Kevin McCarthy’s Worrying Focus on Our Public Schools

By Raymond C. Pierce

In his first speech upon being elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy promised that the new majority of the House would take a stand against “the indoctrination awakened in our schools”.

The claim that our public schools are harming our children through unfair indoctrination is yet another accusation that erodes support for our teachers and tarnishes the highly critical role of public education in the overall health of our nation.

The erosion of confidence in public education is unfortunately an ongoing political agenda for many in our country who, among other things, seek to divert public funding from public schools to private entities. Often these indoctrination claims also have a distorted racial element that breeds reactionary politics.

Indeed, allegations that a school or teacher is engaged in indoctrinating children with ideas, concepts and ways of thinking that go against the parents’ values ​​are serious accusations. I believe these concerns are best addressed through healthy parent-teacher relationships and community development to allow for mature, thoughtful conversations about these concerns.

Parents must always be properly included in their children’s education in our public schools. Parental involvement in their children’s education is and always has been an extremely healthy component of education. However, there has always been some tension between the values ​​that parents have for their children and some of the concepts that children are introduced to in school (public or private) throughout our nation’s history and perhaps in many education systems around the world. . One of the best examples of this tension in our nation’s history was in the early 1920s with opposition to Charles Darwin’s teaching of the theory of human evolution. That tension escalated to litigation in a Tennessee state court, attracting national attention.

Somehow the nation got through that highly charged period of political exploitation of our public schools. Ultimately, greater focus on the general education of our children prevailed, and communities for the most part returned to healthier relationships between parents, teachers, students, and administrators.

Political exploitation of parents’ concern and interest in their children’s education is despicable. This exploit is quite effective in creating voting blocks for politicians and for political purposes. At the same time, this exploitation is exceptionally destructive to our public school system.

These continued attacks on our public schools are driving away good teachers and administrators, creating huge obstacles to attracting new educators to an already depleted workforce. These tactics could also weaken the quality of our people’s education, especially at a time when our nation desperately needs educated young citizens in an increasingly competitive global society. This is crazy. Injecting divisive politics into conversations about what is being taught in our public schools has always been disastrous for the schools and the communities they serve. Sick political forays into our public schools are even more disastrous when sick elements of racial agitation are added to the mix, creating fear in some parents who don’t normally object to instruction on racial topics.

Polls show that most Americans support the teaching of race-related issues as it relates to the legacy of slavery in America and the period of legal segregation and discrimination against African Americans that followed. A recent poll by Reuters and Ipsos showed that 86% of Democrats support teaching high school students about slavery and 85% about racism – and that 73% of Republicans also support teaching about slavery and 58% about racism.

There are far more significant areas where Congressional representatives would be able to improve support for our public schools, rather than going into hysterics over tensions between parental concerns and instruction in their community’s public schools.

Parents should beware of political exploitation in the public schools that serve their children. These political maneuvers in our schools manipulate parent-school relations and are destructive to our schools and our communities. Real solutions demand the civility we have long sought to teach our children in our schools. Our organizations and parent-teacher associations, among others, can help cultivate more thoughtful conversations in our communities far better than most politicians, particularly those in Congress. Members of Congress should be very cautious about their rhetoric about indoctrination and give every deference to parents and local school boards to address any legitimate concerns about what is being taught in our public schools.

Raymond C. Pierce is the President and CEO of Southern Education Foundationa 155-year-old nonpartisan organization that works to improve education, especially for students of color and students from low-income families.

Kevin McCarthy’s Worrying Focus on Our Public Schools

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