The Washington Post has been widely criticized for publishing an op-ed claiming parents who want a say in what their children are taught in school are using a “political tactic” to stop young people from thinking independently with a long-term strategy designed to cause voter suppression.
The piece in the Post headlined, “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t,” was co-authored by assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Jack Schneider and freelance journalist Jennifer Berkshire.
Schneider and Berkshire noted conservatives have recently “begun to circle around the cause of ‘parents’ rights,’” listing Indian’s Parents Bill of Rights, Florida passing a bill to guarantee public schools cannot overstep the “fundamental rights” of parents and Virginia Republican candidate for governor Glenn Youngkin focusing on parent’s rights as recent examples before trashing the concept.
“Given this frenzy, one might reasonably conclude that radicals are out to curtail the established rights that Americans have over the educational sphere. Yet what’s actually radical here is the assertion of parental powers that have never previously existed,” Schneider and Berkshire wrote.
“This is not to say that parents should have no influence over how their children are taught. But common law and case law in the United States have long supported the idea that education should prepare young people to think for themselves, even if that runs counter to the wishes of parents,” they continued. “When do the interests of parents and children diverge? Generally, it occurs when a parent’s desire to inculcate a particular worldview denies the child exposure to other ideas and values that an independent young person might wish to embrace or at least entertain.”
The opinion piece then declared turning over all major decisions to parents would “risk inhibiting the ability of young people to think independently.”
Schneider and Berkshire wrote the “sudden push for parental rights” is simply a “political tactic” that mirrors a 1960s observations made by historian Richard Hofstadter, who blamed conservatives who felt America had been “taken away from them and their kin” and resort to “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” as a result.
“The Republicans employing it right now have two particular targets in mind. The first is the public education system, which hard-liners have long sought to undermine,” Schneider and Berkshire wrote. “But this play is much bigger than education. For years, the Republican Party has understood that the demographic tide is against it. Knowing that every vote matters, the GOP has increasingly relied on a strategy of voter suppression.”
The co-authors felt “Republicans have worked to ensure that their base turns out in force by stoking White racial grievance” using backlash against critical race theory as their evidence.
“Republicans gain an electoral advantage by convincing their base that White children are being taught to hate themselves, their families and their country,” they wrote. “In framing our public schools as extremist organizations that undermine the prerogatives of families, conservatives are bringing napalm to the fight.”
The Post opinion piece concluded by claiming, “Parents may end up with a new set of ‘rights’ only to discover that they have lost something even more fundamental in the process. Turned against their schools and their democracy, they may wake from their conspiratorial fantasies to find a pile of rubble and a heap of ashes.”
The article, which was first published on Thursday but was shared by the liberal newspaper on Monday, was quickly mocked on social media.