Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) decided to start labeling Moms for Liberty an extremist group. The group pushes back against content in public schools that they believe is left-wing or sexually inappropriate. They have also begun to run candidates for school board positions to fight against teaching this material.
For SPLC, their justification was that this antagonism against both gender ideology and critical race theory represented not support for parents’ choice on how to educate their children on these subjects, but disdain for the inclusion of any minority groups. Moms for Liberty’s partnership with influential Republican leaders, like North Carolina’s Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, was similarly framed as making them tools for Republicans extremism.
But this ignores the similar political ties teachers unions have held with Democrats and is further evidence of how willing political actors in education now are to target groups who disagree with them, even if they hold popular and moderate positions. Trying to shut these voices out of the democratic process is a dangerous step.
Whenever Moms for Liberty announces candidates, voters and opposing candidates rally against them, and detractors will have tantrums and scream racist at them, like what happened at one of the Mecklenburg County chapter’s meetings last year.
Like any big-tent group trying to bring together a variety of people with different objectives, most people will have at least one bone to pick with their list of objectives, but going as far as trying to label them as racist is disingenuous to the quite popular stances that they take.
According to a pamphlet that they handed out during their legislative day event in May of this year, their legislative priorities include parental rights, opposing indoctrination, opposing medical mandates, ensuring equality, stopping the teaching of gender ideology, and ensuring the age-appropriateness of school materials.
It only takes looking at some recent NC polls to see how the majority of North Carolinians support similar policies. In fact, according to a recent John Locke poll, parents overwhelmingly (by a two-to-one ratio) support the Parent’s Bill of Rights, a bill which is expected to receive a veto override soon. The majority of the Parent’s Bill of Rights supporters stated that they supported the bill because it “enumerates important parental rights regarding student medical and psychological records and bans instruction on gender identity, sexual activity and sexuality in kindergarten through grade four.”
While this doesn’t indicate support for Moms for Liberty, it does hint at the possibility that many more Americans would agree with them if they knew more about what they stood for.
This lack of available information permeates other issues as well, like those around critical race theory and gender theory. According to a poll conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California, almost half of Americans have never heard of Critical Race Theory.
Additionally, parents overwhelmingly disapproved of schools assigning books to elementary and high school students focused on LBGTQ+ sexuality at all. The percentage of parents supporting the assignment of these books to elementary school students never crossed into the double digits for elementary school students, and it never crossed 40% for high school students.
It is certainly possible that the recent bad press around books like Gender Queer has tainted the discussion on the assignment of books detailing these experiences, even if the books are a lot tamer. It is still safe to assume that parents are extremely cautious of off-loading these kinds of sensitive discussions to the school system. And, in the case of critical race theory, parents just don’t know enough to make an educated decision.
As a result, while these results seem favorable to those who support Moms for Liberty, they can only really tells two things concretely: more education needs to be done informing parents about the meaning of words like critical race theory and gender ideology, and that there is certainly room for Moms for Liberty in these discussions, knowing how many Americans support similar positions to theirs even with the dearth of information they hold.
My point isn’t to advocate for the group or for any of their policies specifically, instead, I just want to ask the question of why a group like Moms for Liberty is being labeled as an extremist group if so many of their positions are so popular. Does the SPLC truly believe that so much of the American population is extremist? I certainly hope not. And isn’t every mother a bit of an extremist when it comes to protecting and educating their children?