Commentary: Civics Education Is More Important Than Ever

At its founding, American K-12 public education was meant to prepare young people to be active participants in our democratic republic. That should still be its highest purpose, especially when it comes to teaching civics.

Historically, public schools held fast to the principle that effective education must be non-partisan. Knowing they had great power to influence young minds, teachers used to be careful to choose content and pedagogies that restricted their ability to impose their personal political views on schoolchildren.

Today, maintaining non-partisanship is more important than ever in classrooms. Sadly, it’s increasingly dishonored. Civics has become a hot-button issue of late, particularly after remote learning allowed more parents to see what their children were actually being taught. Many were not happy with what they saw, and the debate over civics education is symptomatic of the larger divide that has become such a looming threat to American society.

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New Iowa Bill Would Allow Parents to Watch Kids’ Classrooms

An Iowa representative introduced Tuesday a bill that would allow parents to watch live footage of their children in public school classrooms.

“I think we need to showcase the great work our teachers do,” Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, a farmer, told The Center Square in a phone interview Tuesday.

He said that through the COVID-19 pandemic, parents learned they wanted to be more involved, and this is a mechanism of facilitating parental involvement.

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Tennessee Officials Release New Project School Performance Data Predating COVID-19

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and staff at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) this week released projected data that predates COVID-19 and compared it to student’s actual TCAP scores. They said in a press release that they did this to measure the pandemic’s impact on student achievement via the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) public site. State officials use the site annually to measure students’ overall growth.

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Arizona State University Professor Calls Traditional Grading Racist, Suggests ‘Labor-Based Grading’ Instead

Asao Inoue

Arizona State University professor Asao Inoue recently ranted about “White language supremacy in writing classrooms,” during which he called for abolishing traditional grading in favor of “labor-based grading.”

The latter method scores assignments based on the amount of effort students put towards in the work, devaluing quality and accuracy in the grading.

During Nov. 5 lecture at the University of Tennessee titled “The Possibilities of Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies”, Inoue claimed that “White language supremacy in writing classrooms is due to the uneven and diverse linguistic legacies that everyone inherits, and the racialized white discourses that are used as standards, which give privilege to those students who embody those habits of white language already”.

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Commentary: On Critical Race Theory, the Left’s Manipulations and Double Standards Are No Match for the Truth

"End Racism Now" sign and "Black Lives Matter" in a crowd

People old enough to remember the academic culture wars of the late 1980s and early ’90s have a special insight into this year’s controversy over critical race theory. I don’t mean insight into the identity politics of the old days and into the identity politics of 2021, though the basic features are the same whether we are talking about the English syllabus in college in 1989 or the equity lesson in elementary school this fall. I mean, instead, the particular way in which liberals have handled the backlash once the trends in the higher education seminar of yore and in the 6th grade classroom of today have been made public. 

Here’s what happened back then. In the 1970s and ’80s, a new political awareness crept into humanities teaching and research at elite universities, casting the old humanist ideals of beauty and genius and greatness as spurious myths, as socially constructed notions having a political purpose. We were told that they are not natural, neutral, or objective. No, they are Eurocentric, patriarchal, even theological (in that they presumed a transhistorical, universal character for select masterpieces). Shakespeare, Milton, Bernini, et al., were not on the syllabus because they were talents superior to all others. No, they were only there because  the people in control were institutionalizing their biases. This whole canon thing, the revisionists insisted, was a fake. As Edward Said put it in “Secular Criticism,” “The realities of power and authority . . .  are realities that make texts possible,” and any criticism that skirts the power and authority that put Shakespeare on the syllabus and not someone else is a dodge. 

They could diversify, then. That’s what the skepticism enabled them to do. They could drop requirements in Western civilization. They needn’t force every student through a “great books” sequence. The “classics” are just one possibility among many others. That was the policy outcome at one tier-one campus after another. 

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Commentary: Leading the Charge Against Critical Race Theory

Young boy reading a book

Critical Race Theory continues to permeate our classrooms and infect our children’s minds with outrageous ideas about their nation’s history. But a growing number of Americans are standing up to fight back against its false tenets and demand its removal from K-12 education. At the forefront of this patriotic effort is 1776 Action, an advocacy group committed to the vital work of restoring honest and unifying education in public schools throughout the nation.

The group’s Candidate Pledge has garnered national attention in recent weeks for its emphasis on America’s values and its vow to eradicate divisive race- and gender-based ideologies such as CRT from America’s schools. Political candidates who sign the pledge commit to restoring “honest, patriotic education that cultivates in our children a profound love for our country” and to promoting a curriculum that “teaches that all children are created equal, have equal moral value under God, our Constitution, and the law, and are members of a national community united by our founding principles.” The pledge also seeks to prohibit any curriculum that divides students by race and sex – or sets out to infuse harmful ideologies into course material.

In May, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) became the first candidate to sign the pledge, declaring that CRT and similarly divisive theories are “shameful [and] must be stopped.” Other high-profile conservatives running for office, such as Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin, also vowed to replace CRT with “a high-quality civics curriculum.” The two Republican candidates for Governor of Kansas, former Gov. Dr. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Atty. Gen. Derek Schmidt, have also signed the pledge. As more candidates sign this pledge, it will put pressure on teachers, principals, and school boards to declare their stances on CRT and other key educational matters. It will also hold them accountable for the materials they teach and ensure our children are not indoctrinated with malicious theories that seek to denigrate our country and reduce students to their sex or skin color.

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