Lamenting Leftism

Conservatives, Stop Abandoning the Institutions

school yard with basketball court on overcast day

The Washington Times recently reported on the radicalization of government schools at the hands of teachers unions, chiefly led by the efforts of Randi Weingarten. As the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten wields tremendous power over the nation’s public schools.

The debate rages on: are teachers unions irreparably damaging the education received by our young people? Oakland school board member Shanthi Gonzales, a former labor organizer, recently resigned. On the way out, she blamed teachers unions for causing schools and students to fail.

“There is vigorous dissent, which is critical to democracy, and then there is trying to silence debate through intimidation and harassment, which is poisonous to democracy. The union and its allies need to stop engaging in irresponsible rhetoric that has led to escalating, threatening behavior toward board members.”

Shanthi Gonzales, former Oakland school board member

Parents across the country are abandoning failing public schools in favor of private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling. Gonzales’ resignation is a symptom of a deeper underlying condition; when things go wrong, Conservatives abandon the institutions. This mass exodus is typical of the Right and needs to stop.

Radicalization of government-mandated schooling by the Left has been going on for years. It is only fairly recently that parents have truly risen to the challenge by engaging with their local school boards. When the entrenched institutions face diversity of opinion, these parents are met with alarming resistance, even being called domestic terrorists and subjected to scrutiny by the FBI.

Further placation to the ideals of the Left is revealing nefarious intent. Headlines abound with details of gay bars hosting drag shows with children in the audience. In some cases, schools are sanctioning these activities. Senator Scott Wiener from California called for “offering Drag Queen 101 as part of the K-12 curriculum. Attending Drag Queen Story Time will satisfy the requirement.”

Some have the courage to stand up against such radicalization. Others, like Gonzales, do not. It is not easy to turn the other cheek and continue the fight for what we believe is morally just. But abandoning the institutions is exactly why these circumstances are being forced upon us.

In the 1960s, a communist student activist Rudi Dutschke coined the slogan “the long march through the institutions,” a concept of working against established institutions by working within them. This subversive movement has served the Left well, as we see how transformative schools have become in recent decades. And the conversation is more polarized than ever.

Herbert Marcuse responded to Dutschke in the early 1970s. One passage is particularly frightening: “the fact that the radical Left has no equal access to the great chains of information and indoctrination is largely responsible for its isolation.”

If the Left of the 1970s was considered isolated, yet we see today how their abusive censorship and “misinformation” campaigns are effective at isolating the Right through mass media, it is worth questioning how this change happened. Yet we already know the answer. The long march through the institutions has resulted in this paradigm shift.

Radicalism has slowly made its way through the highest levels of education just as gangrene overtakes a limb. Just last month, a Harvard University student newspaper released a survey showing that only 6.4% of respondents identified themselves as Conservative-leaning. Look how much “progress” they have made in a little more than half a century. So much diversity of thought!

How can Conservatism reintroduce and restore diversity of thought within public schools and other institutions? First, stop abandoning the institutions by quitting. Resigning your post in protest for reasons of principles is only self-indulgent and does nothing to further the restoration.

Gonzales might be correct in blaming teachers unions for causing schools and students to fail. But Conservatives need to recognize the part they play in helping those same institutions fail when they just give up.

Give credit where credit is due: the Left’s persistence in their long march has been hugely successful. If it worked for them, can it work for us? After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We can just tell them it’s a compliment…

I urge my fellow Conservatives to get involved at every level of government, from school board to Congress and everything in between. It is a long march, but we must stay involved and we must not allow the Left to continue bullying us into submission. Have courage and quit being a quitter.

Patrick Brenner is the president of the Southwest Public Policy Institute, a limited-government research institute and free-market think tank dedicated to promoting and defending liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in the American Southwest.

3 replies »

  1. I love the ideology but there’s no way in hell I’m allowing my children into public schools. I started homeschooling over 10 years ago because the district in our area lost accreditation and it was the only viable option. Public schools receive funding by attendance numbers. If less children are in the system, less tax $ can be pumped into the system and then it will further crumble unless politicians actually listen and make the changes we demand. Voting with my dollar always means avoiding government institutions that failed my community in order to withhold funding until changes are made. I never quit public education, it failed me and millions of other families.


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