Of the numerous political developments that took place in the United States in 2021, the emergence of parental rights as an electoral issue is arguably one of the most important.1 Alarm over the content of the public school curriculum has been slowly building for years, but the move to online learning during the Covid-19 lockdowns has helped to bring to light the extreme nature of some of the things that American children are being taught.
In several parts of the country, school board meetings saw heated scenes as angry parents railed against the political indoctrination of their children. One after another, they denounced sexually explicit material, critical race theory and transgender policies which force girls to share toilets and changing rooms with boys who identify as female. At the eye of the storm sweeping the American educational establishment is the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On 22 June, 48-year-old Scott Smith was arrested at a meeting of the Loudoun County School Board. Smith, whose daughter had been the victim of a serious sexual assault in the girls’ bathroom of a school in Ashburn, Virginia, by a boy of 15 wearing a skirt — became enraged when the district’s Superintendent, Scott Ziegler said, “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist”, and that, to his knowledge, there was no record of assaults.2
Smith spent 10 days in custody, was later convicted of disorderly conduct and was given a suspended sentence. During the prosecution, it was revealed that Ziegler had sent an email to colleagues in May that showed that he had, in fact, been aware of the incident. The publicity surrounding the case forced officials to admit that the boy who attacked Smith’s daughter had been accused of assaulting a second girl, following his transfer to another school. The 15-year-old was subsequently convicted of both assaults and registered as a sex offender.
By 29 September, dismay over continuing demonstrations in several states led the National School Board Association (NSBA) to write to the Department of Justice calling on the FBI and Homeland Security to investigate parents for “inciting chaos” and “spreading misinformation”.3 The Association’s letter characterised concerned parents as members of “extremist hate organisations” and domestic terrorists.
When, on 21 October, the US Attorney General, Merrick Garland was questioned before Congress as to whether protesting parents were being targeted as a potential terrorist threat, he insisted that such a thing was unimaginable.4 A leaked memo from Garland, dated 4 October, however, indicated that the NSBA letter was used as the pretext for an investigation launched by a federal anti-terrorist unit.5 The Association later apologised for the letter and one official alleged that it was written at the behest of Joe Biden’s Education Secretary, Miguel Cordona. Although Cordona denies the claim, 41 Republican members of Congress are now calling for his resignation.6
The lightning rod of the education controversy is, without doubt, “critical race theory” or CRT. However, CRT is a late-stage development of the much deeper malaise that has already permeated the American education system — Critical Theory.7 Developed by the Marxist intellectuals of the Frankfurt School, established in 1923, Critical Theory is better understood as a tool of psychological warfare than an actual academic theory. The Frankfurt School, which was committed to spreading Communism through a cultural revolution, employed Critical Theory to attack the Christian heritage of Western nations and deconstruct the family, by subjecting traditional values to an unrelenting barrage of destructive criticism.8 One of the founding members of the School was Georg Lukács, the Deputy Commissar for Educational Affairs in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. It was Lukács who pioneered the world’s first sex education programme. In the study, Georg Lukács’ Marxism, Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution, Victor Zitta describes the impact of this policy, in terms that could be applied today to virtually any country in the Western world.
“Special lectures were organised in schools and literature printed and distributed to ‘instruct’ children about free love, about the nature of sexual intercourse, about the archaic nature of the bourgeois family codes, about the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion, which deprives man of all pleasure. Children, urged thus to reject and deride paternal authority and the authority of the Church, and to ignore precepts of morality, easily and spontaneously turned into delinquents with whom only the police could cope.”9
The link between sex education and the breakdown of law and order is not widely understood. The racial tensions stoked by CRT, however, are much more obvious. Repeated denials that CRT was being taught in public schools failed to prevent education from becoming the decisive issue in November’s gubernatorial election in Virginia.10 When the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, pledged to listen to parents, Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, added fuel to the fire by stating in a televised debate: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach”.11 Youngkin’s campaign lost no time in exploiting the remark, while McAuliffe, who previously described himself as a “strong Catholic”,12 vowed to defend a woman’s “right to choose” and accused his rival of secretly planning to introduce legislation similar to the Texas Heartbeat Bill. Youngkin acknowledged that he was pro-life but denied the claim. According to Gallup: “The abortion issue potentially works more to the advantage of Republicans than Democrats, given the parties’ respective platforms and the greater proportion of pro-life than pro-choice voters who will vote only for candidates who share their views on the issue.”13 McAuliffe’s anti-life rhetoric, therefore, failed to deflect attention from the education issue.
In a historic defeat for the Democrats on 2 November, Republican candidates won all three state-wide elections, with Youngkin gaining just over 50 per cent of the vote. He was sworn in as Virginia’s Governor on the morning of 16 January 2022. That afternoon, he signed 11 executive orders. The first of these imposed an immediate end to the teaching of “divisive concepts” in Virginia schools including CRT. The second reaffirmed parental rights concerning the upbringing, education and care of their children and specifically ended all mask mandates in schools. The fourth order authorised an investigation of Loudoun County public schools by the state’s Attorney General.
Events in Virginia are being watched closely as families in several other states press for a greater legal say in the education of their children. The ferocity with which the educational authorities and the Biden administration have reacted to these efforts shows how bitter this fight is set to become. Legislation to limit the teaching of CRT is expected to be introduced in 22 states. If these Bills become law, the American Civil Liberties Union is poised to challenge them in court.14
The sexual revolution which Lukács started in Hungary ended when Béla Kun’s regime collapsed. Having seen the effects of this policy first hand, Stalin sought to reign in the destructive forces it had unleashed, if only within the borders of Russia. Communist influence in the West, however, continued to undermine the Christian faith, the family and even the nation-state. Marxism today is no longer focused on class struggle. Instead, it seeks to “liberate” women, and ethnic and sexual minorities. CRT views the world only in terms of race, but, like feminism and “queer” theory, it can only be properly understood in the context of the wider strategy to demoralise what remains of Christian civilisation by destroying the innocence of children. While there is a political dimension to this battle, it cannot be won by political means alone. It is only the Catholic Church that has the power to overcome the errors of Russia that have spread across the world in the last 100 years.
- Anya Kamenetz, “Why education was a top voter priority this election” NPR 4 November 4, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/11/04/1052101647/education-parents-election-virginia-republicans
- Solange Reyner, “Father of Girl Allegedly Raped by ‘Gender-Fluid’ Boy: School, Law Said ‘Stay Quiet,’” Newsmax, 13 October 2021. https://www.newsmax.com/us/virginia-genderfluid-school/2021/10/13/id/1040387/
- Jordan Boyd, “Leftist School Boards Association Begs Biden To Use Domestic Terrorism Laws To Target Concerned Parents,” The Federalist, 30 September 2021. https://thefdrlst.wpengine.com/2021/09/30/leftist-school-boards-association-begs-biden-to-use-domestic-terrorism-laws-to-target-concerned-parents/
- Tristan Justice, “DOJ Whistleblower Documents Suggest Merrick Garland Lied About The Targeting Of Parents As Domestic Terrorists”, The Federalist, 16 November 2021. https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/16/doj-whistleblower-documents-suggest-merrick-garland-lied-about-the-targeting-of-parents-as-domestic-terrorists/
- Tyler O’Neil, “Jim Jordan seeks subpoenas in DOJ memo based on letter comparing parents to domestic terrorists” Fox News, 2 December 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/jim-jordan-seeks-subpoenas-doj-memo-letter-parents-domestic-terrorists
- Houston Keene, “41 Republicans demand Miguel Cardona resign over links to NSBA letter that targeted protesting parents”, Fox News, 14 January 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/41-republicans-demand-cardona-resign-links-nsba-letter-protesting-parents
- James Bohman, “Critical Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N Zalta (ed), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2021/entries/critical-theory/
- Linda Kimball, “Cultural Marxism,” American Thinker, 15 February 2007. https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2007/02/cultural_marxism.html
- Victor Zitta, Georg Lukacs’ Marxism, Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution: A Study in Utopia and Ideology, (1964, Springer Science+BHSiness Media) p 106.
- See for example, The Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted by telephone Oct. 20-26, 2021. https://context-cdn.washingtonpost.com/notes/prod/default/documents/cb029d2c-c96f-46c1-b933-aa1194961e21/note/8727bdb0-a42b-4e93-a3dd-54667c82c4ce.#page=1
- Ian Schwartz, “VA Gov. Candidate McAuliffe: “I Don’t Think Parents Should Be Telling Schools What They Should Teach” RealClear Politics, 28 September 2021. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2021/09/28/va_gov_ candidate_ mcauliffe_i_dont_think_parents_should_be_telling_schools_what_they_should_teach.html
- David P Deavel,“Virginia Bishops Take a Good First Step Against McAuliffe’s Anti-Catholic Agenda,” AMAC Newsline, 1 August 2021. https://amac.us/virginia-bishops-take-a-good-first-step-against-mcauliffes-anti-catholic-agenda/
- Megan Brenan, “One in Four Americans Consider Abortion a Key Voting Issue”, Gallup, 7 July 2021. https://news.gallup.com/poll/313316/one-four-americans-consider-abortion-key-voting-issue.aspx
- Julia Carrie Wong, “The ACLU on fighting critical race theory bans: ‘It’s about our country reckoning with racism’”, The Guardian, 1 July 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/01/aclu-fights-state-bans-teaching-critical-race-theory