Ever since the United States adopted a public school system run by locally elected boards of education, we have witnessed controversy over curriculum. Given the importance of education and the great disagreement about how it should be achieved, such issues are unavoidable. The political nature of this system ensures controversy. State involvement exacerbates conflict.
Now, Americans are playing their latest grudge match around local education issues. The most high-profile battle was in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis implemented rules banning curricula dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity. California has mandated a “sexual health curriculum” since 2016 and recently approved a social studies curriculum that incorporates elements of gay rights.
Critics exaggerate the importance of both laws, but it is clear that state politicians with partisan aims are imposing their vision on the educational scene. At the local level, school boards have typically been dominated by leftist teachers’ unions, but conservatives have elected their own candidates to oppose gender and race policies.
Recent turmoil in California includes efforts by Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to stop the right-wing Southern California school board from carrying out its plans. include. Before we get into the details, remember that this is nothing new.
Writer Mark Twain quipped in 1897, “God made fools in the first place.” Then he created a school board. Scopes’ “monkey trial” he took place in 1925. Tennessee has prosecuted a local teacher for violating a law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled such a ban.
Bonta this month released a study into a Chino Valley Unified School District policy adopted last month requiring school officials to notify parents if a child identifies as transgender. Mr. Thurmond was largely absent as union allies delayed reopening schools after COVID-19, but spoke at a board meeting in July when parents told him to “kick them out.” I screamed and was kicked out of the meeting.
Newsom accused the Temecula Valley Unified School District of rejecting the social studies curriculum, which he said contained material referring to Harvey Milk, the state’s first openly gay elected official. , had threatened to impose a fine of $1.5 million. The board approved the curriculum last month to avoid a legal battle after a bit of acrimony between the board chairman and the governor.
We believe that whatever the merits of the local board’s decision, Newsom, Bonta and Thurmond have pushed the envelope. The latest state test scores show a dramatic decline in academic achievement. These officials have more important education-related issues to address. Only politicians, not students, benefit from these battles.
The California Democratic Party is committed to a transparent attempt to score political gains with its progressive base. But conservatives are enjoying these battles, too. Politico reported that the Bonta investigation was “exactly what the (Chino’s) Conservative Commission wanted.” Republican lawmakers took up the issue in the state capitol.
Such high-profile cultural displays do not improve education. The best approach, rather than endless political battles over policies and curricula, is to broaden public and private school options and allow parents to decide where to send their children to improve the school system. to reduce the political element in