Why the culture wars will never end in our public school

We had a lull, for a few years there, in our education Kulturkampf. Terror, war and recession have captured our attention. Cultural battles have moved to church and courthouse, where same-sex marriage has been moot for a decade.

But then, relentlessly, the school board fights returned. Apparently, there have been fights all over the place over the rules of COVID, the approaches to race and gender, and ultimately, the shape of our national identity.

It is possible that we will resolve (or gradually abandon) these specific conflicts, and settle into a bitter cease-fire like that. We made For ancient controversies over sex education, evolution education, and campus prayer. However, we are naive to think that we will find out in a broader sense – that the culture wars in American public schools will truly end.

The school board battles of the past three years are not just a passing picture. It’s the relative calm of post-September 11, 2000 and the early 2000s that is an anomaly, and that calm can only be repeated permanently if we make major changes to how we organize public education – or how we live and imagine ourselves as a nation.

The centrality of public schools in defining and instilling American identity makes it an inevitable friction point in a country as divided as ours.

This may surprise us, especially after a temporary truce: We tend to think of domestic politics as a respite from discord in Washington, a place where practical facts and neighborhood cooperation. can be overcome partisan feuds. Go low enough on the federal scale and we all want the same things, right? Well maintained roads, reliable facilities, good education for our children.

But public schools are also “the principal American public institution for instilling moral values ​​and communicating them to their young,” education historian Jonathan Zimmerman wrote in from America? Culture wars in public schools– And here we are for sure no They all want the same things. Zimmerman notes that “Schools around the world teach the glories of the nation, connecting children to a set of events and ideals.”

After what be our glories? What is our proverb? Besides math, literacy, music, and sports, Americans’ visions of quality education diverge widely. They will always do that.

We inherited a public education system from a different era with different problems and goals. it’s a Designed for care A shared identity, which is exactly what we can’t (and somehow don’t want to) settle for. It is a winner-takes-all approach that is irreversibly unsuitable for peace in a country as religiously diverse and politically polarized as ours. Public education—confused with the more intimate question of how to raise our children and the biggest question of what our nation should look like—will forever be a front in the culture war, perhaps the fiercest.

That is, unless something changes – something big and unbelievable for the time being. Such a change can come on the educational side. The most optimistic, like Zimmermann and suggestwe could have teachers and textbooks that “offer multiple perspectives on the nation” and “allow students to sort them out for themselves.”

But I admit that I am not an optimist. Teaching plan, for example, Project 1619 Along with some of the findings of the Trump administration’s 1776 commission, no one will be satisfied. LGBT activists and their conservative counterparts will reject any proposal to present opposing views on transgender identity. Parents may suspect that, no matter what formal syllabus text is, teachers will have their thumbs up on the scale. Rather than hailing it as a blow to critical thinking, the presentation of multiple viewpoints is likely to be dismissed as a new variation on the “creationists.”Teaching controversyLobbying to pair instructions on evolution with a discussion of religious views about the origins of the earth.

Public education—confused with the more intimate question of how to raise our children and the biggest question of what our nation should look like—will forever be a front in the culture war, perhaps the fiercest.

A reductionist suggestion may be better than an additive suggestion, and Release time software Many of the states you hold can serve as a working model.

Release time allows public school students to leave campus for a short period during the school day to receive religious instruction. After the mid-century Supreme Court decisions, mainly McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), condition And the Area Codes Identification of instructions must take place outside school property, with all costs and logistics handled by the parents or religious organization. Participating students must have parental permission and take any work they miss off campus.

It is possible to imagine a similar approach to subjects outside of the Three Rs and arts (particularly social studies and sex education), giving students a partial or private school experience without eliminating the entire public school infrastructure. Progressive families can release their children to read Howard Zinn People’s History of the United States With the drag queen, while conservative parents might send their children to memorize the Declaration of Independence in the church.

Retaining abstract benchmarking for students across edit-time classes would ensure some consistent baseline of factual knowledge, where failing programs could be cut. Perhaps such territorial division could de-escalate, if not completely subside.

The alternative to fundamentally changing our school system is to change the way we live and our perception of American identity. But this seems, if anything, more difficult to do well.

A possible concrete scenario would be to scale it up and thought out”big typeWhere like-minded Americans huddle together until every public school district (or even state) becomes a monoculture, internally unquestioned in its self-description as truly The heart of America.

I doubt what we lose in the process deserves quieter school board meetings. However, even if that trade was wise, the return would not be guaranteed. The narcissism of small differences will work on it. And herein lies the problem: A society of perpetual pluralism will be more uncomfortable than ever with public education, because there is only one audience, if any.

And here we are, caught up in an educational war, all very well-meaning and clever and without any foreseeable path to détente.

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