by Holly Hazard, President of 4 Public Education
(Not)Reuters – On April 1, 2023, the Virginia GOP, citing time constraints of only 24 hours for the legitimate publication of misleading information, has called on the General Assembly to declare the next 30 days as “April Fool’s Month.” Leading Democrats were outraged at the call for expansion, calling it an attempt to codify Republican’s “lie-free zone.”
OK, April Fools! However, given the disturbing uptick in Virginia Republicans’ strategy of gaslighting parents in order to manufacture fear related to public education, this isn’t quite as far-fetched as it might seem. Republicans and Democrats have reasoned, legitimate differences of opinion on most every social justice issue. The past few years, however, have brought us controversies made up by Republicans completely out of whole cloth – and the disturbing fact that these lies are often taken seriously, not just by Fox “News,” but also by our most prestigious “mainstream media” outlets.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the public education arena. Just this week, the latest in a long line of scurrilous attacks was uncovered when the Fairfax County School System released its findings, to the surprise of no one anywhere, that Thomas Jefferson High School administration officials did not, in fact, purposely, withhold merit scholar information from students. This was not before The Washington Post, CNN and even our Attorney General got involved in spreading the misinformation.
These lies came layered on others, equally as damaging. I call it the “Pinocchioization” of public debate. In the recent past, right wing operatives have declared (falsely) at school board meetings that teachers are “grooming” our children. Just this week, the Fairfax GOP posted that Democrats are anti-family (hint: they’re not) and demanded that parents have a right to be heard (which they are!), to keep their children safe (which teachers and school administrators always try to do!) and to know what their children are taught (which they can find out if they’re interested). It’s as if none of them have ever been inside a school. They also claim (falsely) that schools are teaching students that America is evil, and that Democrats want only equity, not also excellence, as if we can’t have both. The sad fact is, we can no longer have an honest debate with people like this, because we don’t have truth as guardrails.
In a few weeks, Fairfax Democrats will vote on school board endorsements. Then this November, those endorsed candidates will go up against Republican candidates – the same Republicans who are shouting (falsely) that our schools are failing and that our kids are being indoctrinated. Fortunately, Democrats have several great candidates running, including numerous newcomers. In this time of intense focus on public education, and one whole party (the GOP) out to destroy it, your vote in the Fairfax and Loudoun school board endorsement (not primary) races may literally be the most important one of the year. Several candidate surveys will be coming out soon. Read them. And vote like Democracy depends on it. Because it does. No kidding.