Parents Fight Back

Heritage Explains

Parents Fight Back

“Parents cannot just hand their children's education over to others and trust that it will be taken care of.”

Katie Gorka, director of Heritage's Feulner Institute's Center for Civil Society, explains why parents are fighting back.

Franchetta Groves: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Franchetta Groves. And this is Heritage Explains. I'm an intern with Heritage's Young Leaders Program. And I have the honor of being your guest host this week.

Groves: As a college student, I've seen firsthand how much our education system shapes and influences our worldview. If socialism is taught as virtuous and right, and capitalism is evil and wrong, is it any wonder why socialism is a more accepted worldview today? Education is a vital cornerstone of our society and directly impacts our culture as we raise the next generation of leaders. This indoctrination is no longer just at the collegiate level, but has also infiltrated K through 12 education. At all levels of education, parents are seeing schools push leftist ideology to young children who should be focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, they are taught critical race theory and how gender is a social construct. While parents are trying to fight back at school board meetings, this woke agenda the left pushes continues to grow.

Clip 1: Well, the Loudoun County school board taking heat from dozens of frustrated parents tonight. They're upset about the school system's transgender policy, vaccine mandates for athletes, and mask requirements. A Loudoun County teacher on administrative leave tonight after saying that he would not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa. Now, his attorney tells us that they're considering legal action against the district.

Clip 2: Woke curriculum taking over the classroom. In Newport Beach, California, one teacher is caught on camera bragging about making her students pledge allegiance to the pride flag instead of the American flag.

Clip 3: Do you know and I know I'm not the only parent fighting as all across America right now, schools are trying to poison our children's minds, teaching them about things that they have no right to be taught in school.

Clip 4: Within the last year I was told in one of my so called equity trainings that white Christian able-bodied females currently have the power in our schools. And that, "This has to change."

Clip 5: My message to this district and the members of the Board of Ed: Stop indoctrinating our children.

>>> Solving the Civics Crisis Begins at Home

Groves: Scary stuff. But there's good news. Because of what you just heard, education was the number one issue for voters in a recent Virginia governor's race. Parents helped flip Virginia from blue to red, sending a clear message. Keep the indoctrination out of our schools. This week, Katie Gorka, director of the Feulner Institute here at The Heritage Foundation joins us to discuss what exactly is being taught in our school system and how parents are fighting back.

Groves: Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Katie. So what are some of the policies which have been a cause of concern for our education system?

Katie Gorka: Well, I don't know if it's as much the policies as it is the practices. So obviously, this has been a year when parents are seeing much more of what their children are learning and they are very upset about it. So I would say obviously at the top of the list is what we call the critical race theory content. It includes a whole range of things. A lot of the diversity and equity training, social, emotional learning can sort of be fit into that category. But it's also, for example, the pornography. Parents are seeing a lot of really inappropriate content in their schools and in their school libraries. I've seen some of this and honestly, I am not being a prude when I call it pornography. It is so inappropriate. So I think this is what they're upset with, and this is what they're fighting back.

Gorka: Now, when you want to talk about policy, there are policy solutions. So I would say the two that are the most important and where the greatest focus lies right now are first in transparency and second in school choice. So there's a big push now to make it so that parents can see what their children are learning. The Goldwater Institute out of Arizona has been sort leading the charge on that and getting transparency laws or guidelines implemented so that parents can freely access what their kids are learning.

Gorka: And obviously, the second one is school choice. Parents need to be able to vote with their feet and leave a school if they're not happy with what their children are being taught. And this has been an exceptionally good year for school choice. So 21 states have either implemented or expanded their school choice programs. That is a terrific win. And I think that's going to be the path to sort of the long-term solution here.

>>> The Great Parent Revolt

Groves: Have you seen parents become more outspoken at school board meetings against these issues like pornography and the children's education and critical race theory?

Gorka: Oh, hundred percent. Yeah. It's just been amazing. I'll give you just one sort of statistic. One of the groups that we work with is Moms for Liberty out of Florida. This only started in January and it was started by a couple of moms, Tina Descovich and Tiffany French, who had themselves been school board members. And when they stepped down, they decided they wanted to help other parents be good watchdogs of their school boards. They were only going to start as a local Florida organization. That was 10 months ago. Today, they have 125 chapters around the country. And that's just one group. I mean, there are many, many others. No Left Turn in Education is another. So it's just an example of the types of organizations that have really sprung up in the last year. Generally the pattern that you see is one or two parents will step up and then others will just pour in behind them and they will form a local organization or become part of a national organization.

Groves: As we're seeing more parents speak out against these issues going on in schools, we also saw Merrick Garland's recent FBI memo, which appears to try and silence parents from speaking out. What do you think this says about the way our culture views the role of parents in their children's education?

Gorka: Oh, that's a good question. So I have to say, first of all, I don't think that the letter that came from Merrick Garland or the initial letter that it was a response to from the National School Board Association, I don't think those are in any way reflective of how Americans see the role of parents with regard to education. I think the problem is some of our elites. And this is the problem. But to be fair, I have to say even other members of the National School Board Association were not happy that that letter had been written. And quite a number of the state school board associations protested that letter. So I really don't think it's typical of Americans.

>>> Critical Race Theory

Groves: Another issue that we've seen is in Loudoun County, that school district. And can you explain a little bit about what that scandal is about and what this says about the priorities of our education system?

Gorka: So Loudoun County first came to everybody's attention, again, because there were some great individual fighters. I have to call out Ian Pryor and Patti Hidalgo Menders. They have both been just such brave and fearless fighters. And again, it's been over both critical race theory and the pornography issue. I think the incident that you're talking about though is the recent incident of the rape by a transgender child of a girl in school. And the scandal, again, it's sort of in line with all the other things that are going on in schools. It's sort of the arrogance of administrators who think that they don't have to tell parents what's going on.

Gorka: And what happened in this case was this rape of a 15-year-old child occurred. The school covered it up and they moved the child to another school where this child then again committed another rape. And so parents and now students are outraged. I don't know if you saw, but yesterday there was a walkout by students who said our teachers and administrators are not keeping us safe. And I think right on. I'm really glad that they have done that and that they're standing up and saying this is not acceptable.

Groves: What do you think is the most important thing for parents to know in regard to their children's education?

Gorka: Everything. So I think if there has been any one principal lesson of the COVID crisis, it is that parents cannot just hand their children's education over to others and trust that it will be taken care of. And I say that as a completely guilty party. My kids now are 22 and 24, but when they were younger, honestly, like a lot of parents, I don't think I paid a whole lot of attention to the content. I mean, I had a general picture, right. But what we have learned now that this doesn't work anymore. And I think that's why things have gone as far as they have.

Gorka: So I would just encourage everybody. You want to read everything that your kids are reading because this bad content is coming in everywhere. It's not just in social studies. It's coming in through maths, science, reading, phys. ed, everywhere. And the other area where I think some really bad content is coming in are these student surveys. I just heard yesterday from Yael Levin, who runs a No Left Turn in Education for the Central Virginia chapter, she was telling me some of the questions that are in that survey. And it's asking their child sexual preferences. Are they transgender? Are they having intercourse? Are they doing drugs? I mean, this is going to minors. Parents need to read everything.

Groves: So after parents are able to read everything that their children are learning, how do parents fight back?

Gorka: I think it's easy. A lot of people are afraid to be the first one to stand up, but we have seen that it is critical. Somebody's got to be the tip of the spear. Once one person stands up, though, we have seen in every case, there are so many people who feel the same way. They will come behind, they will support. And I think just the most important thing is like-minded parents have to find each other and work together and support each other.

Gorka: And I will say, for any parent who's in a situation where they don't see an organization or they don't see other parents standing up, I did a survey of a number of the parents who'd been sort of the tip of the spear and I asked them all, "Did you pay a price and did you regret it?" Some of them paid a price. It can be hard to be the first one to speak out. People will challenge you or criticize you. Not one of them regretted it though, because they said, "It's too important. This is the future of our country and it's the education of our children."

Groves: Thank you so much, Katie. Really appreciate it.

Gorka: My pleasure.

Groves: And that's it for this week's episode. It's been an honor to guest host this week's episode of Heritage Explains and to intern with the nation's leading think tank in the conservative movement. Thank you for listening. And we will see you next week with Tim's episode.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It is produced by Michelle Cordero and Tim Doescher, with editing by John Popp.