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Our Schools are not Your Battleground: CNN Town Hall Review

CNN did no one any favors by framing the Youngkin Town Hall as “The War Over Education with Glenn Youngkin,” yet to many watching, it felt like a war on facts, as Youngkin seemed evasive and failed to truly answer many of the questions.

Teenage boy, Niko, asks Youngkin about his transgender model policies.
From the March 9, 2023, CNN townhall

Youngkin had a bland smile fixed on his face, even as he effectively told a trans teen named Niko, “No, you can’t use the boys bathroom in school” then pivoted to his same old talking points that target and dehumanize transgender and nonbinary students. Youngkin’s statements were at odds with his “parents’ rights” stance, made ever so obvious when Niko’s father shook his head vigorously in strong disagreement with Youngkin’s steadfast determination to deny Niko’s basic rights as a student.

To defend his indefensible “transgender model policies,” Youngkin used the terms “biological boys” and “biological girls,” both terms that have been rejected by the legal and medical communities–both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychiatric Association use the term “gender assigned at birth,” as do most responsible politically-independent organizations.

Student asks Youngkin, "What is your stance on the removal of books from school libraries?
From the March 9, 2023, CNN townhall

It is hard not to interpret that Youngkin supports banning books from libraries. Not only has he supported bills to this effect, but the subtext of Youngkin’s responses made it clear that he takes issue with books in our libraries and wants them removed. Youngkin avoided saying this outright by saying he wants “to make sure that parents know what is in the library.” How does he plan on doing this, when many parents don’t even attend their school’s open house or know what is in the school sex education curriculum? Every parent I know is overwhelmed and can barely keep track of their kids’ field trips and school holidays–none of them have time to look at a list of thousands of books in a library!

Of course, Youngkin’s entire Town Hall conversation about library books ignores the fact that trained professionals (a.k.a., librarians) have been hired to perform these functions, and parents have digital access to which books are in the libraries. Youngkin actions erode the trust we have with librarians

Throughout the CNN town hall, Youngkin continued to push a divisive “parents versus the school” narrative when parents and schools have been partnered in education for decades. Youngkin suggests that schools are hiding things from parents; however, that is far from the truth–parents don’t have the time to know everything and many don’t have time to talk to their kids. Be a parent, be involved. Know your rights, which includes opting out of books and curricula that you feel conflict with your values. If you don’t want your children to read certain books, then don’t let them. There is an opt-out process, which avoids demonizing your school, teachers, and librarians.

Honestly, Media Matters reported this best in their headline, “CNN gave Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin a town hall to spew right-wing talking points about education.” They gave him a platform and failed to do even the most basic fact-checking. I had hoped for more. Youngkin has claimed that he wants to remove divisive content from our schools; however, all I saw during the Town Hall was him re-introducing divisive culture wars into the public conversation while working to remove funding from our schools.

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