Ray Carter | December 13, 2021

Deace says time is now to act on school choice

Ray Carter

Steve Deace, a longtime conservative political activist and nationally prominent talk show host, says now is the time for policymakers to increase school choice opportunities in Oklahoma.

But he warns that advancing school-choice policies will take more political fortitude than advancing other political goals, such as tax cuts, because supporters of the status-quo education system defend it with an almost literal religious fervor.

“Go for the win but understand it will take a level of commitment to beat this level of religious zealotry beyond winning an issue like taxes or government spending or even the border,” Deace said, adding that if there is anything the far-left is “more frenzied about than abortion, this is it.”

Deace, who addressed Oklahoma citizens at a recent school-choice coalition meeting, said many opponents of school choice want children restricted to only government-run public schools—rather than having the option to use tax dollars to cover private-school tuition—because the public-school system grants a relative handful of people immense control over children. That level of control is now fueling many broader societal problems, he said.

“‘What’s a girl?’ ‘We don’t know anymore.’ ‘What’s a person?’ ‘What’s a law?’ ‘What’s a border?’ ‘What is truth?’” Deace said. “All of these terrible ideas we are now wrestling with in all of these other policy arenas all stem—this is their Genesis story—they all stem from the American classroom.”

But COVID shutdowns allowed parents to view on computer screens the classroom instruction provided to children, prompting many to reassess their opinion of local schools. Then pushback against classroom deployment of various Critical Race Theory concepts has further increased parental demand for school choice.

An October poll of 1,098 registered voters conducted by Echelon Insights found that 72 percent of voters support the idea that K-12 parents should have the most or some influence over what schools teach while only 21 percent say K-12 parents should have no influence.

But even as support for parental control in education has surged so has the intensity of opposition to laws that increase parental control, such as school-choice programs.

Deace said the shrillness of that opposition is tied to the worldview of many of education’s status-quo defenders.

“This is a cult. I do not use that term lightly,” Deace said. “There’s a reason why when you come at this with a different opinion that they seethe, they get instantly angry, instantly defensive. That’s how cults behave. Because there’s no critical thinking, it’s just groupthink. This is why there cannot be a universe where someone with an alternative viewpoint is permitted to stand. There isn’t an alternative viewpoint; there’s just theirs. And these schools are the opportunity to indoctrinate you and your children—‘for your own good,’ of course. This is why they’re so angry at parents now getting involved. This is why they fight against any form of supervision.”

That reality is not new to education battles, Deace said. While the intensity of status-quo defenders may be at an all-time high, he noted even simple reforms have faced fierce opposition for decades.

Deace said he first became politically active to support a candidate for the school board in Des Moines, Iowa. The candidate Deace supported was a Christian conservative businessman—and potentially the first black member of that school board in its history. That race highlighted how little focus was placed on the core mission of education by status-quo forces, Deace said.

“A bunch of white lefties thought they knew more about what was racist and what was politically correct than the guy who owned the oldest newspaper—black-owned newspaper—west of the Mississippi that has a mention in the Smithsonian,” Deace said. “And it was amazing watching his campaign. He would try to talk about graduation rates. He would try to talk about quality teachers and trade schools. And all they wanted to ask about was Darwinism (and) what I like to call the Rainbow Jihad, stuff that—from a ‘what kind of productive citizen’ standpoint you will be—is beyond irrelevant. Except they weren’t interested in producing productive citizens. They were interested in producing subjects. This was a tool of indoctrination. This was a tool of conditioning.”

Continuing his cult analogy, Deace said many individuals in positions of power within the public-school system view it as “a very sheltered, close-knit community where only a few special people really know what the rules are and what it is that they are trying to convey. And then everybody else is just expected to go along with that at the risk of their own individual identities.”

But many parents now understand that reality and are increasingly vocal in their efforts to improve education. That gives Oklahoma policymakers an opportunity to enact meaningful change, Deace said.

“We have a moment, right now, with what’s gone on in Virginia, with what’s gone on in Critical Race Theory across the country, there is a moment right now to go for the win,” Deace said. “There will be no bronze medal here. This is a pass-fail exercise.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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