‘Schools are a political battleground, as they always have been, with teachers and administrators often caught in the middle of warring factions.”
That’s according to a recent poll from the University of Southern California that explores Americans’ views on LGBTQ representation in education, an ongoing debate among parents and politicians.
The survey underscores how opinions of what should be taught in schools are split along party lines. Republicans want more parental control over what’s discussed in the classroom, whereas Democrats report a greater sense of trust in their educators to teach.
The findings reflect the policies and decisions of the nation’s politicians. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education law, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibits instruction “that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Similarly, political activist groups have banned upwards of 1,500 books from school libraries, often censoring titles that portray LGBTQ narratives and address racism.
School board meetings have also taken catastrophic turns as parents express their deep concerns over “explicit” books being used in their schools.
In opposition to these efforts, the American Federation of Teachers has launched the “Reading Opens the World” initiative, distributing over 830,000 free books to children.
“As others are doing rhetoric, we are trying to do this kind of very concrete, tangible action on the ground to restore hope and a sense of belonging and rebuild relationships,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a webinar last week discussing teacher shortages and student success.
As the poll indicates, this split in opinions also reflects the views of the general public.
The majority of respondents believe that transgender (59%) and gay rights (65%) should be taught in schools. However, the numbers vary as the scope narrows down to political affiliation. More than 66% of respondents who identify as Democrats support these topics being taught in high schools, whereas nearly 33% of Republicans share this opinion.
Furthermore, looking at LGBTQ curriculum in elementary schools, less than 10% of Republicans support such topics being taught. Nearly 50% of Democrats support it.
As book bans continue to be a polarizing issue among districts, the survey reveals a wide range of opinions over what students should be allowed to read. Across all grade levels, respondents oppose books that discuss families with same-sex parents, experiences of lesbian or gay people, gun violence and profanity.
Most notably, most Americans know very little about critical race theory. According to the data:
- 36% have never heard of it.
- 15% have heard of it but don’t know what it means.
- 35% know little about it.
- 11% know a lot.
- 4% know enough to explain it to others.
“We hope our findings point the way toward areas where common ground can be established, and where more work needs to be done to unite us through public education,” the researchers wrote.