Takeaways from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's CNN town hall on public education

Youngkin is a Republican candidate for governor of Virginia.

Takeaways from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's CNN town hall on public education

The Cable News Network (CNN) is an American news-based pay television channel owned by WarnerMedia News & Sports, a division of AT&T's WarnerMedia. It was founded in 1980 by American media proprietor Ted Turner as a 24-hour cable news channel. Upon its launch, CNN was the first television channel to provide 24-hour news coverage, and was the first all-news television channel in the United States.CNN is a division of WarnerMedia News & Sports, a subsidiary of AT&T's WarnerMedia. The channel was founded in 1980 by American media mogul Ted Turner. It was the first channel to provide 24-hour news coverage and was the first all-news channel in the United States.

In a Republican Party now dominated by political pugilists, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to play the role of peacemaker. That, at least, was his message to voters Thursday night in a CNN town hall focused on public education.

But Youngkin, who became a national GOP star in 2021 when he won the commonwealth, was less inclined to discuss his other ambitions. He shrugged off a question about a potential 2024 presidential run and repeatedly turned down opportunities to pointedly distinguish himself from would-be rivals.

The question now for GOP voters is whether they will continue to see Youngkin as a rising star or if, given the early flow of the 2024 primary season, they will see him as an afterthought in a contest that has so far been dominated by former President Donald Trump, a declared candidate, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely on his way to entering the race.

Still, there is no denying Youngkin's influence on GOP politics. His focus on education and ' parents' rights ' during his 2021 campaign has been copied by Republicans around the country, many seeking to parlay anger over Covid-19 shutdowns into a broader backlash against public educators and administrators. This is evident in the recent rise of so-called "parent trigger" laws, which would give parents veto power over school district decisions, including whether to shutter a school or outsource its management to a for-profit charter operator.

They have also attempted to package cultural clashes over race and gender identity as fights over the freedom of parents in educating their children, like Youngkin.

-He wants to make it easier for small businesses to get loans
-He supports school choice
-He opposes gun controlHere are some key points from Youngkin's town hall on Thursday:
-Making it easier for small businesses to get loans
-Supporting school choice
-Opposing gun control

Glenn Youngkin's Virginia is always sunny.

Youngkin is taking a similar political approach to Trump and DeSantis, but during the town hall he was less combative a trait that could attract conservatives who are worried that the current front-runners might be too divisive in a general election.

Whether faced with tough questions on the handling of race in education or the treatment of transgender students, Youngkin was all smiles, all the time. He consistently attempted to defuse potentially tense exchanges with kind words and an insistence that the controversy at hand was not, in fact, all that controversial- a stance many Democrats and Republicans would likely reject.

Youngkin also passed up the chance to use the national stage to aim any harsh criticism at President Joe Biden, who has been a staunch opponent of the policies championed by the governor and other Republicans.

But that decision to sit back where his contemporaries lunge forward was instructive. If Youngkin does enter the 2024 GOP primary, he may do so as the feel-good alternative to heavy hitters like Trump and DeSantis.

The Governor defended his executive order on critical race theory, saying that it is important to have a conversation about race in America. He said that the order will help to foster that conversation by ensuring that state agencies are not teaching divisive concepts.

Youngkin defended the executive order he signed last year banning 'critical race theory' from being part of public school curriculum, arguing that children should not be taught that 'they are inherently racist.'

Critical race theory is based on the premise that racism is systemic in American society and is not the simple result of individual prejudice. According to CRT, racism is entrenched in institutions, laws, and policies that create and maintain racial inequities.

Although the theory was not a part of Virginia's standard of learning, it has become a frequent target for Republican leaders seeking conservative grassroots support.

Youngkin said Thursday that his 'critical race theory' executive order was less important than other directives, including one that states that slavery was NOT the cause of the Civil War. (This had long been a point of debate among historians and political leaders but is considered by many to be a settled point.)

The executive order stated that 'inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory' should have no place in school curriculum. Youngkin's administration later created a tipline for parents to report on teachers who allegedly disobeyed it; however, the system has since been shut down.

"Schools should not teach that a child is guilty for sins of the past because of their race or religion or their sex," Youngkin said Thursday. "CRT suggests just that."

"CRT isn't a class that's taught," he added. "It's a philosophy that's incorporated in the curriculum."

Tapper pressed Youngkin on how teachers can explain that the present is a product of the past, given these constraints. Youngkin demurred.

"We must teach all that," the governor said, before pivoting to a criticism of "today's world of equal outcomes for all students at any cost."

What's so controversial about transgender policies? according to Youngkin.

Youngkin has pushed a raft of new policies focused on making transgender students feel more comfortable and accepted in school.

His administration's guidelines include a ban on trans students using bathrooms or competing on sports teams that do not match their sex assigned at birth. He has also required that parents sign off on the use of a gender pronoun different from what appears in a student's school record, among other similar steps.

"I just want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to have their voice heard and to have the opportunity to compete," Youngkin said. "We're not trying to take anybody's rights away. We're trying to accommodate as many kids as possible in a difficult situation."

"There is a clear distinction between boys and girls sports, and I don't think it's controversial," Youngkin said. "Biological boys shouldn't be playing sports with biological girls. There have been decades of efforts to help women gain opportunities in sports, and it's just not fair."

On the issue of restrooms, Youngkin again parried and pointed to past statements in which he suggested that 'we just need extra bathrooms in schools.'

"There are parents who have had their children taken away from them," Youngkin said. "The courts have ruled that the parents have no rights, and so I think that's a terrible thing."

"Children belong to parents," Youngkin said. "Not to the state, not to schools, not to bureaucrats, but to parents."

The governor of Florida argues that new gun laws are not the answer to mass shootings. He says that the focus should be on mental health and keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental illness.

What concrete measures is Virginia taking to protect students and staff, following an incident earlier this year in Newport News, in which a 6-year-old boy allegedly shot his elementary school teacher? Youngkin was questioned about this.

The governor argued that Virginia needs to focus on improving mental health resources rather than strengthening gun laws. The governor said that the commonwealth already has some of the 'toughest gun laws in the country.'

"What we continue to find is that gun laws don't keep us safe. It's the behavior of people that we need to make sure we're paying attention to. Parents have a responsibility to keep guns out of their young children's hands, and they need to be held accountable for that," Youngkin said.

He then pointed to the toll that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on children's mental health and said that it is important that Virginia move forward with an 'aggressive transformation' of its behavioral health system.

"We have a gun storage law in Virginia that requires guns to be stored safely so that kids can't access them," Youngkin said. "And there are already penalties if you don't do that."

He argued that if people don't follow the law, then the laws aren't as powerful as they otherwise could be.

"I think more schools should ban ChatGPT," says Youngkin.

"I think it's a bad idea," Youngkin said. "If you can't trust the people who are in the room with you, then how can you trust the people who are not in the room with you?"Youngkin said that more Virginia schools should ban students and teachers from using ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot tool that could make it easier for students to cheat."I think it's a bad idea," Youngkin said. "If you can't trust the people who are in the room with you, then how can you trust the people who are not in the room with you?"

He told Tapper that he thinks it's something to be very careful of and that he thinks more school districts should ban it.

The Fairfax County public schools in northern Virginia blocked ChatGPT from county-issued devices earlier this year, according to WTOP News.

School districts in New York City, Seattle and Los Angeles have also banned students and teachers from using ChatGPT on district networks and devices because the app is not secure.

The tool generates responses and essays that are convincing in response to user prompts.

"Our goal of education is to make sure our kids can think," said Youngkin. "If a machine is thinking for them, we're not accomplishing our goal."

Youngkin would have signed a bill to recommend book removal policies.

Youngkin supported legislation in Virginia that, if passed, would have required the state's Department of Education to recommend policies about selecting and removing books from public school libraries.

He said that if the bill had passed, he would have signed it. Then, they would have engaged with communities in a way that listened and discussed to make good decisions for their kids instead of a strong-handed way.

The legislation in question, House Bill 1448, was introduced in and passed by the Republican-led House of Delegates this year. However, it was killed at the committee level in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Youngkin said Thursday that he wants to ensure that parents are aware of the books and materials in public libraries and in their children's curriculum. He pointed out that he signed a bill last year that requires schools to notify parents if instructional material contains sexually explicit subjects. He wants parents to be able to opt their children out of these classes if they choose.

He said that there are moments where we have to make decisions about what is age-appropriate and what is appropriate. He asked if books in elementary school libraries should have explicit pictures in them. He said that he does not think they should be there.