Opinion/Editorial: Theocratic Attack on Public Schools Needs Public Attention | Opinion

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Schools have opened in Virginia, but the return to the classroom has not brought the usual calls for excellence in education or even a return to basics. Attempts by Christian nationalists and right-wing ideologues to impose their views on the state have now turned public education into a petri dish for propaganda.

Albemarle County became the target of one of the first moves of this strategy when the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy fund backed by tens of millions of conservative dollars, attacked the county’s anti-racism program as racist. . The ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a handful of parents whose children were allegedly deprived of their religious freedom under a pilot program that no longer exists. A district court judge dismissed the case saying the parents could not show how their children were injured. But the case is on appeal and still hangs over the school system like a sword of Damocles.

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The same goes for a second case brought by the ADF against Albemarle for abusing an assistant director who mistakenly used the term “people of color” instead of “people of color”. This lawsuit also remains unsolved.

Together, these cases divert attention from the basic education of students and cost taxpayers money.

Albemarle is not the only place where contentious groups and politicians attached to a conservative religious regime have turned the administration of schools into a battleground. At the request of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, many rural school boards have officially voted to ban the teaching of what Youngkin derisively and incorrectly calls “critical race theory”. It’s a catch-all term that sweeps up all sorts of racial discussions, many of which weren’t taking place in predominantly white rural counties in the first place.

In Loudon County, a heavily populated and racially and ethnically diverse area outside of Washington, D.C., so-called “family values” advocates raise Cain during class discussions about race, sex and gender identity by going to court to try to remove sitting members of the school board.

Much of the animosity of Christian nationalists translates into attacks on any school curriculum that touches on gender or takes into consideration people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or have other forms of personal identity that differ from theocracy they seek.

Although the ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a West Point teacher who was fired for refusing to call a student by student-adopted pronouns with their gender identity, a large Part of this push toward a religious model for public schools is reflected in attacks on school library books. . These continue to occur throughout the state and sometimes result in the restriction of all children’s access to books in the public library. These books sometimes involve themes of American racism by famous black authors like Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. But Christian nationalists inevitably point to sex and sexual identity as the subject that children should not discuss in school or in public libraries.

Parents must absolutely be able to refuse the material to which their children have access. That’s what the concept of family values ​​is really about. But the battle for the book has now evolved into outright censorship, with advocates of religious piety demanding to make the decisions for everyone. This includes a pair of Spotsylvania County School Board members, one of whom now chairs the board, calling for library books with what they deem to be “sexually explicit” content to be burned.

We will address the ultra-right takeover of the Spotsylvania School Board in another op-ed. Suffice it to say, the Christian Nationalist school disruptions across the state are by no means isolated.

Case in point: At a Virginia Beach school board meeting earlier this week, a school board member kept calling teachers and school administrators “porn peddlers.” When the superintendent told her to “stop saying that my staff are giving pornography to students,” she repeatedly yelled at him, “I won’t.”

Virginians need to start paying attention to the new world of Christian nationalist public schools. In doing so, they could also answer the question, “Why do we have a teacher shortage?” »

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