In 2010 the Democratic Party was shockingly late to recognize the force the Tea Party would become in moving Republican politics to the radical right, leading to the emergence of Donald Trump. The country has paid a high price ever since.
Now the latest phony "grassroots" right-wing Republican group, with its comically misleading name-- Moms4Liberty--has emerged as the Tea Party of 2023. A better name would be Moms4Tyranny.
These Moms are not about expanding parental involvement in schools. They are certainly not interested in improving public schools. Rather, Moms wants the curriculum to reflect the MAGA white supremacist view of American history. It wants school libraries sanitized to exclude books that present a complex view of the American experience and of issues such as race, gender, and religion.
It is another front in the culture wars that have poisoned American politics. The Moms are foot soldiers in the Republican Party's desperate effort to retain power by any means necessary, rather than actually advance useful policies and solve problems.
For the Moms, the enemy is non-partisan school boards made up of elected officials who actually care about education. The Moms are putting party labels on candidates and working to elect utterly unqualified Republican party hacks who will intimidate school superintendents, teachers, and librarians.
They want to dictate a curriculum that will drag students back to the 1950s. Their goal is to force-feed students a whitewashed picture of the American experience that distorts issues of race and gender, and that downplays the importance of the civil rights and feminist movements.
The school boards in Charleston and Berkeley counties have already felt the effects, and Dorchester could be next.
Proof of the Moms' connection to the Republican conservative establishment is the announcement last month of the formation of a new group: Carolinas Academic Leadership Network (CALN). This is the child of the libertarian John Locke Foundation in Raleigh and the Palmetto Promise Institute in Columbia.
The latter was founded by Ellen Weaver, the champion of school voucher programs. (Weaver is now South Carolina's controversial State Superintendent of Education. She qualified for the ballot by earning a master's degree of dubious value in record time from Bob Jones University. She was not legally qualified to be on the ballot, but that's how this crowd plays the game.)
The mission of CALN is to train new and veteran school board members in this battle for control. It will indoctrinate board members in matters far beyond budgetary oversight and the selection of the superintendent. CALN promises to offer training in "crisis communications and parliamentary procedure, media expertise, and legal resources." (Crisis communications will come in handy, given that the new MAGA board members in Berkeley County are already running into rough waters.)
CALN and Moms want board members to get directly involved in curriculum decisions and the selection of books and instructional materials. Under the guise of improving "transparency" in the classroom, they want teachers to devote inordinate amounts of time to posting lesson plans and assignments, which will only serve to make easier the harassment of dedicated teachers.
CALN is planning some sort of "back-to-school" event on September 14. DCDP members and those who care about a quality public school education should start monitoring their activities on the CALN website.
Many groups, fortunately, are opposing Moms. One is Defense of Democracy, founded in 2022 in Upstate New York. This group is working to elect school board candidates who believe in a nonpartisan, inclusive public school system devoted to "protecting marginalized communities from oppression."
The educational philosophy of Defense of Democracy is best summarized in its views on school libraries and the classroom experience. These views could not be further from Moms: Our group believes that giving children access to literature is a major part of the learning experience and one of the most important ways to enhance critical thinking skills. We support our educators who are trained to make decisions regarding which books would be appropriate on their shelves.
We do not take stands regarding what is taught in individual classrooms. Our group believes that exposing children to new ideas is a major part of the learning experience. We support educators who are trained to enhance our children's critical thinking skills by sharing a variety of age-appropriate information. Information about the human experience, including gender identity, different religious beliefs, and accurate historical facts should be a part of all levels of education.
At present Defense of Democracy does not have an organized chapter in South Carolina. That could change as Moms enrage more and more parents. Dismissing the Tea Party as a fringe, unfunded group was clearly a mistake. If we ignore the Moms4Tyranny agenda, we will witness a takeover of public education, just as Republicans successfully defined the limits of women's reproductive freedom and the Second Amendment. CALN is a handmaiden to this effort.
The DCDP is looking for courageous school board candidates. Who is willing to step up against Moms4Tyranny? Let us know. We can't be late to this Tea Party.