The Right Cannot Afford to Abandon Public Education

In his latest offensive to rid Florida’s educational system of revolutionary Marxism, Governor Ron DeSantis announced what amounts to a new direction for one of the most liberal educational institutions in the state: the New College of Florida. DeSantis appointed a slew of new trustees to the college, including the anti-Marxist journalist Christopher Rufo, Claremont Review of Books Editor and political scientist Charles R. Kesler, and Matthew Spalding of Hillsdale College. The president of the New College, Patricia Okker, appeared before the board and said that she could not cooperate with the board or with DeSantis’ plan for the institution, and she was promptly terminated.

The importance of this move cannot be overstated. DeSantis’ previous efforts, outlawing critical race theory, rejecting the hate-filled mess that is the proposed AP African-American Studies course, and attacking the infiltration of LGBTQ ideology into our schools, were a good start, but they pale in comparison to this latest push. 

Anyone who has ever worked in any organization, be it corporate, government, nonprofit, or educational, knows that personnel is policy. The people you put in key positions are the decisive factor in determining the character of an organization. Ban whatever content you want; require whatever curriculum you want; until you have the right personnel, and are rid of the wrong personnel, you won’t solve the underlying problem.

Educators, at all levels, obsess over curriculum and content, but these are really of secondary importance compared with who is teaching those classes. At my institution, Hillsdale College, we have an outstanding core curriculum, but the reality is that we are a bastion of learning not because we require a class called “American Heritage,” but because that class is taught by the unparalleled faculty of our history department.

In my introductory course, “U.S. Constitution,” my required readings include Obergefell v. Hodges, New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones’s notorious lead essay to the “1619 Project,” and White Fragility by the execrable Robin DiAngelo. Despite this, my classes do not churn out battalions of woke Marxists. Quite the contrary. My students need to read these documents because they need to understand the evil that awaits them when they enter the “real” world, but under my guidance and direction they can freely investigate the ideas contained in the documents without succumbing to leftist indoctrination.

Strategically, this sort of learning is exactly what should be happening in red states all over the country. For decades, taxpayers have been funding the sinecures of leftist radicals, providing them with a tenured platform from which to wreak havoc on the country, and corrupt the minds of generations that follow them. If allowed to continue, then the destruction of America is inevitable. We may win elections, but we can’t win in the long run. 

Governors, executive branch officials, and legislators must use every weapon in their arsenal to wage unremitting war on these people. DeSantis is showing the way. What can be done varies by state. Hit them where they live. Deprive them of those sinecures. Cancel their programs, departments, and majors. Revoke their tenure. If necessary, close entire institutions. No Republican in state government should be taken seriously unless he seeks to use every available weapon to reclaim our universities.

Moreover, we ought not stop with the universities. DeSantis’ New College strategy should be extended to every educational institution in the state. Teachers, principals, and administrators who support Marxist ideologies like critical race theory and LGBTQ ideology should be identified and driven from their positions. No legislation prescribing alternative curricula or banning this kind of indoctrination will stop them. Marxist ideologues will never stop; they must be actively prevented from propagating their ideology, and the only way to do that is to be rid of them.

There have been some positive developments in education in other states recently. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee has proposed to establish some 50 new charter schools. In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation recently to expand school choice dramatically in the Hawkeye State. While both plans are laudable and should be encouraged, if adopted they cannot be viewed as genuine solutions. However beneficial these efforts may be for some students, in the end they represent an abandonment of the public schools.

Most on the Right have all but given up on the idea of recapturing the public schools, but in giving up on the public schools they are abandoning those children who remain to be indoctrinated by the Left. Most families, for a variety of reasons, lack the ability to homeschool. Private schools are expensive and exclusive. Alternatives such as charter schools are only capable of absorbing a tiny fraction of our children. Like it or not, the vast majority of our nation’s children are and will continue to be educated in the public schools. If the republic is to survive, we need those students to become good citizens, too.

How many institutions will conservatives abandon? How much more ground will we cede? In acting on the maxim that “personnel is policy,” DeSantis has said “no more.” Our schools and universities are ours. We built them, we paid for them, and we want them back. If we don’t take them back, we cannot save our country. The Left understands that, and it’s time we did, too.

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About Kevin Portteus

Kevin Portteus is the Lawrence Fertig Professor of Politics and Director of American Studies at Hillsdale College.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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