Educators are feeling besieged by new laws, book-banning campaigns and other efforts to limit what they can teach in the classroom, recent polls have found. But a new survey of swing state voters shows growing support–particularly among Republicans–for prohibiting teaching about LGBTQ issues to younger students and barring critical race theory, among other restrictive rules that have reignited the culture wars in America’s classrooms.
About 60% of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with how schools teach about race, sexual preference and gender identity, according to an American Federation of Teachers survey that polled a mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The poll was first obtained and posted by NBC News.
About half said they were also not satisfied with the level of input parents have over what their children are learning. When it comes to sexual preference and gender identity, voters’ top objections were that children were too young for such content and that parents should be the ones to teach them about these topics.
Some 43% of the voters said schools spend too much time teaching about sexual preference and gender identity while only 29% said the same about racial issues. However, a majority of adults said they opposed censoring LGBTQ-themed books and curriculums and that sexual preference and gender identity were appropriate subjects for elementary school, according to a national survey by The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
“This poll emphasizes just how out of step recent political attacks aimed at LGBTQ students and their families are with public opinion,” said Sam Ames, The Trevor Project’s director of advocacy & government affairs. “A majority of adults reject the government overreach we’re witnessing across the country–whether it’s banning books, censoring school curriculums, or intervening in medical care decisions that are best left to doctors and parents.”
At the ballot box, voters, by a margin of 32 percentage points, said they would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who believed schools should spend less time teaching about race. Voters would also be more likely–by 27 percentage points–to back a candidate who supports prohibiting sexual orientation or gender identity lessons in kindergarten through third grade.
However, a majority of voters agreed that schools should teach U.S. history so children can “reckon with our past, understand our present, and create a better future.” And voters were less likely to support a candidate who advocated for removing books from school libraries based on parents’ objections or for prosecuting teachers who discuss critical race theory or gender identity with their students.
When asked about their biggest goals for public schools, voters leaned toward more traditional topics and away from social-emotional concepts. Giving children the freedom to be themselves, preparing them for diverse workplaces and providing an inclusive environment ranked at the bottom. Voters’ top priorities were ensuring students have strong math, science and reading skills, practical skills such as money management and critical thinking skills.
Finally, voters were less certain about parents’ role in the shaping of curriculum. Voters preferred having educators design instruction with help from families rather than giving parents more influence. And when asked what was the biggest problem in K-12, voters said the politicization of education. About one-third blamed liberals for the politicization while 28% blamed Republicans–and 36% blamed both parties.
Educators share voters’ sentiments about politics. Principals said “politicians making decisions about what students learn” was their biggest concern, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by Learning Heroes, a nonprofit equity advocacy organization. In the same poll, parents said they were more worried about people who are not educators making decisions about what students learn than they were about their children’s reading and math skills.