I attended the Loudoun County School Board meeting last night to put my oar in the water. Unlike days gone by, it was a calm affair. (See pic) There were no fisticuffs or gunplay. Even so, the board chairman Ian Serotkin, looked scared to death.
I took one of the public speaker slots (two minutes) to support the Loudoun Education Association’s drive for collective bargaining and break a lance for DEI policy. Diversity-Equity-Inclusion have become the devil words of the MAGA grassroots, represented at the meeting by three or more partisans of the misnamed “Moms For Liberty.”
We should acknowledge the organic roots of dissatisfaction with school policy regarding the pandemic. It’s not all astroturf. It had to be a factor in the Republican takeover of the Virginia governor’s office. We ignore it at our peril.
Maybe the school system could have done better with the pandemic. I’m agnostic on this front. My default view is to follow the advice of health authorities, rather than quacks, who actually know something about health. Perhaps the loss of in-school time could have been handled better. There should be no doubt that a worsening of the pandemic would be awful. There are unavoidable trade-offs. Keeping kids in schools in the midst of a raging pandemic is not a free lunch.
One segment of the meeting was a presentation by parents devoted to the nurture of students classified as gifted and talented. In this vein, the governor’s ham-handed intervention into local school curricula, in terms of the teaching of history and social studies, will not do such students any favors. The replacement of honest history by pseudo-patriotic fairy tales will not elevate these students’ chances of acceptance to elite colleges. A Florida reputation for Virginia would be toxic. Morever, if miseducated students did succeed in being accepted to elite colleges, it would not advance their academic careers if they regurgitated MAGA nostrums in class, such as how the civil war was not really about slavery, or that Jesus walked with the dinosaurs.
The gloss in the meeting was that, along with the gifted and talented, there are the bereft and excluded. There are children who come into schools with severe educational deficits, such as teenagers who can’t read or write, not just in English but in their native language. They are being rolled through the system and sent out into the world, doomed to a life of low-wage jobs at best. With real educational standards, they would be held back, but then there would be a logjam of students that the schools had failed to bring up to standard. Absent a boost in funding, the schools could not handle that.
Nothing about this from the “Moms For Liberty.” Their implication is that DEI efforts detract from basic academic instruction. This is not very different from old objections to school integration — that black students would be doodling the future of Southern womanhood. Racism is less fashionable than it used to be in Virginia. Now the new boogeymen are transgender students, meaning boys invading girls’ bathrooms. And from there, it’s just a short hop to accusing all LGBTQ people of evil designs on children — the “groomers” slander — really the current version of ancient blood libels leveled against Jews.
This travesty of the common good is what has drawn me into running for the state legislature. (Donate here.) My super-powers are a) I can say what needs to be said, consequences be damned, and b) if I can make an impact, I don’t have to actually win the election.
And don’t sleep on this: