When I sat down to write this piece, I had a lot on my desk that I was researching, and I could not choose which topic to make the subject of this column. I narrowed it down to pensions and K-12 issues. Then I found out that Chad Oban’s column is about pensions — with a clever The Office analogy — so here are some thoughts about the state of K-12 education.

Over the course of the past few years, we have seen education and educators thrust into the middle of America’s ongoing culture wars. Demagogues like Christopher Rufo have manufactured outrage over Critical Race Theory, while others generated chaos at school board meetings over face masks and pandemic-related safety measures.

More recently, the conversation has shifted to “parental rights” and “curriculum transparency.” In Florida and elsewhere, schools are banning books and scouring curriculum for any and all cultural tripwires.

In our democratic republic, we should have conversations about what constitutes a well-rounded curriculum. Parents’ concerns, like those of professional educators, should be carefully considered. We are, after all, partners in creating safe and inclusive learning spaces for our children.

In doing so, it is important to remember that public schools are supported by our citizenry as a whole and that public schools exist not to indoctrinate young people in a specific worldview. Rather, they exist to expose students to
a variety of viewpoints so that students will eventually take their places within our dynamic society understanding that we are all Americans and will have to respect each other, despite our differences, if we are to embrace our promise to form a more perfect union for ourselves and our posterity.

Unfortunately, there are some among us more interested in dividing America than in uniting us around the goal of creating great public schools. The good news is that most parents are not buying what the culture warriors are selling. A recent NPR/Ipsos poll reveals that:

  • 76% of respondents agree that their child’s school does a good job of keeping them informed about curriculum.
  • 88% agree that their kids’ teachers “have done the best that they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic.”
  • Just 19% felt that race and racism are taught in a manner contrary to their beliefs, while 14% felt that way about how U.S. History is taught.

Maybe we are not as divided as some would have us believe.