BERNARD COLUMN: Who should decide what our children learn?

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A recent Pew Research survey found parents are happy with the results of the K-12 educational process, with 58% satisfied with the quality of the education their children get. And the majority (54%) believe that teachers and administrators have the same sort of values as parents.  

Overall, a little over a third thought parents had the right amount of influence, with a bit under a third thinking that they did not have enough and 14% that they had too much. Teachers had the right amount of influence per 42% of parents, while 30% thought they had not enough. Principals ran 46% right amount and 18% too much. 

However, it also found that there are major differences in what GOP versus Democratic voting parents believe is the appropriate role of parents in the educating of children. Further, when it comes to the more controversial educational topics, there is a major split between the two groups. 

The GOP is using this fact in their political campaigns across the US, championing a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” and condemning Critical Race Theory (CRT). It should be noted that this is a false flag in that CRT is not being taught in our K-12 public schools. 

Local school boards are generally elected by residents. Still, 30% of GOP parents believe that BOEs have too much influence on what kids learn, while 44% think that parents have too little. Results are much different for Democratic parents, with only 23% believing that parents have too little influence and 17% that the school board has too much. 

When we get into specific subjects, the difference in views becomes very evident. “Gender identity” is a good example. While 46% of GOP parents believe that gender identity related issues (like someone being a girl/boy even if that’s different from sex at birth) should not be learned in school, only 28% of Democrat leaning parents feel that way. 

Another controversial issue is the history and continuing impact of slavery in the US. Almost three fourths (70%) of Democrat parents believe that the legacy of slavery continues to affect African Americans today. Only one-fifth of Republican parents believe this to be true. Instead, two-thirds of GOP leaning voters think that slavery is just history and has no impact on the current position of Black people in American society.  

Race of the parents was another big factor, with 79% of Black parents saying that the legacy of slavery still affects African Americans, versus only 46% of whites, 53% of Asians and 40% of Latinos. However, overall, just 8% of all parents (and 9% of GOP parents) thought that the history of slavery should not be taught in schools. 

Contraception is another topic where there is a difference of opinion. Only 18% of parents thought that this topic should not be taught. 

But 28% of GOP-leaning parents want teaching restricted to abstinence while only 17% of Democrats felt this way. 

Among Democrats, 71% wanted all methods of contraception taught, as did 45% of GOP parents. But there was a wide racial divergence among the Democrats, with 84% of whites wanting all methods taught versus 63% of Hispanics and only 51% of Blacks.  Prayer in school also showed a wide racial disparity, with 58% of whites and 56% of Asians against teachers leading prayers. But only 43% of Hispanics and 37% of African Americans felt this way. 

The political breakdown was even more pronounced, with 63% of Democrats against school prayer versus only 39% of GOP parents. Among religious groups, white evangelicals are the most likely to believe in teacher lead Christian prayers (71%), with 41% saying they were fine with only Christian prayers in public schools.