by David Catron
During the last few years, most conservatives have become at least dimly aware that leftist ideology, in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has infected public education. It’s unlikely, however, that many Americans realize just how far the disease has advanced. It has long since spread beyond a few courses embedded into the social studies curricula of secondary schools and elite colleges. Public school students as young as 9 and 10 years of age effortlessly recite leftist shibboleths even as they descend into functional illiteracy in reading, writing, math, and science.
If this sounds like “right-wing extremism,” consider this: Last fall, hundreds of Philadelphia-area fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in an essay contest, sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, in which they were asked to outline proposals for a hypothetical new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their amendment proposals included abolishing the Electoral College, providing everyone with free health care, limiting gun possession to individuals who need them for military and hunting uses, guaranteeing a living wage to everyone, and imposing term limits on U.S. Supreme Court justices.
The winners of the contest were announced on the website of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent post titled, “What Should Be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution? These Students Have Some Ideas.” But the ideas are obviously not those of the students. These kids simply regurgitated items from a leftist wish list that “educators” fed them instead of teaching critical skills that students need to know and parents want them to learn. But the public-education establishment doesn’t see its mission in such terms, as the following Facebook meme posted by a school board member from Iowa’s Linn-Mar district illustrates:
The meme was posted in response to the Iowa legislature’s passage last week of a school-choice bill, the Students First Act, and the gleeful ceremony during which Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law. The meme elicited hundreds of less-than-complimentary comments from parents. Consequently, its author felt compelled to further elucidate what her post meant, evidently assuming that the peasants were having difficulty decoding her 34-word opus. It perfectly captures the pomposity of the education establishment and the pseudo-intellectual poppycock that pervades their view of the world and their place in it:
This post has garnered much ire and although I thought the sentiment was clear, it is obvious that’s not the case. Please allow me to clarify.…
What it says is that public education is an ecosystem. Our community is the collective for which it exists. Not for any one parent, any one student, or any one person, but rather for us all. The only agenda of public education is to educate everyone, for the benefit of everyone. It prepares us for the world. It creates critical thinkers, thoughtful and questioning children and adults, the very kind of people who act upon the world in ways that make us all better.
This kind of condescending nonsense, combined with the failure of educators to teach students critical skills, is why the vast majority of voters support school choice. Iowa was the second state to pass major school-choice legislation. Arizona did so last year, and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox just signed a school-choice bill Saturday. Several additional states are considering similar measures. This trend has incurred the wrath of the teachers unions that have championed the introduction of leftist dogma into public school curricula. They know that if parents are offered real choice, there will be an exodus of students from their ossified system.
Thus, it was inevitable that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten would lambaste Reynolds for signing the Students First Act. In a statement to Fox Business, Weingarten said, “Parents and families, no matter where they live, want safe, well-funded public schools, not schemes to funnel taxpayers’ money to the wealthy few.” This produced an immediate and mordant response from Reynolds: “Randi Weingarten is wrong about this, just like she was wrong about locking our kids out of the classroom during the pandemic — leading to widespread learning loss and setting back our kids for decades.”
This is in Utah, mind you. It’s not exactly a hotbed of left-wing crazies. Yet the people entrusted with educating Utah’s children are proud that they have ignored the elected members of the legislature and the Board of Education. It is much the same everywhere — Florida, Iowa — pick a state; it doesn’t matter. Moreover, the good work of governors like Reynolds and Florida’s Ron DeSantis notwithstanding, the educator-transmitted DEI infection has metastasized to every organ in the public-education system. Electing new school boards or enacting school voucher programs amount to little more than palliative care. The patient is a goner.
Why? The public-education system is particularly susceptible to the DEI infection because it is a government school system. To extend the disease metaphor, it is immunosuppressed. An uninterrupted supply of tax dollars prevents the system from developing antibodies that would fight off ineficiency, waste, and poor outcomes long after a private enterprise would have succumbed. So, what can be done? Unplug the ventilator, bury the patient, and replace it with a privatized system that responds to the needs of its clients. Its loved ones will fiercely resist this for the usual emotional reasons, but that is exactly what needs to be done.
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
Photo “Teacher and Students” by Ilmicrofono Oggiono. CC BY 2.0.