Virginia’s message to education: Leave parenting to parents

On Nov. 2, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.

The outcome would have been a surprise two months ago when McAuliffe was a clear favorite in a state where 54% of residents voted for President Joe Biden in 2020.

In the final weeks of the campaign, the momentum shifted dramatically toward Youngkin’s campaign when he focused on what he referred to as “kitchen table issues,” most notably education.

Education cost Democrats the Virginia governorship. Remote school, mask mandates, Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, student violence, poorly managed public schools, and sex abuse scandals dominated the Virginia race in the final month of the campaign and were credited for riling up voters to turn out for Youngkin at the ballot box. This year’s election drew the largest turnout rate for a Virginia gubernatorial election since 1997.

Nationwide protests against Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, sexual issues, and other content found in schools have multiplied over the past year.

While protestors’ grievances have varied, the message is clear: Public schools need to leave parenting to parents.

OPRF should take that message seriously.

Traditionally, parents have served as the source for children’s values. Unfortunately, peers, media, and the school system are all vying for control of children’s waking hours. To make matters more difficult for parents, many schools have intentionally expanded their social influence on students.

OPRF has a role in the lives of students, but it should never be confused with a parental role. OPRF’s job is to help students develop the skills to be successful academically and in their careers. It is the parents’ job to instill in their children the values needed to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

This isn’t to say schools should never address students’ social needs. Social workers should offer a place for students who seek their services. Academic classrooms, however, are not the place to address social or political issues.

Many high school students have no idea what they want to accomplish with their lives or the career opportunities available to them. Instead of spending time addressing issues that should be handled by parents, schools should make students aware of career paths and opportunities that will enrich their lives.

Public schools have expanded their role in the lives of students to become part-time parents. The election in Virginia was a backlash to this expansion. Public schools including OPRF should recognize their role in the lives of students and leave space for the crucial role of parents.

Glenn Youngkin would not have won if his message did not resonate with voters. Public education should not ignore the issues that carried him to his surprising victory.

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