Steve Bannon is hoping to activate homeschooling moms to help Republicans take back congressional majorities next year.
The former chief strategist to Donald Trump has long pushed homeschooling to get around what he sees as liberal indoctrination in public schools, and he and other conservative activists are stoking outrage against anti-racism lessons and coronavirus safety measures to turn parents into right-wing activists, wrote columnist Heath Brown for The Daily Beast.
"The firestorm that you're about to see is the American mothers," Bannon said recently on his podcast. When you've got to go back to school and [Dr. Anthony] Fauci's been talking about vaccinating the kids and using the school, going back to school as a forcing function between the mask and the CRT (critical race theory)."
There are many echoes, both intentional and accidental, between these culture war battles and the violent Textbook War of 1974 in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where conservative parents revolted against readings that included civil rights leaders such as Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X and influenced the separatist inclination for many homeschooling parents.
"Ultimately, whether it is 1974 or 2021, the conservative political movement has used schooling, especially homeschooling, as a cudgel in a larger political war over race, religion and sex," wrote Brown, an associate professor of public policy, at CUNY's John Jay College.
Conservative activists have long seen homeschooling parents as a voting bloc and their children as future activists, but Brown -- who wrote Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State -- says the reality is more complicated.
"Many homeschool parents aren't especially political and as a group they are far from an ideological monolithic," he wrote. "I found in researching my book, Homeschooling the Right, that just 60 percent of those parents voted for Donald Trump in 2020, about the same percentage as in 2016."
"But national advocates, especially the most conservative ones, see in homeschooling a tool of opposition to change," Brown added. "Opting out of a specific part of a curriculum, be it a textbook or a lesson on systemic racism, or public schooling altogether, serves them as one weapon in a larger war against demographic, cultural, and religious changes."