One gets used to watching things like the annual State of the Union address where the president says something his party’s lawmakers like and they applaud and maybe stand while the opposition sits and sulks.
It’s political theater — theater that is sometimes funny, sometimes a trigger for eye-rolling and sometimes inspiring.
And sometimes the theater sends a message that is alarming.
That was the case when Virginia’s new Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, delivered his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the state’s General Assembly on Monday in Richmond.
In his speech, Youngkin called for raises for teachers. As expected, Republicans and Democrats alike rose and applauded.
He then said parents are responsible for their children’s education and care and the state will protect that.
“We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents,” the new governor said.
“My message to parents is this: You have a fundamental right enshrined in law by this General Assembly to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care, and we will protect and reassert that right,” he said.
On the Republican side of the assembly: a standing ovation. On the Democrat side: crickets.
Obviously, Democratic lawmakers are opposed — as are their comrades in the Justice Department who suggested parents who are deeply concerned with their children’s education might be domestic terrorists.
Yet, in their silence, look what these Democrats are protesting: the right of parents to decide their child’s “upbringing, education and care.”
That covers just about everything, including how parents make judgments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be fair, Democrats might have been sitting on their hands because their guy, Terry McAuliffe, before being defeated at the polls by Youngkin in November, had literally said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
It might just be a sore point with them, especially rubbed in because Youngkin is on his way to fulfilling his campaign promises.
And I might add a correction to something the governor said about parents’ rights to their children’s education being “enshrined in law” by the state legislature.
Those rights don’t come from the Virginia General Assembly or from any other government.
They are rights from God, indeed, an obligation from him to continually teach of him and his law as outlined in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6.
Experts in education may protest, but they don’t have much of a track record, as Youngkin made clear when he told the Assembly, “Our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.”
The governor also has also signed a directive to remove critical race theory from Virginia schools, telling lawmakers it was “inherently divisive.”
“We should not be teaching our children to see everything through a lens of race,” he said.
Youngkin also said he wanted to give parents the right to be informed before their children were exposed to sexually explicit material.
It used to be that educators wanted parents to be involved in their children’s education. Now they tell parents to go away.
Youngkin is taking a different view. “When parents are empowered and parents are engaged, a child’s life is enhanced,” he said.
“I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum. Virginia’s parents want our history — all of our history, the good and the bad — to be taught, and they want their children to be taught how to think, not what to think,” the governor said.
The response on the Republican side to that statement: a standing ovation. On the Democrat side: silence, except for perhaps four legislators who stood and applauded.
Given those few brave Democrats and the Youngkin gubernatorial victory, perhaps beleaguered Virginia parents can begin to feel better than they have in recent years.
But in today’s climate, they can never relax.
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