Oct 17, 2022
Republicans are fighting against a version of public education that does not exist.
Critical race theory, pornographic school books, and other bogeymen haunt their platforms without any evidence that this stuff is a reality.
Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania, actually promises to ban pole dancing in public schools.
"On day one, the sexualization of our kids, pole dancing, and all this other crap that's going on will be forbidden in our schools," he says.
Mr. Mastriano, I hate to tell you this, but the only school in the commonwealth where there was anything like what you describe was one of those charter schools you love so much. The Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia used to run an illegal nightclub in the cafeteria after dark.
But at authentic public schools with things like regulations and school boards - no. That just doesn't happen here.
Maybe if your plan to waste taxpayer dollars on universal school vouchers goes through you'll get your wish.
But reality has never stopped the state Senator from complaining about a list of fictional public education woes.
On Twitter he routinely makes statements like this from August:
"Democrats are pushing woke ideology, racism, and sexuality on children in the classroom. As your governor, I will ban this on day one..."
Yikes. This is like promising to ban sorcery in school - another thing we don't teach.
This isn't the Republican Party I remember when I was growing up.
Instead of personal autonomy and free trade, today's GOP solemnly swears to eliminate a series of racially and sexually motivated phantasms that are like shadows under a child's bed. I suppose it's easier to get rid of something that's never existed than to fix the real problems we actually have.
But let's be honest - for some folks this kind of unhinged messaging works.
Perhaps if we examine the most common claims against public schools, maybe we can see through the mist and electioneering to the very real fears the GOP is using in a desperate attempt to manipulate voters to their side.
So here are the top 5 Republican nightmare fantasies about public schools:
1) Teaching boys to hate themselves
"I believe that white men are the most persecuted identity in America."
Georgia Congressperson Marjorie Taylor Greene actually said this - out loud - in an interview.
And the GOP attention-seeker is not alone.
Many Republicans claim anti-male discrimination is wide spread. Men are blamed for so many things in our society they're forced to turn to porn and video games because they have no other options, Green claimed.
And women have become "... too weak and pathetic to take care of themselves. They want a great big giant government to take care of them. It's such a hypocrisy. They claim they want the future to be female, but they aren't capable of taking care of themself."
How did we get here? Public schools that teach sexual politics.
But, Marjorie, the following ARE facts:
-The US is one of only eight countries in the world that does not provide any form of paid maternity leave by federal law.
-Women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man makes.
-Despite being almost 60% of the population, women hold only 26% of the seats in Congress.
Should we teach such facts in school?
Contrary to Republican opinion, teaching about the many ways women are unfairly treated in the US does not turn men into victims or make women helpless.
Male students are not responsible for a world created by past generations but they ARE responsible for picking a side and doing something about it as they become adult members of society.
In a country where a GOP-controlled Supreme Court has usurped women's bodily autonomy by overturning Roe v. Wadeand men still have untold economic advantages, redefining men as victims and education as infantalizing is, itself, a fantasy.
2) Teaching kids to be gay
Republicans literally think public school teachers are turning kids gay.
That's the impetus behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill and several copycat bits of legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is pumping out across the country.
They insist that even mentioning LGBTQ people exist is grooming children into a sexuality they wouldn't otherwise have.
First, believing this shows massive ignorance.
No one can really be coerced into a sexuality they didn't already possess. As you grow and mature, you have sexual preferences. It's not really a matter of nurture - it's nature. People are born this way.
Second, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that there are other ways to express your sexuality is not going to make people ignore their innate inclinations. The idea seems to be that if kids never find out there are other options, they'll simply be satisfied with heterosexuality - how they're told to think and feel.
And finally, it is extremely unfair to LGBTQ people. We already live in a culture that celebrates cis hetero-normativity. Trying to erase everyone else causes real harm and trauma to both people who are different and to those who are not but never get to fully understand the entire spectrum of humanity.
Teachers are not making kids gay, but they are telling kids that gay people are real. We are trying to stop bullying and homophobia. And let's be honest - that's really what Republicans are objecting to here.
They want it to be okay to hate gay people.
Sorry. Not in public school.
3) Teaching kids to be trans
This is where the backlash against using appropriate pronouns and recognizing trans people is coming from.
As much as Republicans hate gay people, they absolutely despise and fear the trans community.
Once again they conflate acknowledging the existence of the other with coercing students to become the other. Just knowing that trans is an authentic way human beings can live is seen as a threat. But if this kind of knowledge makes you trans, you almost certainly were trans already.
It hurts no one to call another person by the pronouns they would prefer you use. That's just respect - treating others like you would want to be treated.
It hurts no one to see the world as bigger than just one way of living. This is reality, after all. And that's what Republicans are rebelling against.
Far from teachers coercing students to become trans, the GOP wants us to bully children not to be. They want to constrain difference, punish and hide it.
This cannot be the mission of public schools. At its best, it is for everyone and must respect each child on their own terms.
It's not easy. Recognizing such differences can be messy and challenging, but that's life. Deal with it.
4) Teaching kids to hate white people
This is one of the most common complaints of Republicans everywhere.
Thy say public schools are woke. Public school teachers talk about racism and prejudice. They teach what was, what is and encourage kids to act to dismantle systems of injustice against people of color that persist.
Yeah. We do that.
It's not Critical Race Theory (which is a legal framework) nor do we teach anyone to hate white people. But we do teach what whiteness has done and continues to do.
White kids today are not responsible for slavery, Jim Crow or a host of evils perpetrated throughout our collective past. But that doesn't remove their responsibility to do something about it today.
-Median household income for Black people, at $43,862, is 37 precent less than that of white people, at $69,823.
-Census data shows Black couples are more than twice as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan, which leads to just 59 percent of the median home equity white households have, and just 13 percent of Black wealth.
-A Black child born today can expect to live four years less than a white one.
-Black people have been more than twice as likely as white people to experience threats or uses of force during police encounters, and three times more likely to be jailed if arrested.
These facts matter.
They shouldn't make children hate white people, but they may encourage them to hate white supremacy.
And that's what Republicans are really against.
5) Teaching kids to be sexually active
This may be the strangest fantasy the GOP is trying to spread about public school.
They say we're making kids engage in sexual activity. Which is strange because according to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer US children are choosing to engage in sexual activity.
An estimated 55% of male and female teens have had sexual intercourse by age 18, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
However, these percentages have declined since 1988 when 51% of female and 60% of male teens had engaged in sexual activity.
If public schools are teaching kids to bump uglies, we're doing a bad job.
Are kids more sexualized today than in the past? Probably. But that's a result of the culture. When you sell teenagers shorts with the word "juicy" on the butt, don't complain about public schools.
Some schools offer sex education classes, but they are focused on health and wellness. There is no encouragement to have sex. In fact, many such classes are still teaching abstinence only instead of safe contraception.
The idea that public schools are teaching sex is just dog whistle politics. It is Republicans trying to scare parents that public schools are instilling values they don't share. It is blaming public schools for social ills that the schools didn't cause and don't control.
Looked at calmly and rationally, all of these fantasies are just scare tactics to get the gullible to react emotionally on election day.
They want to terrify responsive voters into giving GOP candidates the power to stop a host of things that never really existed. They want an excuse for doing nothing to solve the actual problems of the day.
There's a reason they spend so much time railing against woke education - they want to ensure America remains asleep.
A fitful sleep - tossing and turning in various Republican nightmares.
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