Across the United States, students, parents, teachers, and administrators are battling over which curricula will be taught in K-12 schools, especially when it comes to race and gender. Initiatives like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), critical race theory, and social-emotional learning (SEL) have become common sources of aggravation as they have been sprinkled throughout various subjects in public and private schools. Many conservative and religious parents have canvassed school board meetings to protest these topics in the classroom.
In Ohio, disputes over racially biased learning have flared up in two very different ways, as if to prove that injecting one type of fanatical politics into the classroom is likely to cause the growth of an equally extreme counterreaction.
On the surface, the two examples could not be more different.
In the first case, a school administrator from Upper Arlington near Columbus was secretly recorded on video asserting that he and his colleagues would continue to insert DEI themes into lesson plans regardless of what the state legislature does.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” Matthew Boaz mused to the undercover reporter from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group.
Another administrator gleefully proclaimed, “there are some parents that—you know—they don’t fully understand, so it’s when we . . . trick them, you know?” She was referring to how school officials assuage parents’ complaints by explaining they are not teaching CRT or DEI beliefs in their classrooms, when in reality, they are.
The second case, reported recently at Vice News and other outlets, involves the findings of an investigative “collective of Antifa activists” exposing a couple from the Wyandot County town of Upper Sandusky teaching their children explicitly racist and anti-Jewish lessons, as well as promoting devotion to Adolf Hitler. The couple, who called themselves “Mr. and Mrs. Saxon” ran a Telegram channel called “Dissident Homeschool” and aimed to reach other parents with Nazi beliefs—aiming especially at those unconverted but disillusioned with mainstream education.
What do these two cases share besides having occurred in two similarly named towns in Ohio? For one, both investigative reports revealed the targets’ names and shared images of their faces. Yet the report on the “Saxon” couple—who are not public officials and do not have any power over children other than their own—did not stop at exposing their noxious beliefs but went as far as revealing the names and places of business of the homeschool parents, the breed of their dog, and information that could identify them to someone meaning them harm. School administrators, on the other hand, are people who hold a position of public trust and they are pulling a bait and switch on parents.
Nevertheless, the outrage over the “Saxon” homeschoolers was much more pronounced in the media and the state legislature.
Ohio Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio issued a statement applauding the activists and journalists for exposing them. The state Department of Education interim superintendent echoed condemnations of the incident, as did the Upper Sandusky local schools superintendent when asked, even though his schools had no role in the Nazi curriculum. When confronted about the “Saxons,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, replied: “I hope, frankly, that people will not try to take some political advantage or policy advantage.”
It sounds like a cop-out, but Huffman may be right. It’s terrible that children are being raised to hate and distrust others based on their religion or race. But the “Saxon” household and the more than 2,000 followers of Dissident Homeschool (who are not necessarily parents) are really just a drop in the bucket. They do not represent an accurate sample of the growing number of homeschooling families.
In 2016, the far-left Atlantic Monthly reported 1.7 million children were being homeschooled in the United States, and an increasing proportion of them are children of either atheist or irreligious parents. If that is not enough, in 2021, the Washington Post reported that homeschooling “exploded” among nonwhite students. The National Home Education Research Institute told ABC News last year that between 2019 and 2020, the number of home-schooled students spiked from 2.5 million to 3.7 million; by 2022, it reached 5 million.
Ironically, the same ABC News report highlighted black families who claim public school curricula are not teaching enough about anti-black racism. At the same time, attempting to establish a stricter standard for one viewpoint in homeschooling over another could be a difficult needle to thread for legislators.
More pervasive and problematic than racist homeschooling is the radicalized public school. Accuracy in Media in did not just find administrators willing to lie about DEI in suburban Columbus but also in Toledo and Cleveland, where they reclassified their unit as the “department of belonging” or decided to change their “language and approach” while delivering the same ideas. In Dayton, one administrator admitted to an undercover AIM reporter that students were taking advantage of its transgender bathroom policy.
Lying at the core of this clash of attitudes is a major difference in viewpoint over what education is. Progressives see the community’s role in raising children as more central than the parents’, regardless of the fact that the latter bear the burden of providing for their children until adulthood. It should be no surprise that when educators are willing to deceive parents to achieve their goals, many choose to exit the system and reject its ideals so entirely that they become the funhouse mirror version of them.