by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online highlights a flawed approach toward fighting indoctrination in public schools.
When it comes to exposing the illegitimacy of the administrative state, Columbia Law School constitutional scholar Philip Hamburger’s work has been invaluable. This past weekend, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he turned his attention to another pernicious progressive project: the conversion of the nation’s public schools into ideological-indoctrination factories that peddle woke, race-obsessed anti-Americanism.
Professor Hamburger is right to highlight this project’s offensiveness to the parents of schoolchildren as among its worst features. That said, parental dissent, which is widespread but not unanimous, is just one reason why the project should be resisted. And Hamburger strains mightily not only to portray this dissent as the dispositive objection to progressive curricula, but to portray such curricula as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.
It is an ill-conceived theory, and reliance on it will only disserve a critical cause by giving progressives an easy target to shoot at. …
… Let’s assume for argument’s sake that most pedagogy, like most human interaction, takes the form of speech, and therefore that the whole of education is, as Hamburger maintains, covered by the First Amendment. Even if all that were true, what he is arguing for here would not be freedom of speech, but freedom from speech.
Essentially, he posits that the First Amendment gives one party to a protected communication a veto over the other. By this logic, if parents wanted their children to be taught that two plus two equals five, teachers would be expected to comply. …
… The judiciary is not going to rescue parents from the Left’s abuse of scholastic instruction through means that ought to be anathema to constitutional conservatives regardless: a federal judicial diktat based on an unsupportable reading of free-speech principles.
The First Amendment offers no quick fix here. The only way to solve the problem is through democratic accountability at the local level. …