It is quite the mental exercise to write or even think that anything positive resulted from a deadly pandemic that took the lives of millions across the globe and delivered a gut punch to the rest of us. But much like the resilience the American people demonstrated through the horrors of previous plagues, depression and war, our national history is dotted with profound change springing from hard lessons learned – and newfound awareness – in the aftermath of severe trials.
When we look back upon the COVID-19 years, we will note the obvious, such as the death toll and society-wide lockdowns, and with the benefit of hindsight, we will also recognize systemic reforms springing from the new world foisted upon us, such as the ability for so many to work remotely, and how it will alter the way we do business going forward.
But it may well be that historians and civilians alike will conclude that the most significant pandemic-induced reform of all was to our public education system. Parents suddenly burdened with supervising their children’s academic studies due to lockdowns were thrust into a keen awareness of the indoctrination endemic to government schools. We became fully aware of the degree to which millions of children across the land had been subjected to radical deconstructionists all but carving up the American people like a Thanksgiving turkey based on dark or light skin and placing them on separate plates labeled victim and oppressor.
Add in explosively controversial school closure and masking policies foisted on an unwitting public by misguided and/or power-hungry leftist governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, and all the ingredients for a parent-centered revolution were set in place.
However, this kind of uprising usually requires a catalytic event. For example, the killing of George Floyd took simmering racial unrest and turned up the heat to the boiling point. And one element of a generalized education revolt was still missing as we entered 2021: a spark to set the kindling ablaze.
But that was provided in dramatic fashion by newly radicalized parents in Loudoun County, Virginia, leading in turn to the election of the state’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin. And it was what Youngkin did on day one of his administration that may lay the groundwork for permanent change to the nation’s educational landscape. At a minimum, it provides a blueprint for governors in the rest of the country to fight a pitched battle for the minds of America’s youth. Youngkin delivered exactly what he had promised throughout his nearly flawless, upstart campaign that took down the grizzled political veteran Terry McAuliffe.
The governor effectively ended the use of critical race theory in schools, issuing an executive order committing to “restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.” The order goes on to state, “we must equip our teachers to teach our students the entirety of our history — both good and bad … Only then will we realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that our children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The order declares Virginia must engage in “teaching our children the value of freedom of thought and diversity of ideas.”
And as per that last concept, another reason this education reform has legs as never before is that it is being raised under a banner of rare diversity within the GOP. It must truly irk the left that, as Youngkin was voted in as governor, a black woman, Winsome Sears, was elected lieutenant governor of the Old Dominion, and Hispanic Jason Miyares as attorney general. The vision of a white man, black woman and Hispanic – all Republicans – turning over the top three positions in a state and standing together for the detoxification of public education presents a powerful tableau, one hard to counter at a time when Democratic support is cratering across the land – for the very reasons unmasked by the pandemic.
We could see this counter-revolution coming. By May of 2021, home schooling had, by best estimates, tripled across the country, and parental outrage was ramping up in one school district, city, county and state after another. And while six other states have specifically banned critical race theory, and others have launched various initiatives to limit the toxic effect of CRT and other Marxist-inspired concepts, the events in Virginia brought the education issue front and center in a race which attracted outsized attention in a political off-year.
As is often the case, such as with the #metoo movement, the bold or courageous actions of a single individual – or a single state serving as a laboratory for democracy – can provide the permission concept for others to follow suit and turn a trickle into a flow and eventually a wave. Parents across the country only hope the demonstration of parental power and grounded leadership they have witnessed in Virginia will soon be coming to a school district near them.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.