There’s a grain of truth to what he says but he’s way, waaaaay too glib about the legitimate grievances parents have regarding public education during the pandemic.
And this isn’t a good week for Democrats to be glib about parents and schools. Not after Terry McAuliffe hand-waved away their concerns onstage a few nights ago in Virginia.
A reporter for Business Insider rode along with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during a trip to Indiana recently and asked him why some school-board meetings this year have gotten so ridiculously heated, occasionally devolving into violent threats or actual violence. Cardona had a theory:
Asked about riotous school-board meetings with citizens criticizing mask and vaccine mandates and asking questions about critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, Cardona offered a candid response.
“I think it’s a proxy for being mad that their guy didn’t win,” Cardona told me…
He conceded that it wasn’t entirely different from what happened in 2010 amid the birth of the tea party with the Obama administration’s support for Common Core, a set of widely embraced K-12 education standards in math and language arts that tea partiers assailed at similar local meetings…
“It looks like education is becoming, in some places, a battleground for ideological differences,” Cardona said.
There’s a grain of truth in the fact that school-board meetings seem to have become vessels for wider political discontent, replacing the sort of mass demonstrations that the tea-party era saw. And there’s also a grain of truth in the fact that parents who oppose school COVID mandates and lessons in Critical Race Theory are doubtless more likely to be Trump voters. But we shouldn’t confuse cause and effect: They’re not against mandates and CRT because they’re Trump voters, they’re Trump voters because they’re against mandates and CRT. Cardona is demeaning them by reducing their concerns about haphazard quarantine policies, mask mandates supported by scant scientific evidence, domineering union influence, and a host of other problems with school administration during COVID to nothing more than axe-grinding by MAGA sore losers.
It may be true that disgruntled Trumpers are more likely to believe that the CDC’s six-foot rule for spacing out children in the classroom was stupid. But … it was stupid. It was based on zero scientific evidence yet persisted for months. The sky is blue even if a guy in a red MAGA hat says so.
Cardona testified before a Senate committee today and was asked by Republican Mike Braun if he wanted to retract his comment. He did not.
Ed. @SecCardona said that parents criticizing mask/vaccine mandates & Critical Race Theory is "a proxy for being mad that their guy didn't win."
I asked him if he wants to retract that statement insulting parents who are concerned for their children's well-being and education. pic.twitter.com/olq4Jrr3BX
— Senator Mike Braun (@SenatorBraun) September 30, 2021
Braun also asked him if he agreed that parents are the primary stakeholders in their children’s education, the crux of the point McAuliffe notoriously rejected earlier this week. Parents are important stakeholders, Cardona allowed. But he wouldn’t concede that they’re the primary stakeholders:
Biden's Education Secretary Cardona says parents should not be the "primary stakeholder" in their kids' education. pic.twitter.com/kZo2pr7Bds
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 30, 2021
Did Braun forget he was talking to a Democrat? Democrats believe teachers unions are the primary stakeholders in public education, silly.
Cardona’s not wrong to worry about school-board meetings turning ugly, though. Today a group representing thousands of board members from across the country sent a letter to Biden warning him that the risk of violence is growing:
In Mendon, Ill., this month, a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged with battery and disorderly conduct after striking a school board member at a meeting. Two school board meetings in Michigan were disrupted when a person yelled and gave a Nazi salute in protest of mask requirements, the group said.
Arguing that the actions could amount to “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the association asked for agencies including the F.B.I. to investigate whether the incidents violated counterterrorism or any other federal laws.
“These threats and acts of violence are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members — many who are not paid — to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms,” the group wrote…
The school boards association, which represents more than 90,000 school board members across 14,000 districts, said that threats had also been sent in the mail and via social media platforms. A letter mailed to a school board in Ohio, carrying the return address of a local neighborhood association, warned that “we are coming after you” for imposing a mask requirement “for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.”
It’s true that some school-board members have resigned to spare themselves from the insanity. The reason meetings have gotten so heated isn’t because of 2020 butthurt, though, it’s because they’re one of the few public outlets available to those who oppose pandemic restrictions to confront those who set the rules and voice their disagreement. (City council meetings are another.) Combine that with the fact that school boards set policy for people’s children and emotions are destined to run that much hotter. The meetings are pressure valves for 18 months’ worth of full-spectrum COVID frustration. It’s miraculous that they’re as peaceful as they are.