Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate: Parents Should Not Tell Schools What to Teach

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Terry McAuliffe, running for a second, non-consecutive term for the governor of Virginia, let it be known that he thinks parents should have no say in their children’s education, during a recent gubernatorial debate.

According to McAuliffe, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision. … I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Without missing a beat, McAuliffe’s opponent, Glenn Youngkin, countered with, “You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”

Apparently, McAuliffe, who served as governor of the Commonwealth from 2014 to 2018, is unfamiliar with the law in his own state.

Per the Code of Virginia § 1-240.1. Rights of parents, “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

McAuliffe’s comment, however, is symbolic of the tense divide that is occurring in school districts throughout the nation.

The crux of the matter is simple: Should parents or government bureaucrats determine (for the most part) how and more importantly, what, America’s children learn in public schools.

As a former public school teacher, I strongly believe parents, not unelected public school administrators, should have a strong voice in the education of their own children.

Parents have a vested interest in the long-term educational prospects of their children. Bureaucrats, on the other hand, have little skin in the game.

Although I think it is fair to say that most public education officials have the best interests of students at hand, they are also coming under increased political pressure to override the desires of parents.

We have seen this play out in Virginia. In Loudon County, for example, two parents were arrested at a school board meeting over the summer because of their vociferous opposition to critical race theory (CRT) being taught in Virginia’s public schools.

CRT, which focuses heavily on Marxist themes of oppressed v. oppressors, is being pushed in schools throughout America, much to the chagrin of parents.

But, the good news is, despite McAuliffe’s stance that parents should stay silent, they are not.

For instance, in December 2020, Gabrielle Clark filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son William, after “the Sociology of Change teaching in his civic classes required him to publicly reveal his race, gender, religious, and sexual identities, and then attach derogatory labels such as ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressor’ to those identities. Students were then asked to ‘undo’ and ‘unlearn’ their ‘beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that stem from oppression.’ William and his mother objected, and he was punished with a failing grade and his graduation was at risk.”

Fortunately, Clark’s lawsuit is just one of many filed by parents in opposition to CRT. Yet, lawsuits are just one method parents are taking in order to increase their voice in their children’s education experience.

Many have called the summer of 2021 the Great Parent Revolt because millions of concerned parents finally became aware of what their children are learning, and not learning.

Much of this parental awakening can be attributed to the public school shutdowns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so many public schools refused to offer in-person learning, many parents got a long-overdue inside look at what is happening in classrooms.

Without a doubt, the public schools’ anti-science shutdowns coupled with the ever-increasing radical rhetoric promulgated by teachers and bureaucrats, led to parents’ dismay with their lack of input in their children’s futures.

Ironically, McAuliffe’s cringe-worthy comment during the Virginia gubernatorial debate could serve as a call for action, if more is needed, enlisting more parents to become more involved with their children’s education.

After all, that is the letter of the law in the Commonwealth.

Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is a former public school teacher and senior editor at The Heartland Institute.