Politicizing Education

Politicizing Education

Virginia’s Governor Youngkin must be feeling some level of frustration as his struggle to be listed as a potential contender for the Republican nomination for president is proving so fruitless. News accounts that list as many as eight to ten potential Republican contenders should the former president and front-runner flounder do not show Virginia’s governor on the list. Some professional political operatives that were on his staff to help him achieve his dream have reportedly left him to go work for other governors who also lust for higher office.

Unfortunately as Virginia’s governor sees his ambitions dim, he turns to other gambits that take his attention from the important work of governing Virginia to other activities designed to put him in the spotlight at the expense of Virginia citizens and most especially its children. For the past several weeks he has been traveling mostly in central Virginia for a series of town halls called “Parents Matter.” That parents are a critically important part of a child’s education is irrefutable — always have been and always will be. What the town halls do is to continue a technique he and his staff have been using throughout his campaign for governor and now his campaign for president. He and they set up a straw man as to how terribly the schools are doing and then knock it down by proposing that conservatives take control of schools, rewrite curriculum to their point of view, and ban books and topics in the libraries and the schools.

Sarah Gross, past president of Virginia PTA and the current board chair of the nonpartisan organization We the People for Education, wrote a column that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Aug. 12 about the Parents Matter town halls. You can get a hint of her feelings about the governor’s activity from the title of her column, “Youngkin’s ‘Parents Matter’ town halls are a political stunt: Don’t buy it.”

Gross observes that “at these events, it seems you’re more likely to hear far-right extremism, conspiracy theories and anti-LGBTQ+ hate than any of the practical solutions we would hope the governor and his team would be promoting.” Instead, “we see the governor’s public relations team focus its time and effort on rebranding the far-right radicalism spouted at these events as a series of commonsense solutions.” Schools face many issues that are pointed out at the town halls, but “what these issues don’t require is a small group with its members attempting to hijack the conversation, forcing their personal parental decisions about their children onto every child, injecting fear and hurling baseless accusations.”

As a former teacher/education program administrator for 30 years I am aware of the many wonderful, effective, and dedicated teachers there are, including two of my children and one of my grandchildren and his wife. The current effort to politicize education for personal gain saddens me. What we must do is to pay close attention to the people who are seeking public office and ensure that they will take the right-wing politics out of school systems and programs. Consider joining Sarah Gross and her organization, Wethepeopleforeducation.org, to work with others to protect and improve our schools.