Talking Points

How Democrats can unequivocally lose the parent vote

There are good ways for Democrats to fight the wars over how to educate young students about racism, and there are bad ways. One of the worst ways? Telling families to butt out of the process.

In a new op-ed at NBC News, author and teacher Christina Wyman warns that parents are trying to assert too much control over what, and how, their kids are learning. "Part of the problem is that parents think they have the right to control teaching and learning because their children are the ones being educated," she writes. "But it actually (gasp!) doesn't work that way. It's sort of like entering a surgical unit thinking you can interfere with an operation simply because the patient is your child." Teaching is a science, Wyman explains, best done by licensed and certified educators — parents "aren't qualified to make decisions about curricula."

Wyman's message is a fine way to chase parents straight into the arms of the Republican Party.

Just ask Terry McAuliffe. There are plenty of reasons the Democrat lost this month's Virginia gubernatorial election, but he didn't help himself with his comments on wokeness and education in the state's schools. "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," he said during a September debate with GOP candidate (and eventual winner) Glenn Youngkin. It was all downhill from there. 

Understandably so. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that 81 percent of Americans believe parents should have some say in what their child learns and school — and nearly half say they should have "a lot" of influence. Politicians who follow McAuliffe's example or Wyman's argument simply aren't interested in winning elections.

That doesn't mean Democrats should surrender to the anti-Critical Race Theory crusaders. The poll also indicated that 70 percent of Americans believe that schools should teach students either a "good deal" or "great amount" about how the history of racism affects the country today. Most parents don't want to see Toni Morrison or Ruby Bridges banned from their local schools, either. If we're going to fight about what gets taught in schools, then let's fight about what gets taught in schools. Liberals and progressives can win that battle.

The job of a parent is to oversee and shape their child's upbringing — physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. That work doesn't end at the schoolhouse door. Democrats and teachers who argue that parents aren't qualified to have input on their children's education will lose at the ballot box. They probably should.