Thursday, October 7, 2021

OH: Protect Our Children From Everything

You may have seen the opt out form floating around education-related social media, and it appears to have come from a special group in Ohio. Meet the Protect Ohio Children Coalition, "putting daylight on the darkness of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)." Their mission is stated plainly on the site

Children have a legal right to an academic education that protects their innocence, free from comprehensive sexuality education and radical indoctrination. We will not tolerate the radicalization of children in our schools. We will equip and support individuals who are monitoring and evaluating school boards. We will assist in replacing radical school board officials through the election process.

I'm not familiar with the "protects innocence" clause in education law, but their point is still clear. Their goals are clear, too--drive this stuff out, and drive out anybody who supports it in any way. The front page of the site offers an easy link to their anonymous tip form--well, actually it's a "mailto" link, so you'll be sending them an email with your eddress on it, so not exactly anonymous. 

There's a map and list of districts with "confirmed" indoctrination going on. And a reminder that Ohio now gives parents the right to demand that schools and teachers drop everything to let parents examine almost all materials (I say almost because even though the Ohio law lets parents inspect every survey or questionnaire before its given, and every bit of instructional material, somehow--somehow--the Big Standardized Test escaped demands for transparency). 

There are tips on how to make public records requests, and an explanation of the "tsunami strategy," a method for swamping school board meetings and legislative hearings. 

There are also guides to each of the objectionable indoctrination things. The CRT page cites Hillsdale College and Trump's 1776 Report, and explains how BLM came from CRT and CRT came from Karl Marx, plau an anti-CRT article from Christopher Rufo, the OG of anti-CRT noisemaking. The CSE page reminds you that CSE includes strong components of pedophile grooming techniques. And the SEL page is mostly a reminder that this argument is not new (see also "values clarification" and the "soft skills" portion of Outcome Based Education). It's bad because it's an attempt to change students' beliefs and values--that's an old issue, rooted in the not-unreasonable fears that hit a parent when you realize you are entrusting your child to the care of someone who may or may not share your own values. They did manage to surprise me with their article linking SEL to "occult roots." 

And they have a link to the infamous opt-out form. The list of things the teacher may not expose a child to is long. There's a big list of "divisive concepts" and materials that the child must not be exposed to, from "revisionist history" to Edgenuity. No personal analysis or attempts to affect the "child's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings concerning: political affiliations; religious beliefs or practices; mental or psychological conditions; or illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating or demeaning behavior." That is a really, really broad net to cast. Also, no advertising groups that have anything to do with sexual orientation or gender identity, even if you try to sneak it through "under the guise of 'bullying.'"

The sex stuff opt-out form is separate, and includes everything from every group associated with LGBTQ+ that you've ever heard of. Also, no instruction about abortion, birth control, sexual activity of any kind, sexual orientation, or transgenderism, etc etc etc.

The form requests "alternative academic instruction" for the child, and that the form be put in the child's permanent file, and ends with the warning "Any instruction contrary to this notice will be the subject of further action to protect my child."

Who are the folks behind this? 

Top of the crew are Diane Stover (Program director) and her husband John. The Stovers have long been active in Ohio conservative circles, including Ohio Value Voters, another group they created and led. They've got a background in IT and real estate; plus, she's a Sunday School teacher and he's a Baptist deacon. The Stovers were also among the witnesses testifying in favor of Ohio's anti-teaching naughty stuff law; she urged the legislature "to protect children from the indoctrination of harmfulk ideology in our schools."

Other board members include Cathy Pulz, who headed up the Upper Arlington Education Coalition that, among other things, fought back against gender neutral bathrooms in school (she also testified in favor of the gag bill). Also, Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, a Christian pro-family organization. Mission America hosted a podcast about the dangers of CRT, with Johnathan Broadbent, another board member, as guest. The final member is Jen Burr, who testified in favor of open, maskless schools as a board member of Ohio Parents for Traditional Education (they have a Facebook page that has gone private). There are connections to the Tea Party, Citizens for Free Speech--the usual crew.

CRT continues to be a catch-all for every complaint about public education ever, while also trying to generate discontent with public education, the better to fuel new attempts to simply get rid of it and replace it with a good-luck-you're-on-your-own marketplace even as taxpayers send money to religious schools. From complaints about critical race theory (which came after complaints about closed schools and mask mandates) we've moved on to the old refrain against everything that schools might teach that some conservative christianists disapprove of. 

It would be a mistake for public education to take the stance that parents should shut up and sit down, but it would also be a mistake to let a small, vocal, albeit well-organized group intent on turning the clock back to a whitewashed version of 1955 decide what schools should do. The notion, as expressed by Mike Pompeo, that "parents should decide what their children are taught in school" is one more dismissal of educator expertise and a sure recipe for educational stagnation. I absolutely get the visceral fear of having your children grow up to be something foreign to your own beliefs and experience, but I don't get the notion that "don't let me children learn anything that I don't know myself" is a solution to anything. This is not freedom; this is a clumsy attempt to tie freedom up and gag it. Plus, I'll bet dollars to donuts that even as I type this, children are online googling items from the list of forbidden subjects. Good luck with that opt out thing.

1 comment:

  1. Protect my children from learning anything that makes white people look bad.

    White people are good, pure, innocent, and free from stain, no matter what they do or perpetuate onto others.

    That's what whiteness means.

    There! Got the whole list down to three sentences.