Parental 'Concern' Over Masks, CRT And Books Is Being Brought To You By Groups Who Hate Public Schools

Parental 'Concern' Over Masks, CRT And Books Is Being Brought To You By Groups Who Hate Public Schools
Protest signs in Science Hill, Kentucky. Images: (L) Matt Jones on Twitter, (R) not sure, but sign visible at Commonwealth Journal

Within the last couple years, there has been what seems like a massive uptick in outraged parents. Parents who are mad about masks, parents who are mad about books, parents who are mad about "critical race theory." They show up at school board meetings across the country to yell their faces off, frequently going viral due to the sheer number of stupid things they manage to fit into the three minute allotment they have to talk.

We're supposed to believe that these are grassroots efforts led by concerned parents who just want a say in their children's education. That these groups they form are organic. That those participating in them are, in fact, actual parents in the school district they're protesting in.

Of course, those of us who are hep know a large number of these people are not so much parents as they are Republican strategists, activists and think tank employees. That doesn't mean that there aren't parents who are "concerned" about these things — but it does mean that their outrage about them is being purposely stoked by professionals with an agenda.

The obvious, immediate agenda is to get Republicans elected. Glenn Youngkin's victory in Virginia, for example, was largely spurred by parental outrage over masks and critical race theory.

But that may not be all they are after. As Truthout reports, many of the organizations ginning up the hysteria over these issues are simultaneously involved in efforts to encourage the privatization of schools by undermining support for public schools.

For years, the goal of school privatization advocates has been to oppose funding for education and then criticize the public school system for failing, hoping that this will lead to parents taking their kids out of schools and becoming increasingly supportive of voucher programs and so-called "school choice," with the ultimate goal being a for-profit education system usurping the public education system.

Via UnKoch My Campus

However, the pandemic and other cultural moments have provided "school choice" enthusiasts with an opportunity to encourage parental animus towards the public school system, which they hope will lead to parents choosing charter schools and voucher programs over their local public schools. Over time, this would mean an economically stratified education system in which the public schools attended by the poor are extremely underfunded, while those with money can give that money to other people with money so their kids can get a quality education. The economic stratification of education is already a problem in the United States, owing to the fact that we fund public schools with property taxes while pretending everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, but this would make the problem significantly worse.

An investigation by UnKoch My Campus found that both the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council — major proponents of "school choice" — have been pushing for anti-Critical Race theory Bills across the United States.

At the moment, there is a coordinated effort in states across the country to pass bills attempting to ban the teaching of CRT in public schools. The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation is leading the push, claiming that CRT “ is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based.” In their quest to control what is taught in schools, Heritage Action for America, an affiliate of the Heritage Foundation think tank, created a toolkit to get folks to push antiCRT legislation in their individual states.

Both the Heritage Foundation and another Koch-funded organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have held webinars in opposition to the teaching of CRT. ALEC has frequently produced model bills for various right-wing causes, causing concern over their involvement when it comes to anti-CRT state bills.

Truthout reports that other "concerned parent" groups, both with ties to the Kochs and without, also have ties to school privatization efforts.

Via Truthout:

Independent Women’s Forum has rebranded itself as an “independent” pro-parent group even as it attacked pro-parent policies, including federal child care and paid leave legislation. Instead, The Washington Post uncovered that the group was circulating anti-masking template letters to embolden parents to challenge school policies recommended by public health experts.

Parents Defending Education has also generated a litany of resources to attack school curricula. This includes guidance for filing Freedom of Information Act requests, which can then be used as evidence of schools’ supposed political indoctrination of students. A ready-made school board resolution prohibiting the teaching of “critical race theory,” which the right disingenuously weaponizes as catch-all term for teaching the history of racism in the U.S, is available too.

Moms for Liberty also orchestrated campaigns to ban books in school libraries — almost exclusively targeting books by Black and LGBTQ+ authors.

After drumming up attacks on public schools and teachers, these groups have shifted to calling for a “mass exodus” from the public system. Some have provided resources that direct people to pro-privatization organizations like “Public School Exit.”

It makes sense, and makes sense out of the sudden surge of concern about critical race theory and books Toni Morrison wrote in 1987. Because behind almost every socially conservative policy is an opportunity for the rich to get richer. The Republican Party has done a bang-up job, unfortunately, of getting rid of their image as the party of plutocrats, but that doesn't mean that's not who they're still working for.


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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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