Americans have been treated to regular headlines over the last year or more about supposed culture war clashes around education. The far-right has turned school board meetings into war zones while Republican governors and legislatures have loudly pursued an agenda of book banning and censorship, decrying so-called “pornography” and controversy over race, gender and historical representation.
Yet do these conflicts represent actual growing discontent over public education? Mounting evidence shows: not really.
A brand new large-scale, high-quality national poll from NPR and Ipsos focusing on American parents of school-aged children reveal strikingly few divides, partisan or otherwise, in how American parents view their local schools:
- The survey shows that the vast majority of American parents say their kids are on-track or ahead of where they should be academically.
- Across all subject matter categories, many fewer parents report that their child is behind.
- Almost half (47%) of parents report that the COVID pandemic has not disrupted their child’s education.
Moreover, parents are mostly very comfortable with their child’s curriculum at school.
- Across partisan categories, a supermajority of parents (76%) report that they’re satisfied how their school keeps them informed of curriculum choices.
- Only a small minority (24%) of parents say they have too little say over what is taught and what books are in the library at their kid’s school, while a plurality (37%) doesn’t know.
NPR has an excellent breakdown of the new survey, as well as analysis about why we’re hearing so much culture warring noise over schools:
Ralph Wilson, a researcher who studies how partisan donors back the culture war, says these groups imply that they represent a silent majority of conservative-leaning parents. But that’s not necessarily the case, he says.
“It’s definitely an incredibly small minority that’s being amplified with this large, well-funded infrastructure to appear larger and to appear to have more well-founded concerns than they do.” (NPR)
Trust in teachers
Previous polling by Carolina Forward shows results that strongly support the new Ipsos survey. Across registered voters in North Carolina – a different, but strongly overlapping, respondent group with parents – there is significant levels of trust in public school teachers and principals:
The recent confrontational approach over education is really a mobilization strategy by GOP-aligned far-right groups, including some based here in North Carolina, which are overwhelmingly funded and recruited by national organizations. They do not command much or any organic audience. Most voters, including most parents, overwhelmingly support a strong public education system. Whether North Carolina can rebuilt a strong school system after a decade of divestment is up to the voters to decide.