One sign that students are being effective

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.


  1. lanir says

    Somehow I don’t think they’ll like the results even if they get to bulldoze everything they don’t like right now and pave it over with their solution of the moment. The threat to the lives of students, their friends and families is very real. The only way to have large masses of people consistently look at that real threat and respond to it with a fantasy solution is indoctrination. And the solution the conservatives suggest is distinctly fantastic. It’s indistinguishable from suggesting we all live in an action film.

    It never ceases to amaze me when they do this. The solution to every problem is more problem. The solution to guns is more guns. The solution to a literal handful of voter fraud cases across the country is to defraud as many people as possible of their vote. The solution to imagined indoctrination is to get as close to real indoctrination as you can. You need to be tough and put up with bullying so you can put up with bullying. It’s all the same garbage logic.

  2. blf says

    (Cross-posted from PZ’s current Political Madness All the Time thread.)

    Secret rightwing strategy to discredit teacher strikes (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    ● Manual provides ‘dos and don’ts’ for how to smear the strikes
    ● Top of the list: “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”

    A nationwide network of rightwing thinktanks [sic] is launching a PR counteroffensive against the teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, circulating a “messaging guide” for anti-union activists that portrays the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and their children.

    The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled “How to talk about teacher strikes”, it provides a “dos and don’ts” manual for how to smear the strikers.

    Top of the list of talking points is the claim that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”

    The “messaging guide” is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 rightwing “ideas factories” that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest — funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that flows from the Walmart fortune — to coordinate conservative strategy across the country.

    Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family of the Amway empire. Betsy DeVos is the current education secretary in the Trump administration.

    SPN’s previous campaigns have included a plan to “defund and defang” public sector unions. Now it is turning its firepower on the striking teachers.


    The SPN document urges its followers to attack the walkouts stealthily, rather than criticising them directly. A head-on assault on teachers for their long summer vacations would “sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs {and} having to rely on food pantries”, it says.

    The guide, written by SPN senior policy advisers, is revealingly candid about the difficult position that conservatives find themselves in within states that have aggressively cut taxes at the same time as slashing education budgets. “For those of you who are in states where you’ve cut taxes recently, that is sure to be a theme in coverage. That is obviously a challenging message to counter.”

    Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Guardian: “It’s fascinating that even Koch-funded conservatives recognize that there’s huge public support for public education and for treating teachers with respect.” She denounced SPN’s guide as a “piece of propaganda — the conservative strategy is to defund schools and delegitimize the voice of teachers”.


    Full PDF of the propaganda at the Grauniad link.

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