The Editorial Board: Efforts to Inject Right-Wing Politics into Schools Harm Education | Editorial

News Editorial Board

Start with this: it is in everyone’s best interest that parents be involved in their children’s education. Indeed, one of the problems with public schools is that too often parents are little more than spectators.

But there’s more to what’s going on than just educational interest. Here and across the country, Americans are witnessing a nationwide effort to inject into local school boards the kind of right-wing politics that has infected American governance.

This is accompanied by an attempt by some parents not only to influence, but also to direct the education that all children can receive. Call it too much of a good thing.

Rebelling against Covid restrictions, books available in school libraries, 21st century issues revolving around gender and more, some parents seem determined to redefine public education as ‘what I want your child to know’ . It’s an approach that must ultimately fail, but perhaps not before it does its own damage.

Energized by struggles against face masks and other pandemic mandates, candidates in a number of local districts are running with the help of groups that have platforms such as the curriculum in partnership with parents and the medical freedom.

It’s become a cliché, but for a reason: the aphorism that “it takes a whole village” to raise a child is true. Parents are, and should be, the primary directors of their children’s lives, but they can never be the only ones. It has always been true that children are subject to the influences of other adults. Beyond public school teachers, they included ministers, rabbis, Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, older children and parents of friends.

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It’s a big, interconnected world, and today it’s even bigger. Adding to these old analog influences is the relentless bombardment of digital manipulation, not just from television, but from the drone of social media. These outlets have nothing to do with schools, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling that their disruptions are a big factor in parental dissatisfaction. Schools are an easier target. And the groups that support these candidates are planning higher positions for them.

The pandemic is also influencing this phenomenon. In a bizarre twist of reality, many adults are blaming schools and government officials for requirements like distancing and masking when the fault — if that’s what you call it — lies in the callousness of a scary new virus.

It would have been irresponsible not to take these precautions. Nearly a million Americans have died of Covid-19 and many more than that sick or bereaved. If the American right cares about such things, its loudspeakers make it hard to see.

A significant number of parents have made their dissatisfaction known by refusing to wear the mandatory masks during meetings of school boards and other public bodies. It was ironic: adults behaved childishly while their children cooperated in an effort to respond to a legitimate and observable public health emergency. The fact is that without masks, Covid-19 would have infected many more people and killed some of them.

Elections are about choice and voters should exercise caution as school board elections on May 17 approach. Some contestants are running on platforms that include wispy boards such as “Parent-Partnered Curriculum” and “Medical Freedom.” What they are hiding is an effort to turn school boards into dysfunctional replicas of Congress and many state legislatures.

This would count as a terrible turning point in American life. We see what is being done in higher governments, but at the grassroots level we talk about our friends and neighbors – people who want to contribute, who want education to be better, who are willing to tackle tough issues in a demanding effort to prepare young people for the challenges of a highly competitive world. That’s the job, not making schools another battleground for America’s culture wars.

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