Saturday, November 13, 2021
The scene in Spotsylvania County this week unfolded like many others — a parent stepped up to a microphone in a nondescript room, glanced at a sheet of prepared remarks and claimed the school board in this tiny slice of Virginia was exposing her children to pornography.
The woman took issue with two books in particular: “Call Me By Your Name,” an acclaimed novel that centers on a gay relationship, and “33 Snowfish,” about three homeless teenagers. The American Library Association listed “33 Snowfish” in its list of Best Books for Young Adults in 2004, but this parent called it “disgusting” for its discussion of sexual abuse and child pornography.
Searching the district’s online library catalogue, she added, she found 172 hits for books including the word “gay,” 84 hits for books with the word “lesbian” and just 19 hits for books with the word “Jesus” — “but half of them are about Muslims,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to remove all “sexually explicit” books from the district’s libraries for review. Now all 29 of the district’s librarians are searching tens of thousands of titles. “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” one board member declared.
Schools around the country are scrutinizing and sometimes pulling books from the shelves, as backlash to stories centering on race, sex and queer identities becomes part of mainstream Republican politics. Hailed as a winning message in the Virginia governor’s race this month, conservative rallying cries of “parental rights” have helped fuel a new wave of challenges and legal threats over even the most celebrated of titles, according to those who track book censorship.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ramped up the rhetoric this week with orders for a statewide probe of potential “criminal activity” surrounding “pornography” in schools, days after calling out two LGBTQ memoirs recently pulled in some districts. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) called the same day for a similar investigation.
Among the titles put on pause: Decades-old classics such as Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” as well as a nonfiction account of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I find it profoundly disturbing that we’re accepting so easily the idea that books should be banned and burned and taken away,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The virulence of the opposition in Spotsylvania County especially alarmed her.
“I thought we rejected that authoritarian impulse, you know, decades ago,” she said.
Conservative parents’ complaints have ranged in topic from vaccine mandates to teaching about racism. Latham, who is White and calls himself a “conservative-leaning independent,” said his parents group has a list of more titles they want to examine.
Caldwell-Stone from ALA traced an apparent rise in challenges to political outrage over topics such as LGBTQ sexuality and “critical race theory” — a college-level academic framework that examines systemic racism in America but has become a catchall for conservative concerns about the way schools discuss race.
Republican leaders have also sought to cut funding for schools that teach the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and they have advocated “patriotic education” instead of what they call an excessive focus on the United States’ past and present wrongs.
Richard Price, a political science professor who tracks book challenges in schools and libraries, said he views leaders’ recent embrace of these objections as “political opportunism.”
Republicans are “trying to make sure that these parents stay angry and attack their schools because they want to make sure that that energy is still there for next fall,” said Price, a professor at Weber State University.
[T]he ALA’s list of most-challenged books in 2020 is dominated by titles typically criticized by the right as “anti-police,” “divisive,” sexually explicit or immoral. An anti-racism book by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds drew complaints that it did not cover racism against everyone, ALA said. People said a novel about a transgender child did not reflect “the values of our community.”
[T]he kinds of books drawing ire underscore that those eager for restrictions represent the views of a largely White, straight and cisgender group, at the expense of other communities that long struggled to find their experiences in mainstream literature.
“I’m writing for my former students. I’m writing the books that they couldn’t find in our high school library,” said Ashley Hope Pérez, a literature professor and former Texas English teacher whose 2015 novel “Out of Darkness” — which delves into sex, sexual abuse and racism — was denounced this year as “pornography” not fit for students.
“Teachers come to us scared,” said Emily Kirkpatrick, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English. “Scared about their job, scared about respect in their communities.”
The council used to get one or two contacts a month from educators seeking help with formal book challenges or worrying school board conversations, Kirkpatrick said. “Now it is not uncommon for us to receive, four, five or six requests for help a day,” she said.
In late 2019, a group of Loudoun County parents forced the school system to remove at least five books with LGBTQ themes from elementary schools over complaints of inappropriate content. And in Fairfax County, school officials in September removed two LGBTQ texts from high school libraries after parents denounced the books for sexually explicit content.
The texts are undergoing review from two committees of teachers, parents, administrators and students over the age of 18, according to Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Lloyd. She said the committees will recommend whether to put the books back in school libraries later this month.
The fight over “Beloved” reemerged in the final week of the Virginia governor’s race, when Glenn Youngkin released an ad featuring Murphy and slamming his opponent — McAuliffe — for his veto of the 2016 bill.
Less than a week after Youngkin’s victory, two school board members in Spotsylvania County — Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg — said at a meeting that they wanted to not only remove sexually explicit books, but also destroy them.
Rebecca Murray, a retired former school librarian in Spotsylvania County, foresees dire consequences if books are removed. “When we start allowing parents or general citizens to walk into a school’s library and pull books off the shelf, declare them pornographic or for whatever other reason,” Murray said, “then we no longer have intellectual freedom in our school library.”
Be very afraid for the future if this movement is not stopped. It's important to remember that the knowledge of ancient Rome was and Europe sank into the Dark Ages thanks in part to the Catholic Church opposing anything that ran counter to its dogma. Todays evangelicals are the least educated of any religious group in America and want to inflict their ignorance and bigotry on all.
Friday, November 12, 2021
Even as windstorms became more powerful, wildfires grew more deadly and rising seas made damaging floods more frequent, American views about the threat of global warming over the past few years remain largely unchanged, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.
A clear majority of adults say that warming is a serious problem, but the share — 67 percent — is about the same as it was seven years ago, when alarms raised by climate scientists were less pronounced than they are now.
The poll, released Friday, also finds that the partisan divide over the issue has widened. The percentage of Democrats who see climate change as an existential threat rose by 11 points to 95 percent over seven years.
Meanwhile, the share of Republicans who say climate change is a serious problem fell by 10 points, to 39 percent, over the same period. The Republican decline in Post-ABC polls tracks with the findings of annual Gallup polls in which Republican concerns dropped after 2017, when Donald Trump took office as president.
Trump denied the existence of climate change and pulled the United States out of a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the atmosphere to warm. In 2017, 41 percent of Republicans told Gallup they believed warming had already begun. But this year, 29 percent expressed that belief.
“I think what we’re experiencing right now is a fluctuation that’s not as serious as an ice age and it will go back to normal,” said Wright, a Republican who lives in Central Texas. “It’s like the stock exchange. It will go up, it will go up and go down and then it will go stable.”
Climate scientists have established with certainty that human activity is fueling a dangerous greenhouse gas effect that’s melting icebergs, increasing the rate of punishing storms in some parts of the world while exacerbating drought in others. At least three Pacific islands are being engulfed by sea level rise, forcing inhabitants to flee. Native American homes, sacred lands and even gravesites are being washed away in places such as Alaska and Louisiana.
In August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said humans have altered the environment at a pace that’s “unprecedented” related to any time in history and detailed how catastrophic impacts lie ahead unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut.
According to the poll, Democrats are ready to heed the warnings made at the climate conference. An overwhelming majority, 95 percent, say climate change is serious and 75 percent say the problem is urgent. Nine in 10 Democrats say greenhouse gas regulation is needed to deal with the issue.
A 56 percent majority of Republicans, on the other hand, say climate change is not a serious problem. . . . About 7 in 10 Republicans say climate change is a longer-term problem that requires more study before government action is taken.
Ninety-three percent of Black Americans say the issue is serious, and 72 percent of Hispanics say the same. That compares to 60 percent of White Americans.
Half of Hispanic adults and 62 percent of Black Americans say global warming is an urgent problem that requires immediate government action, compared with 40 percent of White adults.
Wright, the Texas Republican, said initiatives that Biden has called for to lower greenhouse gases — more electric vehicles, reducing the use of coal and pushing renewable energy — will “destroy the lives of people who work in those industries.”
Gustave, a Democrat, took an opposite position. “We need to be grown-ups about this and stop denying it,” she said. “People have like this ostrich movement, butt up, head in the ground pretending climate change doesn’t exist. It’s not going to keep you from dying.” . . . . “I’m worried that the damage will be irreversible.”
Having moved in 2020 in part to leave a home increasingly threatened by rising sea levels, the embrace of ignorance by Republicans - which they wear as a badge of honor - is stunning. Wore yet, it is deadly.
Thursday, November 11, 2021
A decade or two ago, no one had trouble figuring out what White evangelical Christians wanted from the federal government. Alongside supply-siders and national security hawks, they made up the triumvirate of the GOP base and were willing to embrace their allies’ economic and foreign policy positions to ensure support for abortion restrictions and anti-gay policies.
But social policy is no longer at the heart of the agenda of the demographic. Instead, it has become nearly indistinguishable from the MAGA movement.
Conservative commentator and evangelical Christian David A. French acknowledges in a piece for the Dispatch: “We know that opposition to abortion rights motivates white Evangelicals far less than their leaders’ rhetoric would suggest. Eastern Illinois University’s Ryan Burge, one of the nation’s leading statisticians of American religion, has noted, for example, that immigration drove Evangelical support for [Donald] Trump more than abortion.”
As for gay rights, the Public Religion Research Institute’s annual values survey shows a majority of White evangelical Christians still oppose gay marriage, but that “substantial majorities in every major religious group favor nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people, ranging from 59% among white evangelical Protestants to 92% among religiously unaffiliated Americans.” Moreover, even opposition to gay marriage is declining because of a massive generational divide on the issue between older evangelicals and more tolerant millennials and Generation Xers.
So what, then, do these voters want? Many essentially see politics as a great battle between White, Christian America and the multiracial, religiously diverse reality of 21st century America. They want someone to help them win that existential fight. Government is there not to produce legislative fixes to real-world problems but to engage their enemies on behalf of White Christianity.
Other statistics bolster the view that racism or defense of white supremacy is at the heart of the GOP. Jones writes:
Among voters who hold an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, believe the U.S. criminal justice system treats all people fairly, or believe that racism is a minor problem or not a problem at all, more than eight in ten voted for Donald Trump. At the national level, the divides produced by these attitudes are stronger than the divides over abortion. Among those who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, 76% voted for Trump.
The fixation with defining the United States as a White Christian nation is on full display nightly on Fox News, where replacement theory — not abortion or gay rights — drives so much more of the conversation.
In this context, White evangelical Christians’ attraction to the thrice-married philanderer Trump is understandable, as is their support for the cruelest immigration policies (e.g., child separation) and the anti-Muslim travel ban. It’s all about race and religious identity, not policies founded in Christian values and certainly not about finding a role model for civic virtues. Trump was determined to protect White evangelicals against people of color and the decline in Christian identification; that was all they could hope for in a politician.
For these voters, government is a means of enforcing (they would say “preserving”) domination of Whites and Christianity as essential to America’s identity. That’s why they support politicians who demonize Black Lives Matter, demand that corporations meekly accept voter suppression, express outrage over a publisher’s decision about Dr. Seuss titles or fixate on saying “Merry Christmas.” It’s also why insurrectionists marauded through the Capitol on Jan. 6 bearing Confederate flags and wearing T-shirts mocking the Holocaust. They keep telling us who they are and what they want, but well-meaning Americans and the media often refuse to accept that their fellow Americans’ motives are so antithetical to American values.
Jones underscores that this MAGA resentment translates into “fears about the rising number of Latino Americans, fears about Islam, and anti-Black attitudes tied to a ‘law and order’ mentality where African Americans are associated with criminal activity and lawlessness in major cities. You won’t need to search far to find each of these interpretations made painfully explicit in former President Trump’s speeches and in the content of the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions.”
The fixation on race and Christian nationalism has serious ramifications for American political life. First, White evangelical Christians are fighting an impossible crusade against demographic inevitability (their minority status is what has fueled the MAGA movement). Because they can never win (at least in a democracy with free and accurate elections), their political venom will not abate.
Second, the aims of White evangelicals run smack into the American ideal that “all men are created equal” and constitutional protections that allow no bias against any particular religion or racial group. In that regard, they have become deeply antidemocratic.
Finally, a Democratic Party committed to social justice and racial tolerance is never going to win over the hardcore White evangelical base of the GOP. There is nothing Democrats can “give” them (e.g., jobs, cheaper health care) to satisfy their need for White Christian ascendency.
We face a battle over the meaning of America. All defenders of a diverse democracy must stand shoulder to shoulder for an inclusive system of government.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Tuesday, November 09, 2021
After a strong showing last week, Republicans believe the party’s focus on parents and schools in recent months is what will help them win in 2022. The campaign platform of Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has been especially influential in this messaging push, as the candidate attacked his Democratic opponent over so-called critical race theory curriculum and his stance on the pandemic-era safety measures––including mask mandates––instituted in Virginia schools.
In a letter to GOP colleagues that called for a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asserted that the results of the Virginia election prove that “parents are demanding more control and accountability in the classroom.” On Sunday, McCarthy appeared on Mark Levin’s Fox News program to repeat this message. “This is America waking up and taking back what they understand that they have lost before,” he said. “It’s Republicans respecting the rights of parents, from Loudoun County across the nation. I see something much bigger than Democrats realize.”
Voters, too, are perpetuating the message. In a recent CNN segment, a group of four suburban Virginia mothers––three of whom voted for Joe Biden in the presidential election, and all of whom voted for Youngkin over Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe––spoke about Youngkin’s appeal. “Our kids are in crisis,” said Shawnna Yashar. “The learning loss is real. We’re in a situation where our kids are really far behind and they need a lot of help.” She added that COVID-19 school safety “mandates and CRT did not influence my decision at all.” Another mother said that Youngkin “listened to us” and “spent a lot of one-on-one time with parents,” unlike McAuliffe.
Democrats need towake up and devise an integrated campaign against this sanitized version of racism and homophobia, part of which will need to focus on the excesses and book banning agenda of the Republicans and their white Christofascist base which is powering the movement. The second piece is getting far right progeressives and liberals to get their heads out of their asses to realize that their approaches that put everything in racial terms are just as off turning as those on the extreme right and among right wing hate groups. In some ways, the latter will perhaps the more difficult labor. A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican suggests a path forward for Democrats. Here are highlights:
Democrats, beware: Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign for governor of Virginia will serve as a template for Republican candidates eager to exploit fears of critical race theory by demanding “parental control” of education. Democrats must do a better job of responding than Youngkin’s hapless opponent, Terry McAuliffe, did.
The absolute worst thing you can say is what McAuliffe said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” At some level, he was right; there would be chaos if every teacher had to run every lesson plan by the parents of every student. But his comment came across as tone-deaf after parents had spent 18 months supervising their kids’ education at home — and stewing about shuttered classrooms. McAuliffe paid the price for not feeling parents’ pain.
It’s also not productive to argue, as many on the left have, that critical race theory, or CRT, isn’t being taught and that raising the issue is nothing but a dog whistle to racists. It’s true that “parental control” has become the new “states’ rights” — a deceptively anodyne slogan for tapping racist fears. It’s also true that even those who are most hysterical about CRT have trouble defining it. Fox News host Tucker Carlson just admitted: “I’ve never figured out what ‘critical race theory’ is, to be totally honest, after a year of talking about it.”
But as a practical, political issue, none of that matters. CRT might have started off as an esoteric academic theory about structural racism. But it has now become a generic term for widely publicized excesses in diversity education, such as disparaging “individualism” and “objectivity” as examples of “white supremacy culture” or teaching first-graders about microaggressions and structural racism. You don’t have to be a Republican to be put off by the incessant attention on race in so many classrooms.
George Packer wrote in the Atlantic in October 2019 that he knew “several mixed-race families” that transferred their kids out of a New York City school that “had taken to dividing their students by race into consciousness-raising ‘affinity groups.’” . . . . . As an example, he cited Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) saying, “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice; we don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice.”
This is the kind of “stupid wokeness” that Democratic strategist James Carville blamed for his party’s setbacks in Virginia and New Jersey — and it is something that Democrats need to disavow if they want to win outside of deep-blue enclaves. Democrats should admit that, even as racism remains a pervasive problem, some efforts to combat it backfire if they exacerbate racial divisions or stigmatize White students.
But while acknowledging some conservative concerns as legitimate, Democrats also need to call out the GOP’s cynical and destructive use of the CRT issue. Just as an earlier generation of liberals protested all the lives Joseph McCarthy was destroying in the name of anti-communism, liberals today need to focus on the collateral damage that Republicans inflict in the name of fighting CRT: They are trying to ban books and fire educators. In short, they are practicing the very “cancel culture” they decry.
Monday, November 08, 2021
Scott Soffen has long considered himself a loyal Democrat. This time last year, the apparel company owner in this southern New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia felt confident that his party’s victories would usher in sweeping change, particularly on social justice and economic inequality.
“I wake up mad every single day,” said Soffen, 69, from his home. “It’s infighting, just constant infighting.”
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, about 300 miles away, along a highway dotted with gas stations and antique shops, Tristen Ashley was in an empty cafe. She, too, has voted for Democrats in the past, backing Joe Biden in 2020, Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Terry McAuliffe when he ran for governor in 2013.
“It’s been too extreme,” said the 38-year-old who opted not to vote in last week’s Virginia election, even though McAuliffe was back on the ballot. “I think that’s where I generally have problems voting or finding a candidate that I like, because it’s hard for me to find somebody that’s willing to work across party lines and fix things.”
While President Biden and congressional Democrats celebrated passage Friday night of a massive infrastructure bill, danger signs remained from the party’s dismal performance in Tuesday’s elections — with Republicans sweeping statewide races in Virginia, which had been trending blue for years, and nearly toppling the incumbent Democratic governor in deeply blue New Jersey.
The results showcased Democrats’ declining support among moderate voters, particularly in suburbs, small towns and rural communities. And they helped crystallize a problem that has been lurking under the surface for some time, as described in interviews with voters and party leaders alike: the absence of a singular, unifying goal for Democrats to rally around.
While President Barack Obama provided a glue for the party in 2008 and 2012 and the animosity toward President Donald Trump brought all factions together in 2016 and 2020, the party of 2021 often functions more like a collection of smaller tribes spanning an ideological spectrum from socialism to centrism. As a result, when voters and politicians are asked to define what it means to be a Democrat, the answers are often as varied as the diverse constituencies and coalitions that make up the party.
Republicans, who have largely unified around their support for Trump, found success in last week’s elections without the former president on the ballot by reaching moderates and independents, in part by tapping into anxiety on issues including school closures and pandemic restrictions, taxes and anti-racist school curriculums they claim have gone too far.
Top Democrats now say their path forward is in enacting the infrastructure plan and passing the additional social spending measure that would fulfill a number of Biden’s promises. But some concede that it’s hard to reach many voters with complex legislation.
It remains unclear how the public will interpret the infusion of infrastructure spending into their communities, how the second social spending bill will play out — and whether those measures come to define Democrats in the eyes of voters.
In interviews over the past week with voters in breweries and cafes, grocery stores and farms in suburban New Jersey and rural Virginia, traditionally Democratic voters expressed wide-ranging views about the current state of the party. Some are alarmed that Democrats, with control of all levers of power, haven’t done more to affect their lives. Others are angry that the top issues for the White House are not the ones they care most about.
Liberals say conservatives are holding up the kinds of sweeping change the country needs. Moderates say the party has misread the electorate and risks losing the majority a year from now. And some have come to view members of their own party as a bigger enemy than Republicans.
In Nelson County, Va., a rural area that voted Democratic before turning more Republican in recent years and voted strongly for Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) last week, several voters said they were turned off by the direction of the party.
House Minority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) has warned his party that keeping the Black community as a reliable voting bloc requires addressing policy issues such as voting rights as well as economic, social and racial disparities. He has called for the abolishment of the Senate filibuster, even a temporary one, to pass voting rights reforms.
Clyburn said the takeaway from the depressed turnout among Black voters in New Jersey and Virginia should be considered “a national problem” that could plague the party in the midterms.
Biden and other party leaders have a record of struggling to sell their programs, even after passage and even when they contain popular provisions.
Earlier in the year, for example, the Democratic-led Congress passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that has largely been forgotten in the public debate.
“Every single Democrat in the country voted for a relief package that helps small business and families, gets shots in arms and addresses anxiety,” said Dan Sena, a Democratic consultant. “But we haven’t talked about that. The one thing that unifies us is what we haven’t talked about. We have this unified set of things we did at the beginning of the year that we just stopped talking about.”
Even if the party is able to unite around the latest legislation, there will remain lingering divisions over what to pursue next.
Sunday, November 07, 2021
After Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin won Virginia's gubernatorial race Tuesday, the GOP appears eager to take his bigotry-infused "education" strategy nationwide. "The Republican swings in Virginia and New Jersey show the efficacy of a new model of conservative politics: appealing to suburban voters by promising greater parental control of schools," the Washington Post reports Thursday morning. It's a clever strategy.
If the public knew what the GOP demands actually were — banning classic books like Toni Morrison's "Beloved" or "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood — most parents would not be on board. Few people want to be a Nazi book burner! But the GOP is repackaging this deeply fascist love of censorship in a friendlier frame of "parental rights." They got lucky that the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, blundered in the campaign's closing weeks when he said, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," instead of mounting a robust defense of free speech and teaching the truth about slavery and segregation in history classes.
So what, exactly, are kids learning? Republicans use scare terms like "critical race theory," and liberals try to draw attention to the lists of books Republicans are trying to ban, mainly for suggesting racism is bad or that LGBTQ people exist. It's extremely important for the left to focus on how this supposed fight over "education" is really a proxy fight over the right's rejection of equality for LGBTQ people and people of color.
But there's another aspect to this fight that has been less discussed: How the GOP war on schools is instigated, organized, and funded by right-wing religious groups whose true agenda is opposing the rights of children.
Conservatives, especially the Christian right, have long taken a dim view of raising kids who can think for themselves. Their view is children should be "trained" to be obedient and submissive. Under the guise of "parents' rights," the Christian right is mainstreaming their hostility to the very idea that children have a right to an education. In this case, the right of a child to have a proper education that teaches critical thinking and intellectual curiosity.
[T]he movement of "biblical parenting" started in 1970, when Christian right activist James Dobson published his book "Dare to Discipline," which advanced a belief in "the enforced submission of children to absolute authority." Soon there was a cottage industry of similar books, all of which promoted "the complete subjection of the child's will," usually through relentlessly beating kids (which is minimized through the cutesy word "spanking"). Children, in the Christian right view, are not to be educated — they are to be "trained."
This philosophy of child-rearing was accompanied by a movement to impose their anti-child ideology on society and government. Unfortunately, this particular political goal of the Christian right gets far less coverage than their war on reproductive rights, their anti-LGBTQ activism, or their white supremacy. This lack of attention may, in fact, be a reason they've been wildly successful. . . . . hitting children "is outlawed completely in 63 countries," but "legal in all fifty states." Laws allowing parents to take kids out of school to be "home schooled" are notoriously lax, and there's been a great deal of headway in redirecting kids out of schools and into religious "charter schools" that embrace the training-not-education approach.
Donald Trump's Education Secretary was Betsy DeVos, a far-right fundamentalist who has spent decades trying to destroy the public education system. It's why the U.S. is the only country in the world that hasn't ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Religious right stalwarts like the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation have been central to planning and unhatching this scheme to use the scare term "critical race theory" to stir up outrage at schools for teaching the truth about racism in history and literature classes. Also central to the effort, as reported by NBC News, is the International Organization for the Family, which has, like the Family Research Council, been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Under its original name, the World Congress of Families, the International Organization for the Family promoted not just a deeply authoritarian and patriarchal view of the family, but also white nationalism.
Forcing children into submission and preventing them from developing critical thinking skills is seen as crucial for raising them to be compliant adults who will unquestioningly adopt this patriarchal and racist view of family formation and purpose. One can see why schools teaching the book "Beloved" was flagged by far-right activists as a threat. Not only does the book humanize the victims of white supremacy, it also raises important questions about the rights of children and the meaning of self-determination. Indeed, even the concept of "raising questions" alarms the Christian right. In their view, children are not to think for themselves but to passively accept the instructions of elders.
Unfortunately, one reason the Christian right has a lot of success smuggling their radical views into mainstream politics is they, as happened in Virginia, often reframe it as a matter of "parental rights."
The problem, however, is the reframing this as a matter of "parents' rights" distracts from the real issue, which is the war being waged on children's rights.
Children have a right to learn the truth about American history and to learn critical thinking skills. Children have a right to be exposed to great works of literature and art, and to expand their horizons. Children have a right to a robust health education, which includes information about sexuality and sexual orientation so that they can grow into healthy adults, instead of being hobbled with shame for having normal human impulses. All this chitter-chatter about "parents' rights" — by design — is hiding the fact that many of these rights of children are under very real threat right now.
Failure to understand the deeply radical nature of the Christian right ideology fueling this school board movement leaves Democrats unequipped to fight back. We saw this with the McAuliffe campaign, which fumbled early on with the "parents' rights" framing, and only too late in the campaign realized they could reframe the matter — correctly, mind you — as a deeply racist attempt to censor books. Democrats need to highlight how profoundly anti-child the GOP attack on school boards is and defend both the right of children to learn and the right of educators to teach.
Most people don't want kids to grow up without learning to think for themselves. Democrats can win this fight — but first, they must understand what they're truly up against.