Monday, November 22, 2021

Exploiting School Closures

Spurred by a discussion with Chris Rufo, founding father of the campaign against critical race theory, Michelle Goldberg in her Nrw York Times column wrote

As many have pointed out, the reason education was such an incendiary issue in the Virginia governor’s race likely had less to do with critical race theory than with parent fury over the drawn-out nightmare of online school. Because America’s response to Covid was so politically polarized, school shutdowns were longest in blue states, and Virginia’s was especially severe; only six states had fewer in-person days last year.

Less, probably; much less, unlikely.  However, notwithstanding the misleading headline "Democrats Desperately Need Schools to Get Back to Normal," Goldberg did not intend to spank Democrats for any short term harm to children by closing schools because of the coronavirus. Instead, she noted "shutdowns have contributed to an exodus from public schools" in the politically kindred Fairfax County, Virginia, New York City, and California and

In an environment like this, Republican proposals to subsidize private school tuition are likely to be received gratefully by many parents. It’s a perilous situation for Democrats, the party of public schools. If they want to stanch the bleeding, they should treat the rollout of the children’s Covid vaccine as an opportunity to make public schools feel lively and joyful again.

“I’ve unlocked a new terrain in the culture war, and demonstrated a successful strategy,” Goldberg quotes Rufo, "a documentary filmmaker-turned-conservative activist." And

With that done, he was getting ready for a new phase of his offensive.

“We are right now preparing a strategy of laying siege to the institutions,” he said. In practice, this means promoting the traditional Republican school choice agenda: private school vouchers, charter schools and home-schooling. “The public schools are waging war against American children and American families,” he said. Families, in turn, should have “a fundamental right to exit.”

"Democrats need to take this onslaught seriously," Goldberg warns, and concludes

Rufo readily admits that school closures prepared the ground for the drive against critical race theory. “You have a multiracial group of parents that felt like the public school bureaucracies were putting their children through a policy regime of chaos, with Covid and shutdowns, and then pumping them full of left-wing racialist ideologies,” he said. He’s right about the first part, even if the second is a fantasy.

Now Democrats have a choice. They can repair the public schools, or watch people like Rufo destroy them.

This is a far broader and comprehensive view of the measures Democratic officials have imposed to respond to the education crisis imposed by Covid-19 than has been taken by the myriad of pundits, journalists, and politicians featured in print and (especially) broadcast media. There is no greater danger to the crucial, and traditionally unifying, institution of public education than the schemes of privatization which undergird and motivate Christopher Rufo and other conservative activists. Finally, someone noticed.


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