Far-right extremists concocted a cascading series of so-called culture wars that have no basis in fact or reality. Their purpose is to undermine public trust in teachers and public schools, paving the way for divisive “school choice,” which defunds public schools.

Teachers are intimidated, fearful that they might violate the law by teaching factual history about race and racism. Students are deprived of honesty in their history and social studies classes. Schools are slandered by extremists. Needless divisions are created by the lies propagated by zealots whose goal is to privatize public funding for schools.

First came the furor over “critical race theory,” which is not taught in K-12 schools. CRT is a law school course of study that examines systemic racism. The claim that it permeates K-12 schools was created as a menace threatening the children of America by rightwing ideologue Chris Rufo, who shamelessly smeared the teachers of America as purveyors of race hatred that humiliated white children. Rufo made clear in a speech at Hillsdale College that the only path forward was school choice. The entire point of Rufo’s gambit was the destruction of public trust in public schools.

Then came a manufactured brouhaha over transgender students who wanted to use a bathroom aligned with their sexual identity. The number of transgender students is minuscule, probably 1%. And yet again there was a furor that could have easily been resolved with a gender-neutral bathroom. Ron DeSantis made a campaign ad with a female swimmer who complained that she competed against a trans woman. What she didn’t mention was that the trans woman was beaten, as was she, by three other female swimmers.

And then came the nutty claim that teachers were “grooming” students to be gay. Another smear. No evidence whatever. Reading books about gay characters would turn students gay, said the critics; but would reading about elephants make students want to be elephants?

Simultaneously, extremists raised loud alarms about books that introduced students to dangerous ideas about sexuality and racism. If they read books with gay characters, students would turn gay. If they read about racism, they would “hate America.” So school libraries had to be purged; even public libraries had to be purged. One almost expected public book burnings. So much power attributed to books, as if the Internet doesn’t exist, as if kids can’t watch porn of all kinds, as if public television does not regularly run shows about American’s shameful history of racism.

As citizens and parents, we must stand up for truth and sanity. We must defend our schools and teachers against libelous claims. We must oppose those who would ban books.

Of course, parents should meet with their children’s teachers. They should partner with them to help their children. They should ask questions about the curriculum. They should share their concerns. Learning benefits when parents, teachers, students, and communities work together.