January 24, 2022

By Jonathan Butcher

For parents, pundits and policymakers looking for a reason to celebrate National School Choice Week 2022, here are two words: Privilege bingo.

In the Fairfax, Virginia school district last week, the Daily Wire reported parents sent to the district superintendent, Douglas A. Tyson, a screenshot of a virtual bingo card that teachers in their children’s school were using and asked for an explanation. The virtual card educators used in a classroom exercise contained spaces that read “Christian,” “Heterosexual,” “Military Kid,” “Male,” and, of course, “White.” If you get five in a row—bingo!—you lose because you are privileged.  

Americans recognize the prejudice inherent in such lessons and are rejecting these ideas around the country. A recent Rasmussen survey of a representative sample of registered voters found that 81 percent believe that K-12 teachers should instruct students that America was founded on the ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. Such ideals are the opposite of the manufactured notions of privilege and racial bias.

Parents who reject Critical Race Theory (CRT) should not have to stand idly by while assigned schools spread discrimination. Public and private school choice opportunities are nothing short of essential today so that families can choose how and where their children learn based on their beliefs and values. Families should not have to leave their most deeply held values on the sidewalk in front of the schoolhouse door.

The Fairfax district’s lesson is one of many racially discriminatory lessons rooted in the noxious ideas of “critical race theory,” a Marxist worldview that considers everything in public and private life to be the result of racism. My book, Splintered: Critical Race Theory and the Progressive War on Truth, provides examples from schools around the country using CRT to shape coursework and teach children that they should treat people differently based on the color of their skin—an abhorrent idea that should have been abandoned after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the civil rights movement that inspired it.

The notion that a child in a military family enjoys special privileges that make them oppressive, privileges other than the sense of pride coming from knowing their parents made the honorable decision to give their life to defending our country, is insulting. Military families’ burden of regularly uprooting themselves and moving from place to place, along with the knowledge that one or both parents’ commitment requires them to risk their lives as they protect us, is a sacred trust. Anyone who has not made the same sacrifices should recognize this pledge by saying “thank you” at every opportunity. The Fairfax bingo card teaches students to condemn those who have chosen to serve—loosening the strings that bind a culture around shared ideas.

For decades, families, advocates, and policymakers have—appropriately—supported parent choice in education for many reasons, including persistently poor schoolwide performance, dangerous conditions in schools, or bullying. But as parents and others have exposed the radical ideas some educators are teaching through lessons inspired by CRT, policymakers must realize that school choice is an urgent policy solution because parents must have the right to find learning options that reflect their personal beliefs.

But what if a new school’s leaders choose to spread bigotry like the former school? Today, proposals that say no teacher or student should be compelled to affirm any idea that violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act must coincide with expanded learning options. As do proposals such as those from the Goldwater Institute that require public officials to provide greater transparency over public school coursework. Currently, lawmakers in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and South Carolina, to name a few, are considering such proposals.

For parents dispirited because their child is struggling to keep up with their peers, National School Choice Week is the time to explore other options. For children bullied by a peer or who feels unsafe, lawmakers should give them choices. And for parents who are disgusted by the idea that assigned schools would teach children how to practice racial prejudice, policymakers should enforce prohibitions on discrimination in the classroom—while also giving students the chance to learn elsewhere.

Jonathan Butcher is a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute and the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.

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