The Public Schools’ Crisis of Legitimacy

by James A. Bacon

Virginia public schools are facing a crisis in legitimacy. Never in recent history have parents been so up in arms. This morning I published three columns submitted by readers, all on the subject of the dismaying disconnect between educators and parents in K-12 schools. I did not solicit them. Readers sent them in. The educational melt-down is not just on my mind, it’s on their minds.

The column by Arthur Purves below sums it up well. It’s one thing to soak taxpayers to support public schools. It’s another thing to tax them for inadequate student achievement. It’s another thing yet again to increase taxes on middle- class families to indoctrinate their children with antithetical values.

Not all school districts are equally contemptuous of middle-class values. Schools in Northern Virginia and Virginia’s other major metros are the worst. But they are cheered on by a state educational apparatus in Richmond that seems intent upon using schools to implement a social revolution that portrays “whiteness” as a form of oppression and promotes offensive sexual values.
People can put up with a lot when taxes are the only issue at stake. But they don’t like to see the education system transformed into indoctrination camps with the mission of advancing “social justice” rather than preparing children for the world of work and civil society. And they really don’t like to see their values spit upon.

Reform seems hopeless. Virginia’s teacher colleges are increasingly dedicated to churning out social warriors, not teachers. Charter schools are probably infected by the same madness, and there are too few of them anyway. Only a fraction of the population can afford private school, and relatively few can can afford to keep a parent at home to home-school.

Where else does one turn? To politics. I haven’t seen this level of middle-class outrage since the Tea Party. I’ll be astonished if there isn’t an electoral upheaval this fall.

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31 responses to “The Public Schools’ Crisis of Legitimacy”

  1. Wahoo'74 Avatar

    Thank you, Jim. The indoctrination of our youth and the depth of academia’s complicity is undeniable. American exceptionalism used to be a given. Now it is decried as racist, an opinion considered emblematic of white supremacy and privilege.

    It began with then President Obama’s dismissive response when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism: “Sure, but so does every country.”

    There has to be a tidal wave of Americans who believe in “traditional” American values voting in 2022 and 2024. The barbarians are past the gates into the castle. They have to be driven out.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    “Never in recent history have parents been so up in arms.” “Gee, Jim, talk about hyperbole. You have three right wing parents complaining about what they consider to be wrong in schools. This is supposed to turn the election. Mr. Brinkman runs a right wing media consulting firm. Open Secrets shows that one of his clients is a PAC called “Stop Socialism.” He says that the upraised fist is a communist symbol. Really? Has he ever been to a communist country before? I am glad my children are past school age. I would not want these three hard right types deciding their reading lists. As for you, you should stop your isleading statements. Running a piece from a hard right flak isn’t all that significant.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      He’s thinking of theses guys and red baiting, as usual.,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr.jpg

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Just do like York PA’s all-white school board, and ban all books by and/or about blacks.

    1. tmtfairfax Avatar

      Worthy of the editorial page of the Washington Post.

      1. I’m pretty sure the two of you are referring to two different school districts. One is Central York, the other City of York.

        I just did a bit of looking and it appears the area in and around York, PA has several school districts. Some might say they have a lot of school districts. One source says there are 16 school districts in the vicinity of York, Pennsylvania, but when I looked at their list, several duplicate names appeared, and it looked like they were counting some individual schools as “districts”.

        Another source names nine individual districts. The ones with “York” in the name are: City of York, Northeast York, Central York, West York, and York Suburban.

        Apparently, you can’t swing a dead cat in York, PA without hitting a school district headquarters.

        All this leads me to think that “school district” in PA may not mean exactly the same things as it does in VA – just speculation, of course, I’ve not looked beyond the surface.

  4. Haig Ferguson Avatar
    Haig Ferguson

    I am amazed that folks running for leadership positions are silent on this subject.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    What’s that they say about counting chickens?

    “Parents angry about school closures and mask mandates have made their voices heard across the state in recent months, but a survey by the University of Mary Washington shows they are in the minority.

    Sixty-one percent of survey respondents gave their school district’s COVID-19 policies an A, B or C rating—where A is excellent and C is adequate—while just 11 percent said their schools deserved an F.

    For weeks we have been seeing and reading in the news about parents angrily protesting local COVID policies,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW and director of UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “This survey demonstrates that those loud voices are very unrepresentative ones.”

    None the less another survey by MWC shows Youngkin ahead –

    Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin remain locked in a tight contest for governor of Virginia, a University of Mary Washington statewide survey shows. The poll, conducted by Research America Inc. Sept. 7-13, included 1,000 Virginia adults. Of those, 885 were registered voters and 528 were likely voters.

    Among likely voters, 48 percent favored Youngkin and 43 percent backed McAuliffe.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Oh, I think the issues raised by this series of columns (and I do not agree with all they are writing) are way beyond masks. And a survey of the general public is not a survey of parents. Find and call 1,000 parents and give that a test, too. Might get the same result, might not. But this is about the curriculum and tone, not the masks, which will pass soon enough.

      When we start attacking Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and books as important as the The Kite Runner and The Book Thief, I’m stepping off this train, at least with regard to making them available to older children. Some of these folks want these books banned in colleges or unavailable for anyone. As some do for Mark Twain. Here there be dragons….(Imagine a health class curriculum which would satisfy the rabid anti-vaxxer Hommer!)

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Don’t you think it’s basically the SAME folks, most of who have a long history of opposition to public schools and “books”?

        You sort say this yourself: ”
        Some of these folks want these books banned in colleges or unavailable for anyone.”

        The book banners have been running around for decades… and if someone actually had a real and legitimate complaint and wanted it truly addressed – would they first contact the library and school system to make their complaint, or would they just take it in front of a group of anti-maskers and anti-CRTers already massed at the School Board?

        I think these are some of the SAME “anti” folks who have been there all along but ultimately elections will tell the tale.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          You can try to conflate for our own purposes. I won’t help you. That’s all gibberish. Hey, I know Purves and I know his ultimate goal is to return overt religious instruction (along with phonics.) But he was writing on money here, and the poor test performance, and his points there are perfectly valid and have been raised by John Butcher and others previously.

          The fair question is, haven’t many of these trends flourished no matter who was in power in Richmond? Do voters believe the GOP candidates, for example, will change the trajectory? On some things, maybe. But freaking out about sex scenes in books read by teenagers already obsessed by their hormones won’t move the ball toward quality. The actual graphic art of guys giving each other blowjobs? Those teachers should be flogged.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I think the man means Whole Language but there is also some ignorance here on his part because phonics IS used extensively and has been for years – here’s VDOE:

            “Regardless of the intervention selected, experts agree that repeated and meaningful practice with the foundational components of reading, (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) comprise the bulk of activities aimed at strengthening the reading ability of students who demonstrate weakness. Families and educators alike will find resources such as the PALS Activities External Link to be an integral part of providing vital foundational reading practice.”


            The basic problem with him and the other John Butcher types is they have no real answers other than to advocate for taxpayer-funded private schools NOT held to the same standards.

            In fact, they often say they want “local” control and not a word about academic standards and accountability or how we would insure the non-public school approach would actually fix the issue.

            I’ve said before many times, I’d support taxpayer money for non-public schools IF:

            1 – these schools really are for the economically-disadvantaged kids and not just generic private schools for all – and they are located where those kids live – or provide them transportation.

            2. – That they be held to the same standards that public schools are.

            3. – The non-public school results are provided every year the same way public schools results are reported.

          2. Actually, he means Whole Word. It’s what “Educators” moved to after Whole Language was discredited, instead of simply returning to using phonics.

            Correction: It appears Whole Word and Whole Language are pretty much the same thing, with Whole Word being used in more recent years.

            They are both related to the “cueing theory” teaching method, which is now in the process of failing its second or third generation of young students.

          3. If you look at the VDOE link, it’s advocating phonics for intervention, not in the regular classroom. It needs to be in the regular classroom.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            but isn’t this the cohort that is the issue with reading and writing?

            And I’m not convinced about the regular classroom either – the teachers I know say that whole language is not really being used and the instruction is very much phonics-based.

            VDOE seems to think phonics.



          5. Fairfax and Arlington Counties use “Balanced Literacy”, which is whole word with a smattering of phonics so they can tell parents they’re teaching phonics. It’s not phonics based. Loudoun’s home page for reading instruction had all the right words about phonics, but that doesn’t prove they’re using it in the classroom. What school district do the teachers you know work for?

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            Stafford, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania and some others.

            checked again this morning and whole language as a concept was discarded some time ago.

            Ask Steve, his wife is in education also.

            Besides that PALS is actually designed FOR the economically disadvantaged cohort you reference.

          7. Here’s Stafford County 1st grade curriculum: They’re still using whole word with a smattering of phonics so they can say that they’re teaching phonics. It’s often called “Balanced Literacy” These are the whole word elemnts they’re using:
            ● Use context clues (e.g. pictures, surrounding text)
            to determine the meaning of unknown words
            ● Set a purpose for reading and make predictions
            using background knowledge as a context for new
            ● Identify and use text features (e.g. pictures, titles,
            headings, charts, and captions) to make and
            confirm predictions

          8. Just to be precise, I do not favor “religious instruction” in public schools. I do favor being able to start the day with the Lord’s Prayer and having the Bible on the teacher’s desk, just as it was when I attended DC public schools in the early 50s, and posting the Ten Commandments. The Supreme Court decisions banning those things in public schools were unconstitutional. To quote George Washington’s Farewell Address: “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

          9. LarrytheG Avatar

            There you have it Steve….

      2. When we start attacking Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and books as important as the The Kite Runner and The Book Thief, I’m stepping off this train, at least with regard to making them available to older children.

        And I’ll be right there with you. “Older children” being the key phrase. I do not think these books are appropriate for use in the curricula used to teach middle-school (and younger) children. I would not put them in Middle School libraries either, although I’d be unlikely to try to fire a school board if they did as long as the books stayed off any required reading list.

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    That is the beauty of our system. Don’t like the way the schools are being run? Elect different supervisors/council members and school board members.

    1. tmtfairfax Avatar

      I don’t like the idea of recall elections absent some illegal or extremely outrageous conduct by an incumbent. The remedy is, as you say, toss the bastards out in the next election.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        And if you don’t have the votes to do that, then show up at the board meetings behaving like cretins and idiots who verbally and physically intimidate.

        1. sallie daiger Avatar
          sallie daiger

          “behaving like Cretins and idiots” Ae you talking about Jim Bacon or the Black Lives matter idiots who physically attacked others, broke windows burned buildings and showed their ignorance of everything whenever they opened their mouths. And exactly w hat is your educational background?. You piggy back on this site constantly. Why not start your own if you are so brilliant.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I don’t defend the BLM stuff either but that is still not the same as showing up at a board meeting and verbally and physically intimidated elected officials.

            That’s a level up in my view.

            Not sure what you mean by “piggy back”.

            If someone comments on a blog – that’s “piggy back”?

            or maybe explain?

          2. … because yelling at elected officials is a lot worse than assaulting a a person on the street or burning down someone’s small business.

            Your obsequious kowtowing to those in power is disgusting.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      You have to wait until 2023 to do that. That will be the big election year for most local governments. Will the rage last that long?

    3. The problem with “the system” is that Republicans don’t offer an alternative, i.e,. they’re silent on phonics and arithmetic drill, the teaching approaches that worked for 100 years before John Dewey introduced “progressive education.” But if you had school choice, parents could vote with their feet, a much better system than politicized school boards.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        John Dewey was long dead when I hit elementary, where I strongly recall phonics and math drills. 🙂 Sight reading/whole language spread later. At times in her own elementary school teaching years, my wife just left those junk textbooks in the closet and taught kids with the methods which worked. (And shockingly, for some phonics is not the best method! It can be pretty individual, which is the challenge.)

        1. “Progressive ed”, i.e., whole word, no math drill, social studies instead of history, and secularism, did not spread uniformly, in part because of teachers like your wife. However, I lived it. Dewey died in 1951. In 1955 my first grade teacher gave us the whole word Dick and Jane textbooks. I did not learn multiplication tables until I had an old-school 6th grade teacher who drilled us in class. I remember her saying that memorizing the multiplication tables would “change your life.” She was right. My late wife, who was 7 years older than I said she had Dick and Jane texts in New York state.

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