Culture war on education rages in Virginia governor’s race


McLEAN, Va., July 22 (Reuters) – Suparna Dutta, an Indian immigrant, is furious that new admission standards aimed at increasing the enrollment of blacks and Latinos at her son’s high school in Alexandria, Va., Have resulted in a decrease in the number of Asian Americans.

Across town, Marie Murphy, a white mother of an 8th grader, is alarmed by anti-racist talks at her son’s school, which she says make white children feel bad about themselves. about their race.

In Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election in November, the two women said they would vote for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, betting he will fight what they claim is a dangerous left-wing drift in the education system. state public. Classroom instruction on race has emerged as a flashpoint in the contest – and a potential harbinger of what’s in store for the 2022 national election to decide on congressional control.

“I don’t want my child to be taught that race is an issue,” Murphy said.

Women are at the heart of the Republican Party’s national strategy to win in the suburbs, where it has lost a lot of ground to Democrats in recent years. Heading into 2022, Republicans have been testing various messages. Pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-transsexual boards aren’t big draws for suburban voters. Republican criticism either of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines.

But public schools are a huge deal for suburban parents, many of whom have moved to quality school districts to give their kids a boost. Hoping to persuade these voters, Republicans across the country launched a campaign against the so-called Critical Race Theory, or CRT, an academic construct that emerged in the 1970s to examine how U.S. law and institutions perpetuated the racial inequalities.

Some Republican politicians and conservative groups have taken to the term to attack all manner of race-related academic rhetoric and policies, denouncing concepts such as “social justice” and “white privilege” as a Democrat-led effort to indoctrinate children to turn against their country. An Alabama lawmaker falsely claimed that the CRT called for white men to be sent to re-education camps.

In recent months, states like Oklahoma and Texas have passed laws restricting what can be taught in public schools about America’s troubled race relations legacy.

School districts in Virginia and elsewhere insist they do not teach CRT. They say critics misinterpret their efforts to teach America’s history of slavery and civil rights, celebrate diversity, train teachers, and promote better outcomes for students of color. Yet angry parents have organized school board meetings here and across the country to demand that the CRT be removed from the program.

For now, it remains unclear whether the Republicans’ strategy will succeed in winning back suburban and independent voters or whether it will simply appeal to the party’s conservative base.

But in Virginia, Youngkin is betting that controversy will propel his candidacy. The former private equity executive recently announced his education plan in suburban Loudoun County, whose school system has been rocked by some of the nation’s most vocal anti-CRT protests. He pledged to replace the state’s Board of Education and accused Democrats of lowering the state’s academic standards.

“We need to move forward with a program that teaches our children how to think, not what to think. We will not allow critical race theory in our schools, ”Youngkin said at a campaign event for female supporters last week in McLean, a wealthy Virginia suburb. The participants burst into applause.

Once a reliable Republican state, Virginia has slipped firmly into the Democratic column, led by suburban voters. Democrat Joe Biden beat outgoing Republican Donald Trump here by a 10-point margin in November.

Virginia’s gubernatorial race, which comes a year after the presidential election, has historically served as a barometer of public mood. It also gives an overview of the arguments Democrats and Republicans are likely to make in next year’s midterm election.

With the US economy recovering, Republican candidates could resort to a culture war, said Bob Holsworth, a longtime political analyst in Virginia. He said education concerns could resonate with suburban and Asian voters who left the party under Trump because of his flaming political style.

“If Democrats have an Achilles heel, maybe it is,” Holsworth said.

Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said Youngkin is emulating Trump with a campaign to spread misinformation and stoke grievances.

“What he does divides us,” McAuliffe told Reuters.

McAuliffe released an education plan that includes increasing teachers’ salaries and eliminating racial disparities in outcomes, among other things.

Youngkin spokesman Macauley Porter said McAuliffe “pokes fun at parents’ concerns instead of offering them solutions.”

McAuliffe, who served from 2014 to 2018 and is running for a second term, is favored by analysts to win the election. But a poll conducted by Trafalgar Group this month only gave it a 2-point lead, suggesting a close race.

Stressing the importance of running for Democrats, Biden is expected to campaign with McAuliffe on Friday – more than three months before Election Day.


Last week, some of the women who attended Youngkin’s campaign event at McLean named education as their biggest issue.

Claudia Stine, an immigrant from El Salvador whose children attended local public schools in Fairfax County, said the CRT was “dehumanizing” because it said it “defines people by the color of their skin and teaches children to blame and disrespect each other “.

While Virginia’s school systems have denied criticism that they teach CRT, heads of state have lobbied to promote racial equity in public education. In February, the Democratic-led general assembly passed a law requiring “cultural competence” to be part of teacher assessments.

Some parents approve. Theresa Kennedy, a Richmond mother of two who works in finance and supports McAuliffe, thinks schools should learn more about systemic racism in America.

“It’s hard to watch your kids struggle with stuff, but it’s also how they become full adults,” Kennedy said.

The issue spilled over from the governor’s race to other contests as part of what Republican officials say is their overall strategy for the mid-terms of Congress.

“House Democrats who embrace critical race theory do so at their peril and will have to answer for it in 2022,” said Samantha Bullock, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee of Congress, the party’s overseeing branch the United States House of Representatives. races. Last week, Republican Taylor Keeney entered the race against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents a district of Virginia outside of Richmond, considered a major battleground in the year’s election. next.

One of Keeney’s war cries: Schools should be ‘for education, not for indoctrination’.


Some doubt the CRT strand will help Republicans conquer the suburbs, as the controversy so far has mostly affected the party’s most ardent supporters. Whit Ayres, a seasoned Republican strategist in Virginia, predicts his greatest achievement may be to pitch the base in generally few and out-of-year elections.

But for Virginians like Dutta, class race is the only issue now guiding their votes.

Dutta said she built a career in tech after moving to the United States in 1993 to go to college with just a few hundred dollars in her pocket, and largely avoided politics. That changed after his son’s top-ranked school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, last year eliminated standardized admission tests and adopted a “holistic review” process that takes into account socio-economic factors as well as the cumulative grade point average.

The incoming class, announced in May, saw the proportion of Asian American students rise from 73% to 54%, with a corresponding increase in the number of black, Hispanic and white students.

Dutta argues that the changes lowered academic standards and constitute targeted discrimination against Asians. The Fairfax County school system denies this, saying admission remains race-neutral and there has been no impact on the school’s academic performance.

Dutta now chairs an education support group for Youngkin, tasked with finding like-minded parents. “Asians generally vote Democrats, but it won’t be this year,” she said.

Fairfax County alone is home to more than 200,000 Asian Americans, the largest number of any counties in Virginia. Asian Americans make up about 8% of the electorate statewide.

National, Asian-American and Pacific Island voters backed Biden against Trump by at least a 2-to-1 margin, pre-election polls and exit polls have shown.

Christine Chen, executive director of the nonprofit Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, said studies conducted by her organization have shown that a majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action policies for help disadvantaged minorities.

And after a wave of anti-Asian violence over the past year, Chen said they also likely recognize the value of integrating diverse perspectives in education, including the American-Asian experience. – exactly the kind of effort some Republicans have decried as CRT.

Reporting by James Oliphant in Arlington, Virginia; Gabriella Borter in McLean, Virginia; and Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey. Editing by Soyoung Kim, Colleen Jenkins and Marla Dickerson

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link


Leave A Reply