Cardona Tips His Hand, Shows Left’s Desperation
The Tampa Bay Times “exclusively” published an op-ed Wednesday written by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, which stated, “As US education secretary, I want us to enrich public schools, not ban books and topics.” The content of the column — not to mention its very existence — reveals the Left’s desperate realization that they are losing the battle over education, which they have long presumed was settled.
After Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe infamously lost a 2021 gubernatorial race in increasingly blue Virginia with 12 words, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” the Biden administration has incessantly attempted to flip the script.
Cardona’s op-ed carries forward that effort by attempting to redirect parents’ anger towards another villain: not leftist educators but Republican politicians. “Parents don’t want politicians dictating what their children can learn, think and believe. That’s not how public education is supposed to work in a free country,” wrote Cardona. “Parents also are speaking out about their worries that politicians are using our kids’ education as a political football.”
The irony is, there’s not a whisker of difference between Cardona’s and McAuliffe’s visions for education. Both are entirely comfortable with educators indoctrinating impressionable young minds with radical, Marxist theories. Both are entirely opposed to parental attempts to override this leftist indoctrination in the classroom. But where McAuliffe (accurately) framed the dispute as “parents vs. teachers” — and his pro-teacher (and therefore anti-parent) stance proved wildly unpopular — Cardona hopes to appear as an advocate for parents by reframing the dispute as “parents vs. politicians.”
Based on recent context, the content of Cardona’s op-ed, and the outlet in which it was placed, the politician who tops Cardona’s hit list is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). For context: President Joe Biden, Cardona’s boss, has frequently criticized Florida’s policies to protect children from LGBT ideology; most recently, this week he called a Florida policy banning gender transition procedures for children “close to sinful.”
Then there’s the content of Cardona’s missive, which singled out Florida in two examples. Cardona condemned “politicians trying to prevent students from learning about the history, arts and culture, contributions and experiences of African Americans.” On January 12, DeSantis’s administration rejected a College Board Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum on African-American Studies for teaching concepts associated with critical race theory as fact, in violation of Florida law, which forced the College Board to revise its curriculum.
Cardona also complained that “politicians want to limit our children’s freedom to read,” linking to an article showing Florida as a top state for banning books. The Florida government has removed explicit content from school libraries, but some school districts chose to strip the shelves bare, predictably setting off a firestorm among left-wing media based on false premises.
Finally, Cardona selected a curious outlet to carry a column by a sitting U.S. cabinet secretary. In op-ed placement (once a part of my professional duties), the goal is to gain the widest possible audience relevant to the topic at issue. Typically, D.C.-centered officials with D.C.-centered policies aim an op-ed in one of the nation’s largest newspapers in D.C. or New York City — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Washington Post, USA Today. Yet Cardona’s piece ran in The Tampa Bay Times, the second-largest Florida newspaper in the second-largest Florida media market, with an audience primarily located in Florida. Perhaps Cardona chose Tampa’s paper over the Miami Herald, the state’s largest paper, due its rabidly progressive slant, or perhaps he was turned down at his first choice.
The point is, running Florida’s education system is not the job of the U.S. Secretary of Education; Cardona’s job is to run the U.S. Department of Education. The only reason for a national education secretary to wade into state issues like this is if the state interfered with him carrying out his actual duties. Cardona’s actual duties are advancing President Biden’s educational priorities, which include teacher raises and extra school funding, affirmative action for teachers, and increasing students’ “access to mental health professionals who can address their social and emotional needs” (which includes hiding gender transitions from parents), according to Cardona’s op-ed.
In fact, Florida has interfered with Cardona implementing this agenda. The DeSantis administration has exposed leftist indoctrination, mocked the hypocrisy of racist anti-racism, and protected students from the predations of LGBT ideologues. Worse, DeSantis is systematically replacing leftist indoctrination with a model that is both reasonable and popular.
Opponents of Florida’s education reforms cannot critique without lying. National Democrats called the Parental Rights in Education law, which looped in parents and prohibited inappropriate conversations in K-3 classrooms, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. When DeSantis told the College Board to revise a radically biased curriculum to comply with a Florida law requiring schools to teach about slavery, segregation, and other racial history topics in an unbiased manner, Cardona equated this to “trying to prevent students from learning” about African American history. DeSantis ordered school libraries to remove sexually explicit books, and Cardona called this a “book ban” that would “limit our children’s freedom to read.”
Even Cardona’s reframing the education battle as “parents vs. politicians” instead of “parents vs. teachers” is dishonest. In reality, “parents” is not a monolithic category that all favor this or that solution. While parents want what is best for their children, their understanding of what is best diverges radically, according to their worldview. Some parents — witness some Hollywood celebrities — have fully bought into the LGBT nonsense to the point that they choose to raise their children as “non-binary.” Other parents, including those with a biblical worldview, prefer to teach their children that there are only two genders.
With such disparate opinions among parents, how can we shape a public education system that best serves everyone? That’s what the political process is for, as it is with any disagreement on such a fundamentally important point. The political process pits parents versus parents, as both sides support the politicians who espouse the values they wish to see implemented in education.
Does the fact that parents are not a monolithic group contradict my earlier assertion that the correct framing is “parents vs. teachers”? Not at all. Some self-proclaimed education experts want to remove control over education from the political process and place it permanently in the hands of education experts. As Arizona special education teacher Alicia Messing said last month, “I have a master’s degree. … What do the parents have?” When these education experts attempt to shut parents out of the process, that creates conflict, and the correct venue to resolve that conflict is the political process.
Coming at the problem from another angle, our particular historical moment features a powerful, entrenched educational bureaucracy that hides from parents both the radical indoctrination taking place and life-changing information about their own children, and then mocks parents when they try to complain in the proper forum. Given these facts, how should a government entity choose to respond? The Biden administration has thrown its full weight behind the education unions, with the Department of Justice investigating parents as domestic terrorists and the Department of Education funneling teachers as much money as possible.
By contrast, the DeSantis administration and Florida legislature enacted a law guaranteeing parental rights in education, refusing to cave either to outside media pressure or the lobbying of one of the state’s most influential corporations, Disney.
A March 2022 poll found that 61% of U.S. registered voters, including a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats, approved of the bill’s most criticized provision, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
As for Florida voters, they reelected DeSantis to a second term as governor in a landslide. DeSantis then continued to advance the anti-woke agenda he had begun and pledged to continue. Whatever you call the situation in Florida, “parents vs. politicians” is a poor way to frame it. “Pro-parent politicians vs. anti-parent teachers” would be closer to the truth.
Yet the Biden administration evidently views these developments in Florida as a problem — or perhaps a threat. Democrats don’t have to worry much when Republicans commit the self-defeating strategic error of criticizing radical policies, but without proposing a workable alternative. But in Florida, Republicans are implementing a credible, fully functional anti-woke education system. Countering the Florida education narrative is so important to the Biden administration that a cabinet secretary took time out of managing his department’s 4,000 employees to write an “exclusive” op-ed for a mid-tier state newspaper. If that’s not a sign of desperation, I don’t know what is.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.