Nature

Extremists lie to undermine America’s public schools


JJust as extremists used the big lie about the 2020 presidential election to undermine American democracy, far-right proponents of privatizing public education are using the big lie to undermine public schools. Public school supporters need to see these horrific attacks for what they are and take a stand against them.

At a recent lecture at the ultra-conservative Hillsdale College, culture war orchestrator Christopher Rufo detailed the strategy to replace public education with a universal voucher system. “To get to universal school choice, you really have to operate from a premise of universal distrust of public schooling,” Rufo explained. Earlier in that same lecture, describing how to besiege institutions, he noted the need to create your own narrative and setting and advised his audience that they “must be ruthless and brutal”.

Rufo and other black money-funded extremists follow a consistent playbook for attacking public schools.

First, they concoct lies, slanders and distortions that stir up fear and anger, such as the fact that eight-year-old white students are taught to hate themselves because they are responsible for slavery, and that kindergarten teachers prepare five-year-olds.

Then these lies are disseminated on social media and by Fox News and the click-focused, controversy-obsessed mainstream media.

Finally, extremist state politicians champion cookie-cutter bills provided by these same national funders to “address” fabricated “outrage,” often under the banner of “parental rights.”

In the wake of the worst pandemic in a century, policymakers should focus on how to strengthen public education and support student achievement and well-being, expanding preschool, addressing shortages of teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, improving access to AP classes and vocational technical education pathways that lead to well-paying careers and better equip schools to teach critical thinking skills and combat rising rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among young people.

Instead, politicians who follow Rufo’s playbook do the exact opposite. They ban library books, textbooks and information services that help students learn to identify misinformation. They demand that teachers remain neutral, or worse, teach both sides of Nazism, slavery, lynching and other historical atrocities. And they encourage lawsuits against teachers and school districts who teach in-depth and accurate history. They marginalize and dehumanize LBGTQ students and teachers and same-sex families and prevent students from receiving mental health services and courses that promote their social and emotional development and well-being.

As Rufo made clear, the attacks on public schools across the state are part of a nationally orchestrated and funded campaign. The goal is to destabilize public education and replace it with a universal, unregulated voucher system that would increase segregation and exacerbate the already wide gaps between the wealthy and the rest of us.

But parents and the public strongly support public schools, and there is heartening opposition to this drive to undermine public education.

Last month in Indiana, a sweeping bill to censor teachers, limit access to mental health services and impose costly bureaucratic requirements on teachers and school districts failed due to a tsunami of opposition from parents, teachers, students, religious leaders and private reactions. with business leaders.

In New Hampshire, in the March school board elections, the 33 pro-public education school board candidates in 14 school districts who were endorsed by state civic groups and the two teachers’ associations in state, won the election against anti-public education candidates funded by an extreme party national group.

And last week, in a must-see 5-minute speech, Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow, a self-proclaimed “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom,” powerfully held lawmaker Lana Theis to qu it gives an account of the national discourse of Theis. bullet-filled fundraising email accusing McMorrow of supporting kindergarteners and “sexualizing” them and teaching “8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.” McMorrow said: “We can’t let people who are hateful…scapegoat and deflect for not doing anything to address the real issues that impact people’s lives. And I know that hate will only win if people like me stick around and let it go.

We know from history, and we see it in real time with Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, that unchecked disinformation and dehumanization cause untold harm and suffering.

If people of conscience stay away, Rufo and other extremists may well succeed in their drive to weaken public education, undermine our democracy and further erode America’s middle class.

But if people stand up to these attacks, as many did recently in Indiana and New Hampshire and as McMorrow did last week, we can defeat this destructive push to privatize education and strengthen instead the ability of our public schools to help all of our children succeed and create a better future for all of us.

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