A Public Response to the Purple for Parents Group’s “Open Letter to America”

Well, I wasn’t planning on writing anything else today, but several people have shared with me an open letter to America written by some hard-right wing group of citizens who call themselves Purple for Parents. I’ve been sort of recruited to write my response to the predictable, Fox News playbook rhetoric they are sharing to warn everyone about the “evils” of the Red for Ed movement. Honestly, I’d prefer to ignore them, but it turns out that I do requests, who knew? So, against my better judgment, I’m going to crawl down into the muck with this group and address their concerns. I’m going to need a hot shower after I finish this, I feel icky already.

The Purple Parents (that’s what I’m calling them now) claim all sorts of nefarious origins of the Red for Ed moment, starting with the founder out in Arizona. They say he’s an outspoken Socialist who, along with the dastardly NEA, wants to turn all your children into card carrying Socialists. This is nothing new. This is the kind of drivel we’ve been hearing from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for many years. The “indoctrination of our youth” trope. It’s all just baseless and silly, but it plays well in conservative America and they ride it for all it’s worth.

First of all, let me just say that I know nothing about the origins of the Red for Ed movement or its founder. I don’t care about them, either. Whatever it started out as, it now has a very specific purpose that has united teachers all over the state of Indiana. If it was something different in Arizona, or anywhere else, I could not say, nor do I care. I know what it is here and I fully support it.

As for the indoctrination of Socialism nonsense; that I can speak to. Most of the time, when hard-right conservatives use the word Socialism, it is meant to scare the uneducated masses who have no real idea what it even means. They remember learning something about Socialism when they studied World War II and they associate the word with evil dictators and poverty. They know nothing of what Socialism really is and they are completely unaware of the fact that the United States could not possibly survive without Socialism. The really sweet irony in all of this business with the Purple Parents is the fact that they seem not to understand that public education IS Socialism and so are school choice vouchers. The military that hard-right conservatives value so much (rightfully so)–also Socialism. The police they defend so steadfastly (often rightly so)–also Socialism. The Firemen and all the other first responders we all owe our gratitude and respect–Socialism. The health insurance we debate so fiercely, Socialism, whether it’s private or public. The roads, bridges, public utilities, etc., on and on down the line–Socialism makes this nation run. It’s not a big scary word if you understand what it actually is.

If I teach my students what I just wrote in the last paragraph, I guess some would accuse me of indoctrinating them with my leftist, Socialist bias. If I teach my kids U.S. history from all perspectives, giving them the whole story and letting them make up their own minds what to make of it, that’s now called revisionist indoctrination. Encouraging students to question things and think critically is seen as anti-American. Anything short of outright Nationalism is now seen as indoctrination by the hard-right conservatives like these Purple Parents.

The Purple Parents suggest that if the teachers “want more money” they should be protesting to their school district superintendents and school boards because that’s who decides how much to pay us. That is just not a very informed opinion. School boards do have final approval of contracts, but there is a lot that is out of their hands. The state of Indiana has done more to hurt teacher pay than any school board could ever do. Rather than retype the same thing over and over, I’m going to quote my own article from a few days ago to fill out the details I’m referring to in the case of the state of Indiana:

“Veteran teachers, such as myself, began teaching in an era when teachers were paid under a graduated pay scale. Each year, from year one to year 20 or 25, a teacher knew exactly how much their pay would increase for each year of experience. These scales were set raises and were readjusted for each new contract. As a new teacher, I remember being encouraged to look up that graduated pay scale chart and see what I could expect to make in the years to come. Then, Indiana eliminated the graduated pay scales for teachers and created a system by which, in order to receive any rise in pay, a teacher had to be labeled as “qualified” or “highly qualified.” These specious labels have to be earned by meeting the minimum qualifications as laid out in a convoluted and complex formula tied to inequitable standardized tests. Teachers who’d been in the game for a while also felt the effects of this system, but not nearly as much as newer teachers. Older teachers’ pay rates were grandfathered in from the old graduated pay scale days, so our base salaries at the beginning of this new system were $20,000-$30,000 dollars per year higher than a starting teachers’. Frankly, our newer teachers have been completely screwed. That’s why so many are leaving and so few are taking their places.”

So, don’t let the Purple Parents scare you, folks. They are just puppets of the hard-right, anti-public education machine using economic terminology they don’t even understand to scare you. Nothing to see here. Wear your red proudly.

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14 Replies to “A Public Response to the Purple for Parents Group’s “Open Letter to America””

  1. I’m am Arizona teacher and joined the Red for Ed movement the day it was created. This group rose up in protest – I have always called them the Purple Teacher Eaters.

    Indoctrination into socialism was their rally cry, and itcis as utterly false in Arizona as it is everywhere else in the country

  2. Socialism in theory is much better than capitalism. The problem is that (most) humans are filled with greed, and all past socialist or communist societies have been LED by what you could theoretically call capitalists. Greedy people who profited off of others. I feel this fits you perfect, one step below a capitalist.

  3. Deny, deflect and divide. Right out of the Alinsky playbook. Parents will decide how and where their children will be educated.

  4. Make sure you report your $2 donations to IRS.

  5. There is a real problem here with how you define socialism. Having people working in a society on behalf of the people is not socialism. Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Sounds good in theory, right? A hundred years ago, someone could be a socialist and hope in good faith that it could achieve, or at least advance, its utopian aspirations. We didn’t have the data to prove otherwise. Now we do.

    Today, as we look at the history of countries like the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba we can see that socialism has left nothing but disaster in its wake. Every single time it has been tried, it has failed. It reduces citizens’ well-being, and ensures mass poverty.This is NOT what we want for our nation, it is NOT what we want for our state, and it is definitely NOT what we want for our children. The education system in the state certainly needs an overhaul. It is a must-faceted problem that requires a careful and measured change. But NOT through Red for Ed.

    1. There is no problem with what I wrote beyond the problem you have with it. Social programs are absolutely essential in our nation. You apply nefarious intentions with fear-mongering terminology and citations of examples of Socialism taken to extremes. Capitalism can also be taken to extremes, and that is the case when the top 3 richest American individuals control more the bottom 160 million. Educate yourself. Socialist programs have been making life better in this country for more than 70 years. Without them, we would live in a feudalist society. We’re getting damn close to it as it is.

  6. Hi, Shane. I think we’re talking about different things. You mentioned that I should educate myself. I am an avid history buff, but I don’t have to turn to a history book. I watched these nations implode on my TV screen. (The advantages of living past 50 I suppose. 🙂 ) In each of these instances, the people were left worse off than the feudalist society you mention above. I’m not trying to use fear-mongering tactics. I’m just stating what I have seen with my own eyes. Socialism as a system of government fails every time. I define socialism as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” Paying police officers, teachers, and fire fighters as “civil servants” who educate and protect the citizens out of taxpayer dollars is not my definition of socialism. And no. Socialist programs have NOT made life better. Giving people opportunities makes life better. I used to work with children and families who lived in government housing. They stayed in the crappy, government-run housing until their benefits ran out, and then they suddenly found a way to raise themselves from their situations. My non-profit organization helped them make community connections to meet their needs. These community resources, also, are not socialism, according to my definition. Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing? How do you define socialism? (I’m not being snarky here. I really want to know. Let’s chat.)

    1. Socialism is taking a collective pool of monies to provide services for the common good. Like Capitalism, and any other economic theory, it can be, and has been abused. Pretty simple, really.

  7. Shane, the only crisis I see is teachers like you spreading your lies to our children about Socialism! You call yourself a history teacher, and in the same breath you teach socialism is a good thing! Are you living in some kind of bubble? If you want to see a perfect example of how socialism doesn’t work, just look at a recent history example, Venezuela. How is that working out for them? Not so good huh! #PurpleForParentsIndiana is going to fight your socialistic movement to the very end and just so you know, we will win in the end, just like #PurpleForParents in Arizona did.

  8. Shane,

    I’m a center-right non-parent, and I read your post with respect.
    As a university professor who has students from public, private and home school settings and who has studied this issue for a number of years, I think Red4Ed and Purple4Parents are both missing the point.

    Our educational problem can be squarely placed at the feet of our hideous Schools of Teacher Education and their obscene focus on pedagogical “process” at the expense of knowledge content. E. D. Hirsch Jr. got it right in his 1996 book, “The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.”

    Honestly, I can’t take either Red4Ed or Purple4Parents seriously, until they focus on the real issue: the need to teach a core knowledge curriculum, starting in First Grade.

  9. You don’t know what socialism is. Public goods are not socialism.

    Socialism is public ownership or control of the means of production. The Soviet Union was socialist.

    Public goods or social programs are actions by the government to ensure that certain basic needs are met. This includes fire, police, and highway departments.

    The two have nothing to do with the other, and people who scream the public goods re socialism shouldn’t be teaching school.

    1. You don’t know what Democratic Socialism is. It saved us from complete ruin in the 1930s and we still are reaping the benefits.

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