By Conrad Dudderar
An outspoken Oklahoma school leader pulled no punches while receiving loud applause several times during a recent speech in Yukon.
Ryan Walters, who became state superintendent of public instruction in January, was the featured guest at the April 25th Moms for Liberty Canadian County meeting at Liberty Church, 450 E Main.
“We are a great state,” Walters said. “We are people that have great, conservative American values. There is no reason that our education system shouldn’t reflect those values.
“Conservative values, work ethic, understanding our history, and mastering the basics – math, reading, writing – and the empowerment of individualism that you control your destiny. Those things translate to academic success. Those things translate to kids getting the jobs that meet their needs and line up with their talent. … But we have to fight the bullies on the left, we have to fight the radicalism.”
The sitting U.S. president, liberal advocates, national teachers’ union, public school leaders, and even his predecessor were among those targeted for criticism in his talk.
Walters told Moms for Liberty members that the Biden Administration and the “radical left” want to indoctrinate their children – turning them against their families.
“The next thing is to turn them against the country,” he told the audience. “That’s why you see this perversion of our history – to say that everything about our country is racist and bigoted to its core. They don’t want kids to read the Declaration of Independence. They don’t want kids to understand the Constitution. They want kids to believe we need a radical transformation.
“In reality, we have an incredible story to tell. We are the greatest country in the history of the world. Why? Because our founders imbedded in our country, in those founding documents, the belief that we were given our inalienable rights by God. The government didn’t give them to you. God gave them to you.”
Moms for Liberty’s guest speaker believes it is critical that Oklahoma students understand the separation of powers included in the founding documents that establish government checks and balances.
“If our kids hate our country and our history, they will go astray,” he said. “And if they do, what we know from history, it will cause division, strife and the next generation to live worse off than the previous one. That’s where you see the Marxism, where you see this woke-ism that’s dominating so much of our younger generation.”
Walters referred to a spiritual war against the Christian faith in public schools, where even the words “Under God” have been removed from textbooks.
“They want the secular religion shoved down every kid’s throat,” he said. “They want transgenderism. They want critical race theory. They want to tell every single child that ‘you’re either a victim or an oppressor, and your skin color determines that’.
“That is the very opposite of what our founders believed.”
The Legislature has passed laws to ensure that Oklahoma students do not have a “social justice warrior” as a teacher – but someone who is trying to improve their academics, Walter added.
Some teachers have contacted him saying they feel “stuck” having to teach social justice issues, and he fears many quality educators will decide to leave the profession in frustration.
One parent – who said she decided to homeschool her children – expressed her frustration at the April 25th meeting about “liberal colleges” that provide “woke” instruction to the state’s future teachers.
Walters sent a letter to the State Regents for Higher Education to tell colleges they must report to him every dollar spent on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Walters shared with Moms for Liberty meeting attendees two new rules passed by the Oklahoma Board of Education.
One requires school personnel to tell parents if they are going to have a conversation with a child about changing their gender.
The other forbids pornography in schools.
Walters talked about some school officials’ opposition to his efforts to remove books from Oklahoma school shelves that he says depict graphic sexual images.
“We are going to keep fighting this,” he said. “They are the ones out of step with Oklahoma values.”
He referred to RINO (Republicans in Name Only) legislators at the State Capitol who keep telling him there’s no pornography in schools.
The state superintendent’s staff sent a 50-page packet to Oklahoma lawmakers showing pornography found in schools, and one expressed shock over how offensive the material was.
Walters responded by telling this elected official: “Yes, it is! So, imagine being the parent or grandparent whose child brought that home from first grade. You think you’re offended. How about you get offended and fight for parents who don’t want this filth in our schools.”
He noted he’s not trying to “ban books” but wants students to have access to age-appropriate materials.
During his recent Yukon talk, Walters was asked his thoughts about a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires states to educate illegal immigrants. Some people see this as a drain on school districts.
Walters credited President Trump for appointing Supreme Court justices who are originalists, who interpret the U.S. Constitution as it was written and are willing to overturn previous precedent if court decisions are wrong.
As such, he believes the Supreme Court must look at overturning dozens of what he described as liberal, activist decisions – and judging these cases on what the Constitution says.
“I can’t tell you how much having illegal immigrant children in our schools cost,” he said. “President Biden’s open border policy is costing the taxpayers a lot of money – and we’ll be able to provide that (amount) soon, just in education.
“These gangs are pushing this Fentanyl … we have had kids drop dead in our schools from taking Fentanyl. They take it, they think it’s just like some other drug, and they’re dead. These gangs are as nasty as they come. They’re coming across the border and they’re pushing these drugs across the state.”
ACCOUNTABILITY AND OPTIONS
Walters told Moms for Liberty Canadian County members that there had not been accountability in Oklahoma schools during the last eight years under Joy Hofmeister’s leadership at the state Department of Education.
“You had a state superintendent who was elected by getting money from the teachers’ union, the administrators’ association and the school board association,” he said.
“When the administrators’ association and union pays to get you in, what do you think they want? They want to know you’re not going to check up on them. There’s not going to be any accountability. We have found this all over the agency. That (accountability) is done now, and they’ve heard that loud and clear.”
The American Federation of Teachers strongly opposed Walters’ campaign for Oklahoma superintendent.
Walters defeated April Grace by a 53.4% majority in the November 2022 general election to earn the next four-year term.
The 37-year-old McAlester native took office Jan. 9 as Oklahoma’s 14th superintendent of public instruction.
Walters called it “absurd and dangerous” that schools were forced to remain shut down so long during the COVID-19 pandemic – and that all teachers and students were required to get the vaccine before they could reopen.
“This is what happens when you – even in a red state – give teachers’ unions the power to go in and leverage through the Legislature and go try to bully schools into staying closed,” he told the audience.
“In the State of Oklahoma under my watch, I will never allow the teachers’ union to dictate to you what your kids’ education is going to look like.”
Superintendent Walters, who previously taught at McAlester High School, pointed out that not every student must attend college to be successful.
That’s because career technology centers and trade schools offer better options for many.
“Is college a good path for some careers? Absolutely,” he explained. “But let me tell you, we have lots of great jobs and individuals – who have the skill set to do those jobs and make a great living and make a tremendous impact on our community and our state – that don’t need to go to college.
“We recognize that every kid is unique. Every kid is special in their own way. God created everyone unique. And our education system should reflect that.”
Parents must be part of every major decision for their child in education as that child tries to figure out their path to success, he added.