The stunning election of political novice Glenn Youngkin, which turned the deep blue state of Virginia decidedly purple, testifies to the power of one issue: the rights of parents to educate their own children. By late October, polls showed that voters considered education the most important issue in the race, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe impaled himself on his own tongue by saying, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” But while spin doctors may wish to write off Virginia as an anomalous outcome based on a verbal gaffe, the reality is that education has snowballed in importance for more than a year as parents try to make political elites hear and respond to their voices rather than the financial might of teachers unions.
The epicenter of this grassroots revolt against the public education establishment proved as unlikely as Youngkin’s victory itself. Loudoun County, Virginia, is the wealthiest county in the United States, with a median household income of $142,299, and only 3% of its citizens living in poverty. Nearly two-thirds of Loudoun County is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 61% of county residents over the age of 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree. The New York Times might describe it as a “sophisticated, vaccinated crowd.” And in 2020, Joe Biden carried Loudoun County by 26 points. With apologies to Jussie Smollett, this ain’t MAGA country. Nonetheless, in the last 10 months, the affluent D.C. suburb has become a microcosm of the battle raging at public school boards across the nation.
Following the death of George Floyd, Loudoun County Public Schools spent half a million dollars on racial consultants and subjected all employees to mandatory training in the “Equity in the Center” curriculum.
Then parents began to see and hear snippets of the curriculum that dovetailed with Critical Race Theory, a controversial, quasi-Marxist ideology that teaches that American institutions remain mired in “systemic racism,” which alone is responsible for all disparities between racial groups. One concerned parent told the school board, “My 6-year-old somberly came to me and asked me if she was born evil because she was a white person,” based on “something she learned in a history lesson at school.”
Rather than deal with the complaints outright, educators chose to gaslight parents about the contents of the school curriculum and attempt to infiltrate and thwart the opposition. “We’ve been saying for months that we don’t teach Critical Race Theory,” said interim superintendent Scott Zeigler in May. And as The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak reported last March:
A group of current and former teachers and others in Loudoun County, Virginia, compiled a lengthy list of parents suspected of disagreeing with school system actions, including its teaching of controversial racial concepts — with a stated purpose in part to “infiltrate,” use “hackers” to silence parents’ communications, and “expose these people publicly.” … [T]he county’s prosecutor, narrowly elected with the help of $845,000 in cash from George Soros, appears to be a member of the Facebook group.
The fact that the county’s elected officials chose to take an adversarial position toward them, instead of honoring their wishes, told parents they were in for a fight.
That fact became clearer as the debate over education turned from the controversial to the pornographic. As with other places around the country, Virginia’s parents learned that public school libraries contained hardcore depictions of sex and a blasé indifference toward (or understated approval of) homosexual pedophilia. As Rosiak reported at The Daily Wire in September, one Loudoun County mother read aloud from the books:
“I can’t wait to have your c*** in my mouth. I am going to give you the blowjob of your life, and then I want you inside me.”
“What if I told you I touched another guy’s d***? What if I told you I sucked it? I was ten years old, but it’s true. I sucked Doug Goble’s d***, the real estate guy, and he sucked mine too.”
Photos of the insides of the books showed illustrations so graphic that, if an adult gave them to a teenager, he could conceivably be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Rather than apologize, members of the school board interrupted her and then cut off her microphone. Pedophilia may have a platform in Loudoun County public schools, but parents don’t. Furthermore, McAuliffe boasted in a debate with Youngkin that he vetoed two bills that would have required schools to notify parents if their children would be subjected to sexually explicit material.
The attempt to blame the victims reached its apogee as the National School Boards Association contacted the Biden administration’s Justice Department and asked the federal government to investigate parents who allegedly made “threats” to parents. Among the most widely circulated images was an agitated father named Scott Smith being arrested at a June 22 school board meeting. The legacy media presented Smith as a hotheaded perpetrator and would-be abuser of public officials. The reality turned that depiction on its head. As Rosiak reported at The Daily Wire:
What people did not know is that weeks prior on May 28, Smith says, a boy allegedly wearing a skirt entered a girls’ bathroom at nearby Stone Bridge High School, where he sexually assaulted Smith’s ninth-grade daughter.
Juvenile records are sealed, but Smith’s attorney Elizabeth Lancaster told The Daily Wire that a boy was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy – one count of anal sodomy and one count of forcible fellatio – related to an incident that day at that school.
Although Zeigler had been informed of the incident — for which the “gender-fluid” perpetrator was subsequently convicted — he told the public that he did not have “any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.” (He later apologized for the “misleading” report.) At the time, the school board was preparing a controversial “bathroom” policy allowing males to use the restrooms that they feel correspond to their gender identity. The boy, meanwhile, went to another school, where he allegedly victimized another student.
As the campaign pulled into its last month, McAuliffe led Youngkin by 2.5 points, according to FiveThirtyEight.com; Youngkin would not take the lead until October 28. Still, Terry McAuliffe took not a backward step. His final campaign stop featured Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union.
Exit polls taken by The Washington Post on election day showed that voters ranked education as the second most important issue in the election — and Youngkin led McAuliffe by 11 points (55% to 44%). Voters ranked only the economy as more important (and Youngkin enjoyed an even bigger lead over McAuliffe on that issue).
The ultimate poll, the election, revealed the political power of the issue of public education in tangible ways. Last November, President Donald Trump barely won one of every three ballots cast in Loudoun County. On Tuesday, Glenn Youngkin won 44% of the county. Youngkin promised to listen to parents, the end CRT, to let moms and dads decide whether sexually explicit material is appropriate for their children, and to make public schools a genuinely safe space. Youngkin improved on Trump’s performance in every corner of the state, and what appeared to be an easy victory last year turned into a shocking political upset.
Yet it would appear that the Democrats have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the off-year election. Their denial has persisted even after Youngkin’s underdog victory. Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison insisted that Virginia’s schools do not teach CRT, which amounts to nothing more than “a racist dog whistle.” Likewise, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace warned her fellow panelists that “the real ominous thing is that Critical Race Theory, which isn’t real, turned the suburbs 15 points to the Trump-insurrection-endorsed Republican.” But as Fox News reported, “The phrase ‘Critical Race Theory’ appears on the state Department of Education website and reports have revealed that the Virginia Department of Education recommended a book called, ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom’ in March 2020 that told teachers they ‘must embrace theories such as critical race theory.”
Parents turned the 2021 Virginia governor’s race into a referendum on education — and on an arrogant political-educational complex’s refusal to cater to the desires of its employers, the parents of the Old Dominion. The more they learned about their children’s curricula, and their leaders’ indifference to their desires, the greater the backlash became.
If Republicans hope to take back the ground lost in 2020, they can begin by educating American parents about education.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.