Hillbilly science v. left wing ideology

By Larry Sand
June 26, 2018

Parents, not the state, should decide what kind of education their children receive. 

The anti-school choice crowd frequently manages to shoot themselves in the foot by making outlandish allegations. Almost a year ago, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten suggested that vouchers are “slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” At the same time, Katherine Stewart wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which she posited that conservatives, libertarians and religious fundamentalists have joined forces to take over our schools and ultimately destroy democracy.

The latest entry in the choice-phobic sweepstakes comes from Lauren Ritchie, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel. A few weeks ago, she penned “Florida must stop paying $1 billion a year to ‘educate’ children in fringe religious nonsense,” in which she claims that some schools that are part of Florida’s scholarship program are run by “uneducated charlatans” who teach “hillbilly science.” She asserts that these schools “should stop teaching gibberish” and “meet the same curriculum requirements as every public school.” 

But ironically Ms. Ritchie’s silly hillbilly rant does not diminish the argument for parent-driven school choice one bit. In fact, she actually makes the case for it.

First, it bears mentioning that “public schools” in the U.S. have traditionally been religious. The public school movement was begun for the purpose of instilling Protestant values in our nation’s youth. Catholics, Jews and others had to pay extra for schools that reflected their religious ideals.

Government schools are still religious, but Protestantism is like sooo 19th Century. The regnant belief system in many of our schools is now leftism or cultural Marxism, which can be as doctrinaire as any of the “hillbilly science” that Ms. Ritchie speaks of with disdain and outright horror. When you send your little one off to the zip code-mandated government school down the street, are you okay that they may be indoctrinated with sex-ed in kindergarten, that there are 112 genders, that we are all going to hell because of man-made global warming unleashed on us by evil corporations (witness the sweaty polar bears!), that Trump and Hitler are synonymous, that Che Guevara was a freedom fighter, et al ad nauseum?

Then of course, there are the unions, which are major contributors to leftist religious dogma in our public schools. In his book Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism, Kyle Olson provides some examples:

  • “Trouble in the Henhouse: A Puppet Show.” In this charming bit of propaganda put out by the California Federation of Teachers aimed at kindergartners, we find an oppressive farmer whose hens unionize and convince the heartless farmer that he’d better respect them or else.
  • The “Yummy Pizza Company” is another lesson from CFT – actually ten of them – which delve into the process of organizing a union local. They include instructions on how to collectively bargain as well as a sanitized look at prominent labor leaders.
  • Click Clack Moo, a popular book promoted by the AFL-CIO, tells second graders about unhappy cows that refuse to work until the mean farmer is forced to meet their demands.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles wanted to shut down the school district on May Day in 2017 to resist “the anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-worker, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim policies that are coming out of Washington, D.C.” While the schools remained open, an unknown number of teachers ditched school that day to attend the rally, and the union’s leftist political message was received by the district’s students loud and clear.

Nor are textbooks safe from Our Lady of the Left. Communist and notorious America-hater Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is assigned in many high school history classes. Zinn felt that the teaching of history “should serve society in some way” and that “objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” As a Marxist, he’d prefer a society that resembles Stalin’s Russia.

Additionally, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi notes that pages and pages of the latest California History, Social Science Framework “are devoted to identity politics, and the environmentalist, sexual, and anti-Vietnam War movements, with detailed and extensive bibliographical references. In contrast, the contemporaneous conservative movement, which succeeded in electing Californian Ronald Reagan as president, with its complex mixture of social, economic and national security sub-movements, is given cursory and passing mention, with no references provided.”

As Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey wisely writes, “public schooling today inherently makes religious Americans unequal under the law” because they are required to pay for public schools that are not allowed to be religious (in the traditional way), “which may be fine for atheists and agnostics but is unacceptable to them.”

Ms. Ritchie doesn’t want to fund schools whose teachings offend her, nor do I want to fund schools that are antithetical to my values. As free people, neither she nor I should be forced to do that. The monolithic school system with its technocratic top down, we-are-the-experts-and know-better-than-you- what’s-best-for-your-child smugness must be done away with. Parents, not the state, should be the guardians and directors of their children’s education.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.