Above: h/t Arizona Mirror (Getty photo).

But of course he did. Arizona governor signs so-called ‘parental rights’ bill:

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Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed legislation that greatly expands the rights of parents to know anything their children tell a teacher or school counselor, the latest Republican [culture war] to promote “parental rights” ahead of the 2022 election.

The measure, which passed the GOP-controlled Legislature in party-line votes, also allows parents to sue school districts or officials if information is withheld.

Republican supporters said the measure gives teeth to parents’ rights to direct their children’s upbringing.

“The new law will protect children from activist school officials and foster healthy family relationships,” Cathi Herrod, director of the social conservative [lobbyist] group Center for Arizona Policy, said in a statement.

More like white Christian Nationalist group. Cathi Herrod has had Doug Ducey in her pocket since the first time he ran for office. He has signed every one of her hateful bills during his tenure. There are more to come.

Democrats said the measure will put children at risk and keep young people from confiding in trusted adults.

“Once they realize that anything they tell a counselor or a teacher is going to go to their parents, some of them, potentially a lot of them, will just simply stop talking,” Sen. Christine Marsh of Phoenix said during a recent Senate debate. “They are no longer going to have that trusted adult to confide in.”

The bill requires teachers and school counselors to tell a student’s parents anything the child discloses in confidence – then it’s not in confidence! That includes anything relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the child.

You mean like physical, mental or sexual abuse from a parent? You are now requiring teachers and school districts to notify the abusive parent while betraying the confidence of the child victim who felt there was no one else to whom to turn?

It requires schools to allow access to all educational records and to a counselor’s notes.

Rep. Steve Kaiser, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored the bill, said that while parents have been able to talk to teachers and principals, they have little recourse if they believed their children were being led astray.

What this is really all about is students who confide in a teacher or counselor about their confusion over their sexuality or gender identity. This bill does not treat the child as an individual person with rights, but rather as the property of their parents.

Students confide in a teacher or counselor because they feel they cannot confide in a parent, many of whom would react abusively, either physically or by disowning their child and throwing them out of the house onto the streets. Think this kind of abuse and neglect doesn’t happen? Then you have never worked with child victims of abuse and neglect.

Most child abuse occurs in the home from a family member, relative or family friend. Facts about Child Abuse (excerpt):

      • 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. 68% are abused by a family member.
      • Neglect, the most widespread form of child abuse, makes up more than 59% of abuse cases.
      • For every incident of child abuse or neglect that’s reported, an estimated two incidents go unreported.

Ducey, a Republican, signed the measure without comment. It comes amid a growing [culture war] in GOP-controlled states to emphasize parental rights, which Republicans see as a potent issue in this year’s midterm elections.

It’s not just part of their anti-gay, anti-transgender culture war, but also part of their longstanding culture war against public schools and public school teachers.

Clay Wirestone, writing for the Kansas Reflector and republished at the Arizona Mirror explains, The ‘New Big Lie’ targets teachers and all public education: Don’t let it go unquestioned (excerpt):

Beware the New Big Lie.

For the past 18 months, those committed to truth have battled the Big Lie spread by former President Donald Trump that he actually won the 2020 election. But during that time, a New Big Lie has bloomed, one that threatens to undermine our country further.

That lie, no less audacious and obviously false, is that public school teachers mean to indoctrinate and warp our children.

The evidence offered by those spreading this lie has shifted over the months. At first it focused on teaching about our nation’s shameful racial past, which rightwing propagandists claimed was “critical race theory.” (It wasn’t.) It has now shifted to concerns about gender expression, LGBTQ rights and school library books. Perhaps those same propagandists will soon shift their messaging to suggest that any teacher who teaches a language other than English should be suspected of being a foreign agent.

Understanding what’s going on here requires clear eyes and the intestinal fortitude to understand that those who spout these concerns don’t mean to engage in good-faith public debate. They are lying, they know they are lying, and they mean to weaken a cornerstone of our democracy: free public education.

To understand why I’m calling this the Other Big Lie, we need to go back a ways.

The technique gained widespread attention in the context of World War II. It was central to the Nazi regime’s propaganda. You say something that most reasonable people understand to be nonsense, but then you keep at it. Eventually, a few might doubt their beliefs. You then reward those who repeat the lie. You eventually add depth and context, shifting the targets and explanations if pressed.

Eventually, the Lie becomes a legitimate part of public debate because enough people — and government officials — keep talking about it. The public, which originally was inclined to dismiss the claims, sees it as just another political stance. Those on the side of the party or institutions propagating the Lie decide maybe it’s not so ridiculous after all.

“When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous,” wrote Nazi propaganda boss Joseph Goebbels about the British, obviously engaged in a monumental case of projection.

In postwar years, the technique fell out of fashion. Outright demagoguery seemed crude, even though U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy gave it the old college try during the Red Scare.

Then Trump came along. A modern-day demagogue, he regularly tried the tactic during his presidential administration. Does anyone remember his claim of a record crowd at the inauguration? How about altering the projected path of a hurricane with a Sharpie? It took a humiliating defeat at the hands of Joe Biden to throw the messaging into overdrive, however.

Once the president failed in his attempts to overthrow the election — inciting an attempted insurrection in the process — he decided to devote his post-presidency to building a Big Lie of his own. Nefarious forces across the country conspired to deny him the presidency. Anyone who doesn’t bend a knee to Trump must be purged.

This is completely untrue.

We all know it. Elections in the United States are safe and secure, and Biden won by 7 million votes. But Trump and his supporters keep repeating the falsehood, even pressing their incomprehensible case to legislators in a cherry red state like Kansas. Eventually, a worn-down public sees the Lie as a legitimate perspective.

Now we face an election landscape where Trump acolytes have taken positions of poweracross the United States and where the former president clearly aims to run for the position once again. His Big Lie has worked thus far.

Anyone who cares about educating the next generation must be prepared, then, to shred this New Big Lie.

Arch-conservatives, who have long denigrated public education while supporting private religious schools or homeschooling, saw an opening [during the Coronavius pandemic] to create discord and distrust. They also saw an opportunity to score bonus points by appealing to many white Americans’ insecurity about racism. Enter critical race theory.

None of the ensuing uproar was meant to engage with the university-level academic study of race in America. Ideologues seized upon it to demonize well-meaning diversity and inclusion efforts, energize conservatives and put public education in the crosshairs.

A notorious activist named Christopher Rufo explained the game plan on his Twitter account.

Never mind that the frustration began because parents didn’t like figuring out how to make Zoom work on their childrens’ iPads. Now they could believe they were fighting a “woke” conspiracy of teachers who made white kids feel bad.

The lie was dumb, but the frustration was genuine.

There’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle here. The pandemic did happen, and schools did close. Social disruption and learning loss did occur, and many parents and children felt abandoned by institutions on which they previously depended. The institutions tried their best, but there were no good choices.

Rufo and his ilk made political hay of that fact throughout 2021. Then they went further and darker.

Shifting into overdrive

I noticed the change in December. Debates about teaching history were shifting to disputes about gender and sexuality.

That bemused me, and I wrote a column titled “The latest fear for Kansas schools: CRT is turning our children gay.” Legislators and parents at the Kansas Statehouse were sounding the alarm about books and lessons that talked about gender and sexuality.

The trend has now exploded nationwide. Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law prohibits any discussion of these subjects around young children, and it discouraging teachers from even mentioning their spouses or answering student questions in age-appropriate ways. And while that measure ostensibly protects the youngest, officials in Arizona and across the country have targeted books in middle school and high school libraries dealing with the same subjects. 

In a matter of months, a debate about history has been transformed into one about gender expression and LBGTQ rights.

Rufo, of course, was on the case. He “is convinced that a fight over L.G.B.T.Q. curriculums — which he calls ‘gender ideology’ — has even more potential to spur a political backlash than the debate over how race and American history are taught,” the New York TimesTrip Gabriel reported this month.

“The reservoir of sentiment on the sexuality issue is deeper and more explosive than the sentiment on the race issues,” Rufo told the Times.

Gosh. You might note that history was never the point, and a loose-knit coalition of activists and legislators have instead targeted parents’ unease with unfamiliar subjects. Ultimately, they mean to erode and destroy public education in the United States of America.

But what’s the lie? What’s the new untruth?

The New Big Lie is this: Teachers are a fifth column who secretly hate you and your family and basic American values. They not only want to teach little white children to despise their past, but they want to turn the girls into boys and the boys into girls. They want to disrupt and undermine our whole society, and they want to hide it from parents.

This is absurd.

Anyone who knows teachers or schools knows it’s absurd.

I know it better than most, coming from multiple generations of public school teachers. Nowhere, ever, in my parents’ or grandparents’ careers did I see or hear of a teacher doing such silly things. Educators were too busy working on lesson plans, grading papers, coaching after school sports and attempting to have lives outside school.

Teachers care about students and their learning journeys. They also know that anyone who aims to indoctrinate people should search for another line of work. Children and teens are naturally curious and rebellious. They can spot pomposity a mile away — and tear it down mercilessly. Students must be equipped to think critically, understand the facts of the world and make their own way.

For that matter, I’m also a parent. Over my son’s six years in public schools, I’ve constantly heard about what he’s doing in class. Weekly emails. Notes in his backpack. Chats with his teachers after school. Texts about where he’s headed after class.

While schools across the state have real needs, my family couldn’t ask for more transparency. So many others with children in school have similar stories.

The new battleground in public education

The New Big Lie has powerful supporters.

Conservative groups have long sought to undermine public education. This cause unites both the business friendly and socially reactionary wings of the movement. Together, they see the opportunity created by the pandemic to reshape our society in a way that benefits the wealthiest while restoring discrimination against minority groups.

More than any teaching about history or gender, the end of free, high-quality schools would change our country forever. The United States depends on its public school system. Our shared society depends on it, and most of us grasp that basic truth. When former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax “experiment” undermined those schools, he became the second least-popular governor in the country.

We must recognize this New Big Lie where we see it, and we must call it out. We need teachers. We need public schools. There is no rural development without them. There is no urban development without them, either.

Our education system deserves care, attention and full funding.

It does not deserve this deceitful, conspiratorial rubbish. Those legislators and activists who spread the New Big Lie know better. With school funding still being debated by lawmakers, ask them about it. Ask them about their proof. Ask them how many teachers they know and how many classrooms they’ve visited. Ask them if they have children or grandchildren in public schools.

Tear down the lie with truth, one question at a time.




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