won seats in 15 of the 19 school districts where they devoted campaign resources such as digital advertising. …
“Parent-backed candidates cut through all of the noise in this election and won support from voters because they talked about the important issues — academic achievement, equality and parental rights,” said Cristine Trooien, Executive Director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance.
Conservatives dominated local school board elections last night. In Minnesota, conservative activists won 49 seats in 15 of 19 targeted districts.
Local elections matter. Get organized. pic.twitter.com/qOcpbKmgRZ
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) November 10, 2022
Parents taking control of education — what a concept, eh? That’s the way it’s supposed to work, actually. It’s democracy in action. Really.
Let me leave you with this reform idea from James Lindsay, via my pal Adam Baldwin. Want to see the New Yorker’s heads explode? Get a school board to make this a reality.
. @ConceptualJames explains why parents & community members should insist that cameras & microphones must be installed in their children’s classrooms.
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) November 10, 2022