We currently sit in a very awkward place in education politics. Sex-education summer camps, sexual abuse scandals, racial discipline policies, teachers union strikes, and countless other incredible reports. It’s a particularly interesting time to work in education journalism. There is a seemingly endless sea of content to report on, with more voices and perspectives than at any point in American history.
Establishment groups long working in education have been reluctant to address social issues that plague hundreds of thousands they claim to represent. From EdWeek and Chalkbeat on the left to EdChoice in the center, these organizations found it less than profitable to address the growing concerns of gender and racial ideologies festering in American schools. Clinging to their traditional cash cows and messages that resonated with donors, the concerns of American families were dashed aside as inconsequential.
Many state legislatures shared similar sentiments. Education committees ignored calls and emails from constituents concerning the horrific things these parents saw during the COVID-19 lockdowns, passing at best a series of lackluster bills that feebly attempted to satiate their voters. I’ve lost count of the number of times that Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia representatives have told me that they “just don’t believe” any racial or sexual issues are prevalent in their states’ public school systems.
As a result of this standoffishness from the Republican establishment, parents and families looked for anyone who would take their claims seriously and provide any semblance of guidance or direction to make changes in their communities. Some of the only groups that sought to answer the call included traditional conservatives and populists.
Bolstered by the Trump administration’s unabashed and unapologetic campaigns and presidency, many populist candidates have taken up the cause of American families—and will do whatever they can to keep their attention. The question then becomes which populist candidate can make the most inflammatory claim to punch the hardest—therefore cementing them as the greatest champion for American families.
A clear and perfect case of the awkward dichotomy between establishment and populist conservatism is the case of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson:
KBJ has a case in her past in which she adjusted the sentence in a child pornography possession case because she claimed the material was easier to obtain, store, and disseminate than it has been historically. Furthermore, she stated during her hearings that she couldn’t define a woman because she wasn’t “a biologist”.
Establishment Republican Mitt Romney endorsed KBJ, citing no issue with her judicial work or character. This, of course, drew criticism from conservatives, who saw the aforementioned issues as questionable in a supreme court justice.
Populists took it to a nuclear level. In a response tweet by freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, she called Romney “pro-pedophile”.
In the superheated debates of sexual abuse, racial discrimination, and their existence in education, American families have a choice between siding with the group that finds no issue—and the group that cries “pedophile” at every opportunity.
This is lunacy.
It is clearly possible to criticize gender ideology, critical race theory and discrimination, cases of pedophilia and grooming, and the actions of those in tangent to them in a case-by-case basis without making blanket-sweeping generalizations. As Nate Hochman intoned this morning, citing every instance of a hyper-progressive’s belief in gender ideology as “grooming” makes opponents to it sound insane.
That said, it is also shameful to ignore or downplay clear instances of sexual misconduct like the sex-ed summer camps for elementary students in Indiana and Kentucky. In many cases, the Left is actively or passively grooming children via ideological manipulation in public schools. The connotation around the word grooming is not an excuse for the action.
Conservatives have a responsibility to call out both establishment and populists in addressing these issues. Families and communities deserve honest journalists and representatives who will listen to their concerns, advocate for them based on the detailed and indisputable facts of the situation, and then seek policy solutions that benefit all.
I have little time for establishment groups that pretend there is no issue surrounding LGBTQ+ education in public schools, and just as little time for those who see every misguided rainbow flag as the banner of pedophilia. I’m sick of being asked to choose between these two so often—it’s time we embraced the third option of specific criticism and resolution, brave enough to explain why each instance is good or bad without calling everyone a Nazi, groomer, or communist—while standing firm against the trends of all three in our schools.