“Moral Panics Over What Goes On In Schools”—NPR’s Weird War on Parents

It’s a given that liberal media organs such as National Public Radio and The New York Times regard anything that is not woke as fueled by hatred and fear. It is worth examining the language the left employs against the non-woke, particularly when it comes to parents and public education.

Today’s example of this endemic problem of taxpayer-subsidized smearing comes from an interview aired April 28, 2022 on the public radio program, Fresh Air.

The transcript is worth reading because it captures perfectly the casual bigotry of the long-time host of the program, Terry Gross, towards non-progressives (not just conservatives, mind you, but any parent who does not want his or her child indoctrinated into wokeness).

The interview has the added bonus of being with a New York Times reporter, so we get to see how NPR and the NYT create a cozy little woke world in which parents who want to know what is happening to their children in public schools are painted as pushy philistines at best and reactionary monsters at worst.

Let’s start with the title of the interview:

How social-emotional learning became a target for Ron DeSantis and conservatives

Note the word “target” in close proximity to the name of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. It is a common tactic of progressives to use militaristic imagery in discussions of conservatives generally. In the halls of the left, Governor DeSantis is not a father of young children concerned about children are being exposed at an early age to sexually-loaded classroom material. He is “targeting” children and teachers.

One would just note that one of the bills DeSantis signed, says:

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Nonetheless, we are told that the diabolical DeSantis is “targeting” little children.

Let us examine a term that comes up in the interview itself. The interviewee, Dana Goldstein, a national correspondent for The New York Times, envelopes herself with the usual air of authority assumed by many a journalist by saying she has written a book on the topic under discussion. Case for expertise made and closed. She says:

I'm the author of a history book about fights and debates about education since the 19th century till today. And one of the themes I draw out in my book is that there are always these moral panics over what goes on in schools, and we are definitely in a moment like that right now.

As in the use of the word “targeting” which conjures up images of snipers and masked gunmen and is often used by progressives when discussing Republican lawmakers, the term “moral panic” is used to discredit anyone who has the audacity to stand up to the woke juggernaut. Don’t want your five-year-old to be told without your knowledge that there are many genders, not just two? Then you are an irrational ignoramus. This is typical of NPR and the NYT—the hauteur, the use of academese to tar one’s opponents as boobs, the claim of authority.

Let’s now examine what policies are causing so much alarm in the ranks of the progressive media establishment.

Goldstein seems appalled by the idea of parents and other taxpayers being empowered to exercise some oversight of what is happening in public schools. She tells of teachers:

being put under an enormous amount of community and public scrutiny because of different lessons that they've presented

Parents and other members of the public being allowed to learn what is happening in public schools that they are paying for? One is aghast!! Public scrutiny—is that sort of thing allowed in our woke America?

It is revealing that Goldstein seems to regard responsible, caring parenting as an unwarranted intrusion into the heretofore happily unaccountable precincts of public health provision in public schools. She says of one of the Florida bills that:

it requires schools to do this new bureaucratic thing, which is to create a list of all of the mental health or physical health services that are available on campus and provide that to parents and let them opt out of any element of it

Hmm, one would think that if one’s son is being secretly told by public schools officials that it is okay to dress like a girl a parent might want to be informed about that. Likewise, if one’s daughter is being told that abortion is just another form of birth control a parent might want to be informed about that. Parents’ rights, apparently, are some “new bureaucratic thing.” And again, NPR is funded by your tax dollars--you awful, meddling parents.

The most shocking passages in the interview are these:

And it also requires schools to immediately notify parents if students come to them for mental or physical health services. Again, it's very broadly and vaguely written, so we can get into what this might mean. The intention of those that wrote the bill would be to allow parents to object to schools affirming children's gender identities. So, for example, if a child who is assigned female at birth goes to a counsellor and says, you know, I'm not sure I want to use she/her pronouns anymore, I want to maybe dress a little bit differently, the national standards of the counselling profession in the United States is to affirm that these are normal questions to have for that child. And if the child would prefer different pronouns, to use different pronouns and to explore, you know, having the child dress in a way that feels right to that child.

Now, what those that wrote this bill would like to see happen is that immediately upon a kid raising any issue like this, parents would be immediately brought into the discussion, and it would be parents who would be allowed to drive what the response would be. So if mom or dad feel that, no, the message here is you're a girl, you're born a girl, you will always be our girl, and we are not affirming this questioning for you, that that would be what the counselor would do and what the school would do. That is the intention here. But there is nothing in the bill limiting this parental control over counseling to gender issues. And I think that's really important to point out.

A child who goes to a counselor to talk about abuse in the home and to talk about a parental divorce, to talk about substance abuse issues, they would also be subjected to this sort of immediately going to the parents. The only carve-out here would be if the school suspected that the child would be subjected to abuse by bringing the parents into the discussion. But schools do not always know if a child is in an extreme situation like that. So this is a sort of broad bill that would take away counselors, educators, teachers, professional discretion in terms of when to bring families into the conversation about anything difficult that a child would approach them to talk about.

It is just astonishing that the brave legislators of Florida had to spell out in the law that parents need to be informed about the pronouns used in reference to their child at school and that counselors should not possess “professional discretion” “to explore, you know, having the child dress in a way that feels right to that child.”

Goldstein also uses the word “popular” as if everyone loves denigrating his or her own heritage. She is also keen on nouveau segregation:

Diversity trainings, which are popular in corporate workplaces and also popular at many schools, would not be allowed here. You know, groups where, for example, employees or students may be split into groups by their own race or ethnicity to discuss issues of race would be one that would probably be targeted here.

Getting back to the issue of the rhetoric that progressive media outlets use when characterizing conservatives, Goldstein says:

Chris Rufo said to me about social-emotional learning because I think it will show the way in which he has sort of very purposefully exploded this into a very politically charged and alarming place

I see. A highly effective champion of parents’ rights and free speech is a self-promoting danger to the woke status quo. I thought the left liked action-oriented intellectuals. And she implies that parents concerned about what their children are being taught in school are all homophobic bigots, misogynists and so on.

Like many on the left, Goldstein doesn’t seem to like our entire system of government (as in federalism) and sighs over the fact that we are not Japan or Sweden:

I mean, I think in other countries - I don't specifically know the answer to whether they have national textbooks, but they certainly do have national standards of what should be taught in classrooms. And so you don't see these sort of extremely localized and state-level supercharged debates that we have here.

It’s just awful that citizens at the local level have any say in what their children are being taught.

When Goldstein talks, she seems blissfully unaware of the fact that teacher unions and school officials who insisted for countless months that schools remain closed against the wishes of many parents share a good deal of the blame for the learning deficits that she bemoans. She also does not seem to realize that it was only because of the encounter with school materials as parents struggled to educate their kids during the pandemic that these parents became aware of the woke indoctrination that their children had been subjected to and which these parents in a grassroots uprising are now opposing in droves:

School systems that are really dealing with just an outpouring of angry parents demanding – you know, a focus on LGBTQ issues right now or on critical race theory are putting energy that they could spend helping kids recover from the pandemic into diffusing these other fights

In the world of NPR and the NYT, non-woke parents are to blame for everything and are distracting from what it is truly important—like trying to blame parents for the damage wrought by school closures many of them fiercely opposed:

With these current, very sometimes nasty fights over these culture war issues in schools, I do think that many teachers are experiencing this as an important distraction as to what is really on their minds, which is a recovery from the pandemic.

Um, parents do want their kids to learn how to read and do math. It is the transgender agenda of the left that is preventing schools from focusing on those basics. That is partially what the “culture war” is about.

Oh, Goldstein also wants to smear parents by comparing them to redbaiters (never mind the fact that communism was not a good thing and that there were plenty of communists in American unions until they were driven out):

I see that, you know, people talk about critical race theory today as communism or Marxism, and it reminds me of, you know, the efforts in the, you know, 1950s and during World War I to root out, quote-unquote, "red" influence in the school system.

At least she doesn’t call parents “domestic terrorists” the way the Biden administration did.

It is fascinating how dismayed Gross and Goldstein are by the very notion of a parent wanting to know what her child is being taught and to have some legal recourse if her child is being counseled in secret in ways that are damaging to the child morally or even, down the road physically (as in being pointed toward mutilating gender “affirming”—which is a weird euphemism for altering or obliterating—surgery or hormone treatments). Scary stuff and presented all so soothingly in classic NPR fashion.

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