Today we launch an initiative with purpose and care: we champion the American ideal of public schools as the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and the right of every child to an exceptional public education. The precept of a free and just society is grounded in an educated populous. When scholars discuss the three or four pillars of democracy, they may list separation of powers, rule of law, a free press, fundamental human rights or elections.
However, these are outcomes of a culture that holds up education as sacrosanct. Without this, the pillars crumble because, as history has shown again and again, an ignorant, biased, or mis-informed people will easily be led by the will of a despot, the greed of a corporation, or the frenzy of the self-righteous.
Dark forces are at work today to undermine our democratic system of government by targeting not just the voter, or the political class, but by using our public education system to troll unsuspecting parents, divide us, terrorize elected officials and destroy our collective commitment to public education. For some, the cost of education (which can be 50% of some government budgets) is too high and untenable. For others, the lure of the billions of dollars taxpayers invests is too attractive to leave to educators; that treasure trove is waiting to be mined by corporate interests so they can commodify public education, cut costs and value, and hand over the spoils to their stockholders.
For still others, this fight isn’t about education at all. We could as easily be at war over climate change or religion. For them this is simply about sullying the reputation of the quality of our schools (Virginia is consistently ranked as the 4th among the top five best school system in the country) in enough parents’ minds so that they will vote for the candidate, any candidate, who will save their children from their fantasy of indoctrination, shame or fear.
They use tactics like conflating American history with shaming our kids, creating fear of bathroom use as a means of isolating our LGBTQ+ students, encouraging parents and kids to snitch on their teacher, and also the tried and true grandfather of despotic tools—to ban books that inspire controversy.
We ask that you raise your hand in support of public education. Please join us as we celebrate the amazing opportunities our schools provide each child to live up to their potential. Please support us as we advocate for the principle that public education is the fabric that brings Americans together by giving us a common understanding of science, civic engagement, history and kindness.
We are excited to champion the ideals of our founding fathers and to remind people that the gift of education is not only the great leveler in a free and open society.