Socialists, Laggards, Perverts, and Baby-Killers

Why does everybody these days thank soldiers for their “service?” Even when the soldiers themselves don’t like it? At least in part, it must be a hangover from Vietnam-War-era culture-war battles, when soldiers were reviled as “baby-killers.” Here’s my question for SAGLRROILYBYGTH: When will teachers get thanked for their service? After all, for decades, teachers have been called names at least as bad as “baby-killers.”

As I described in my recent book, conservative activists have always accused teachers of terrible crimes and treasons. Teachers fill kids’ heads with lies about evolution, atheism, and communism. Teachers subject innocent young kids to mistruths and calumnies about American history and sex. Such accusations were a standard part of culture-war scripts from the 1920s through the 1980s.

Warning!  Commie Teachers!

Warning! Commie Teachers!

In the 1980s, for instance, Mel and Norma Gabler warned that the ranks of the teaching profession were full of “practicing homosexuals” who hoped to attract young children to their ranks. Such teachers pushed for more sex ed because they suffered from a perverted desire to lure children down the path to sexual sin and depravity.

There’s nothing new about this sort of no-holds-barred accusation against America’s teaching force. Back in 1923, anti-evolution activist T.T. Martin warned audiences about the sinister nature of public-school faculties:

under the cowardly sissy plea of ‘Academic freedom,’ [teachers] demand that we, with our taxes, pay their salaries, while they poison our children against the Bible as God’s real Word, and the Saviour as God’s Son who died for our sins to redeem us from all iniquity and send our children out into Eternity without real redemption; hence, to hell.

This week, I’m reading Natalia Mehlman Petrzela’s terrific new book Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture. Petrzela looks at the ways the fights over sex ed and bilingual ed played out in California between 1960 and 1990. Not surprisingly, she found that teachers were subjected to vicious, unrestrained attacks.

One parent, for instance, excoriated his local school’s teachers, saying they “fill schools with dope and filth and sex” and “teach [students] to make babies so they can kill them” (pg. 123).


As Petrzela relates, however, such extreme accusations were par for the course in culture-war battles over education in California.

So, dear readers, here’s my question for you: When will progressive types begin to thank teachers ostentatiously for their service? After all, it was backlash against the “baby-killer” accusations that led people to start thanking soldiers. Won’t there soon be a similar surge of support for beleaguered teachers? Or is there already and I’m just the last to notice?

We can see some glimmers of it. Progressive bloggers and scholars such as Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, and Peter Greene make a fetish of valorizing public-school teachers. Will it soon become an article of faith among progressives that teachers are America’s real heroes? Or has it already?

Leave a comment


  1. My daughter is a teacher. At this point in time, I see next to nothing in the media at large which elevates this demanding work. Instead, unions are bashed & the bashing extends beyond those doing the collective bargaining to the very teachers themselves. Teachers are seen as lazy, overpaid, and greedy. If anyone could follow my daughter around for a week, that view of teachers would have to change. There are millions like my daughter in the trenches, and I am proud of her, and proud that she chose teaching as her profession.

    • I’ve worked with a lot of teachers over the years, and I think I can count on one hand the number who could fairly be accused of being “lazy.” It’s such an odd accusation, yet as you say it has become a standard one. Certainly, lazy people would be wise to avoid teaching as a career.

  2. Well you know how it is/was in Milwaukee. The teachers union could do totally corrupt, self-serving things, and if you said anything about it, you were lumped in the Republicans and Hitler. I think “progressives” who are unable to be critical of the excesses of organized labor (Especially in the public sectors) are as bad as “conservatives” who reject it entirely out of hand. It’s naivete about power in both cases and a legacy of Christian moralism that begs for the Nietzschean analysis. It’s a refusal to define and take responsibility for values ourselves, grounded in tangible, this-worldly goods not some mystified right or left ideological moralism.

  3. Do you happen to have the complete text of the “text books as Red propaganda” pamphlet? Thanks.

    • I’m sorry, I don’t. The draft I consulted is at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville, in the collection of Billy James Hargis Papers, collection 1412, Box 45, folder 54. If you get in touch with the archivists there, they might be able to scan and send you the full pamphlet for a small fee.

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