A top teachers union boss cited a far-left smear factory in demonizing the parental rights movement by comparing it to the “Uptown Klans” that opposed the end of racial segregation in the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
“Those same words that you heard in terms of wanting segregation post-Brown v. Board, those same words you hear today,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a podcast interview published Tuesday.
“I was kind of gobsmacked when I was talking to Southern Poverty Law Center, and they showed me the same words, ‘choice,’ ‘parental rights,’ and an attempt to divide parents versus teachers,” Weingarten added. “At that point, it was white parents versus other parents, but it’s the same kind of words.”
The AFT president went on to describe former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, conservative commentator Chris Rufo, and Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, as “extremists” who want “the end of public education as we know it.”
“A Rufo will say we need to create universal public school distrust to get to universal vouchers,” Weingarten said. “Others want it because they hate knowledge or they fear broad-based knowledge.”
“They want to have a basically, a Christian ideology—their particular Christian ideology—dominate the country, as opposed to a country that was born out of the free exercise of religion,” she added.
Weingarten’s talking points heavily echo the Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left organization notorious for branding mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofits as “hate groups” or “antigovernment extremists” and placing them on a map with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it has used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against conservative groups, partially to scare its donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence ideological opponents. In 2019, amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that led the SPLC to fire its co-founder, a former employee came forward, calling the “hate” accusations a “highly profitable scam.”
In 2012, a terrorist used the “hate map” to target a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. While the SPLC condemned the attack, it kept the attack’s target on its “hate map.”
Earlier this year, the SPLC added parental rights groups, such as Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education, to the “hate map,” branding them “antigovernment groups.”
Before the SPLC released its updated map in June, an SPLC researcher compared the modern parental rights movement to parents who supported segregation after Brown v. Board. The researcher, Maya Henson Carey, wrote about “a massive resistance countermovement that birthed such groups as white Citizens’ Councils or ‘Uptown Klans,’ comprised mostly of middle- to upper-class white Southerners seeking to preserve their segregationist way of life.”
“Today, groups like Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and Parents Against CRT work diligently with politicians, right-wing celebrities, and extremist groups to spread their messages of hate, lobbying for anti-CRT and anti-LGBTQ legislation and making sweeping changes by influencing school boards to fire superintendents, constrain diverse curricula and ban books,” Carey wrote. “Our country, communities, and schools are again under attack by the descendants of hate groups of decades past, spewing the same hateful messages dressed up with fresh political rhetoric.”
Carey did not acknowledge the legitimacy of parents’ concerns, which center around divisive ideologies teaching kids to judge one another on the basis of their skin color, pornographic books and transgender lessons for young children in school, and the repeated closures of school altogether during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weingarten echoed the SPLC’s rhetoric, framing the parental rights movement as an attack on education. Yet in recent years, public schools have adopted an astonishing hostility to parents, such as blatant attempts to hide their children’s health concerns—and potential gender “transitions”—from them.
The teachers union boss claimed that Rufo is trying to “create universal public school distrust,” but she has it backward. Rufo has focused on exposing the divisive ideologies that have taken over public education across the United States, and his message resonates because so many Americans have already learned to distrust public education because it alienated them first.
The American Federation of Teachers did not respond to a request for comment on whether Weingarten considers the SPLC reliable and endorses its attacks on groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education.
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