Updated: Apr 24, 2022
680Parents across the country are fighting back against pervasive leftist ideology in schools — with such frequency that opposition to certain aspects of public education is becoming a national movement.
Dramatic scenes at school board meetings and rowdy neighborhood rallies have become, in the final weeks of the school year before summer break, regular features of a movement that’s been characterized by the intense emotions it inspires on both sides.
Much of the opposition has been focused on critical race theory — a term that has come to encompass a broad range of curriculum changes that teach students to see themselves and others through the lens of race.
But parents and even older students are pushing back against a diverse range of efforts by schools to impose an ideological agenda, from enacting transgender policies to stripping holiday names from the calendar.
Loudoun County, Virginia, has become a microcosm of the fight against left-wing activism in the classroom; a school board meeting on Tuesday night erupted into chaos when parents spoke out aggressively against a new policy that would require teachers to use the preferred pronouns of transgender students, who would be permitted to play on the sports teams of the gender with which they identify.
Parents in the affluent Washington, D.C., suburb organized this year under the banner of a group, Fight for Schools, that mounted fierce opposition to what they said was the adoption of a critical race theory curriculum in the school system, as well as other liberal policies.
Ian Prior, Fight for School’s executive director and a Loudoun County parent, said he attributes the explosion in activism against liberal education policies to the months of virtual learning that most students endured.
Parents fight back against woke education
“The pandemic allowed people, parents, to look behind the curtain into what their kids were learning, how they were being taught,” Prior told the Washington Examiner.
“People were seeing things on their student’s virtual learning, or hearing from their students about them being taught about white fragility and white privilege and the oppressors versus the oppressed, and parents started doing their homework.”
A man was detained during a Loudoun County School Board meeting which included a discussion of Critical Race Theory and transgender students, in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S. June 22, 2021.
In Loudoun County, parents have focused on a strategy that is beginning to animate local political parties around the country: booting school board members in elections. Loudoun parents have organized a recall effort for some board members, who they say targeted some parents on social media over their opposition to critical race theory.
In Southlake, Texas, last month, opponents of liberal policies in the Dallas suburb’s schools won resoundingly in school board elections after running a race focused almost exclusively on stopping leftist curriculums.
Racialized lesson plans, transgender sports requirements, and a host of other issues have united an often diverse coalition of parents — many of whom began their activism against schools during the fight to reopen classrooms during the pandemic.
“The overall theme that connects all of these issues are school boards that are beholden to special interests and a handful of allied activists that are driving the agenda that shows up in our schools,” Prior said.
“I will be the first to admit that parents have dropped the ball for years,” he added.
“This has been going on under our very noses, and whether it’s distraction, apathy, focus on other issues that may not be as relevant to our day-to-day lives, like the things going on in the national political ecosystem — we have failed to be the watchdogs of our school systems that we need to be, and it did take a pandemic, but now there has been awakening.”
The movement has invited scorn from some on the Left who accuse opponents of misunderstanding critical race theory or of attempting to stop contextualized history from getting taught in the classroom.
But the issue of leftist ideology in schools has the potential to drive politics on a higher level than school board races, given the intensity of the emotion surrounding it and the widespread interest it has generated in recent weeks.
Local meetings where parents turn up to oppose liberal moves by their children’s schools are increasingly turning into headline-grabbing events.
One in Randolph, New Jersey, became a national story this week, for example, after parents successfully pressured the school board to reverse a decision to remove the names of all holidays from the school calendar over concerns about naming Columbus Day.