While many of us are heartened by the sight of young people becoming politically engaged following the recent spate of shootings, Rachel M. Cohen writes that the sight of students rising up against gun violence has alarmed right-wingers who see this a signs that public education is a breeding ground for dangerous ideas that are taking hold in the minds of young people.
WITNESSING WITH HORROR a parade of articulate and smart teenagers speaking confidently about the role of intersectionality in the social movement they ignited, conservative leaders have seized on the explosion of activism launched by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to make the case that so-called government schools — or traditional public schools — are a fundamental threat to their vision of the country. David Hogg and Emma González are all the evidence they need.
“The radical progressive agenda is now basic propaganda in our public school system,” said Mark Levin, a prominent right-wing radio host on his show in March. “These government schools have become propaganda mills. Whether it’s genitalia assignment, bathrooms, and gyms; whether it’s the school lunch program that’s even politicized … radical environmentalism is advanced, capitalism is trashed.”
Far-right conservative attempts to weaken support for public education did not begin with the Parkland massacre. Many advocates for private and religious schools have long framed public schools as dangerous secular institutions
But the Parkland students’ efforts have catalyzed a renewed sense of outrage among conservatives, who see students walking out from schools to protest guns, some without consequence, as irrefutable proof of public education’s liberal bias.
When you add to this teachers in various states staging strikes to protest low salaries and poor working conditions, you can be sure that the enemies of public education, who had already set their sights on diverting public school funds into private hands, are going to increase their efforts to destroy it.