The past year and a half has been a wakeup call for parents around the country. On social media, on group texts, parents are asking: What power do we actually have over our own children?
As school districts around the country closed and remained virtual for more than a full school year, parents felt helpless. Decisions about their children and their education were often being made by administrators without extensive deliberation or parental input. Some had to watch as school-aged children descended into depression and high-achievers had to hit the brakes on much of school life. School closures came at the hands of powerful teacher’s unions. But, when parents looked for help they had no comparable power base.
I home-school, but over the course of the entire late winter and early spring, I played amateur lobbyist, using every connection I had with friends on Capitol Hill, working to get legislative assistants on the phone to discuss the practice of masking toddlers and preschoolers. My plea was for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to alter their recommendations, which are often adopted by state and local governments. I wanted the CDC to fit the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which has made far less stringent expectations of young children. Whereas in the U.S. we’ve told parents that children 2 and older must mask in schools, day cares, public transportation and more, kids in Europe and Asia are only expected to mask at a minimum of age 6, and in many circumstances that becomes 12 and above.
My solo quest for answers from the CDC became a full-time job, resulting in a letter addressed to the organization and signed by dozens of members of Congress, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., which has yet to be answered. As my professional productivity hit a wall as I worked on this pet project, I wondered aloud: Why don’t parents have their own union and lobbyists advocating for our interests in the same way that teachers do? Why should we be powerless while they hold our children’s education and even their very bodies hostage?
This week the American Principles Project announced the launch of what could be the solution: a project they’ve titled “Big Family” (a more virtuous play on powerful industries like Big Tech, Big Pharma or Big Oil). They explain, “Seniors have the AARP and gun owners have the NRA.”
If the APP gets its way, soon American families will have their own powerful lobbying arm.
Its founder, Terry Schilling, told the Deseret News that while every other pro-family group leans conservative and focuses on public policy and legislative efforts, they see the APP project as a vehicle for all Americans, including independents and moderates, to be a force for change locally, in statewide arenas and nationally.
For now, the focus is on a few issues: school choice, preventing kids’ access to pornography and properly navigating critical race theory and gender ideology in schools. Down the line, they envision state and local chapters working on electing and supporting candidates for school boards, local and national representatives, and rallying troops against any proposed legislative efforts they deem to be against their pro-family agenda.
Schilling explained how exhausting it is being a parent in modern America: We are constantly on guard against corrupting influences waging war on our children and the values we’re trying to raise them with. Every smartphone has access to pornography, and we are limited in options where we can send our children to school. And in those schools, they are taught toxic lessons about race and gender, stripping our children of their innocence and the moral compass we have worked hard to instill in them from birth.
Given the prevalence of Republican and conservative leaders like former presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump on the homepage of the APP, it’s likely that their participation strongholds, and their biggest local gains, will be in Republican areas, making the Big Family project another conservative-interest endeavor. It’s unlikely that APP’s messages around pornography, CRT and transgender athletes will resonate as widely in blue or purple states.
That is a shame, because whether we like it or not, unchecked these issues can endanger kids of all kinds — those of liberals and conservatives.
This year has proven to parents of all political leanings that we are often politically powerless when it comes to how our kids our taught and treated, and we desperately need to develop solutions. We have seen and need to understand that there is now an urgent need and a market for a political arm for parents trying to save our kids’ childhoods. Unfortunately, conservative views on what that looks like will inevitably diverge from the liberal vantage point. But, on many core issues parents align, and it’s clear that we need more and better representation if we want a fighting chance to raise children in the way most of us intend.