Professor blasts politicians for pushing culture war in New Jersey

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

New Jersey is going to hold school board elections this fall and it apparently has one college professor in a tizzy.

Local news media outlet wrote a piece quoting a critic of parental rights-driven “culture war” in the Garden State. The article featured comments from Dan Cassino, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), who claimed that conservative politicians are making parental rights a “wedge issue” to stir controversy.

Dan Cassino, who teaches government and politics at the private New Jersey university, lists “gender identity and threat” among his research areas. His university bio states:

“Dr. Cassino has published books and research articles on political communication, political cognition, and the socio-political consequences of men’s gender identities in both academia and the popular press. He appears regularly on television broadcasts about politics in the New York area, and internationally. He is frequently quoted in major national newspapers.”
Cassino’s objection about education becoming a political football came from changes made by New Jersey’s Board of Education on gender identity, where there is no longer any difference in genders and replacing the word “equality” for “equity.” He said, “Republicans in the state… think this is a powerful wedge issue, and they are going to do whatever they can to try and make that into an issue going into the upcoming legislative elections.”
The professor added that there was “not a lot here except for the potential for making political hay out of it” and the political wrangling is an example of “fear-mongering.” Cassino said, “This is a purely manufactured wedge issue.”
He echoed similar opinions when it comes to transgender issues. “It turns out when you even talk about trans issues, just bring those issues up, it actually activates all sorts of other relatively conservative attitudes among voters,” Cassino said, “That does activate all these other kindred ideas, and those generators activated tend to work for the benefit of Republicans. So this is a savvy political ploy. But I think it is really just that, a political ploy.”
Cassino may be correct in deducing that conservatives are using parental rights as a political football, but his comments also ignore how parents have become more politically-active in local school districts. For example, school board elections have become a focus of political spending and national attention since the pandemic as parental rights issues have risen to the forefront.