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October 1, 2021 · OPINION

Prevent extremists’ control of public education

By Michael Hammond

Imagine a country where all curriculum was dictated by the federal government. Where the national government controlled what teachers could teach, even what they could say in the classroom. No dissenting views. No minority, unpopular opinions could be expressed. No review process, no arguments, just the government’s way or the highway.

Sounds pretty dystopian, doesn’t it? Almost an anathema to the American character. America is a country of innovation, of individual opinions, in education no less than any other industry. After all, Jefferson himself started the radical idea that the new nation would be made more prosperous and democracy would grow stronger if every child received an education at the public’s expense. Noah Webster held that we need local control, even over British spelling!

From the brave (underpaid!) teachers in one-room schoolhouses to education entrepreneurs today, the U.S. has relied on our professional teachers to manage their curriculum and teaching styles, and chafed when too many impositions from Washington and the Virginia Department of Education (like SOLs and SQLs) dictate too much of what teachers spend their time on, pulling them away from teaching.

Unfortunately, one party is trying to impose a standardized curriculum that doesn’t allow any local control over school subjects. They are just certain that they know the best way to teach every subject, and if school systems would just do what they say, everyone would learn the right story of our nation, and we would come together and unite under our rulers in Washington.

It may surprise you to learn that the party planning to impose its will universally on the teachers of Virginia, the party that wants to monitor everything teachers say and do, the party that wants teachers and administrators to “narc” on each other, and to cancel teachers who veer off-script and teach unpopular but patriotic subjects such as history and free inquiry is the party of Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia GOP.

In their all-out war on the mythical threat of “Critical Race Theory” or CRT, they have advocated for total control over the classroom. Asked over and over what CRT is, where it is taught and how learning an accurate and inclusive history of our country can possibly injure students, all the GOP can do is recycle tired talking points from their outrage factories on Fox News. Meanwhile, countries like China, who have actually erased history like the Tiananmen Square massacre from their curricula and from a generation of students’ knowledge, nod approvingly no doubt.

If the GOP can dictate what local teachers and schools can teach now, what is the next regulation and red tape they will impose on the freedom of thought? The ability to examine the evidence and think for oneself – that is surely one of the essentials of being American.

Right now Republicans are searching for CRT under every teacher and administrator’s bed. But just like voter fraud in Virginia, they are laughably short on evidence that CRT is taught in K-12, because it isn’t! And just like the collapse of the red scare at the end of the McCarthy era, at some point the vastness of the “CRT conspiracy” will begin to look like what it is – utterly unbelievable. Manufactured to enrage, to get clicks, to get votes.

Why does Glen Youngkin want to impose his thought police on our school teachers? What type of authoritarian control will he impose next? If you care about an education system free of control by politicians and extremists, vote Democrat in November.

The writer is a member of the Fauquier County Democratic Committee and serves as its New Baltimore precinct captain.
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