Most superintendents would probably say they have more pressing things to do than fight the culture wars now intruding on classrooms. That sentiment is shared by a majority of parents, who say academic advancement and safety are far more important than fear-mongering over “woke” agendas and indoctrination, according to a new survey.
“Rather than reacting to MAGA-driven culture wars, voters overwhelmingly say they want lawmakers to get back to basics: to invest in public schools and get educators the resources they need to create safe and welcoming environments, boost academic skills and pave pathways to career, college and beyond,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, whose union released new national polling results of 1,500 voters—including about 560 public school parents—earlier this month.
Here are the top education priorities voters’ identified:
- Ensuring students have strong fundamental skills in reading, math, and science
- Ensuring all students, regardless of background, have the opportunity to succeed
- Providing a safe and welcoming environment for children
- Developing students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills
- Teaching practical life skills
- Preparing students to succeed in college or careers
Here are their lowest priorities:
- Making sure schools aren’t teaching a “woke” political agenda
- Giving parents more say over what their children are taught
- Making sure schools don’t teach critical race theory
- Removing books and curriculum materials on topics some families consider offensive or inappropriate
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Most Americans are not concerned that teachers are pushing a “woke” political agenda in the nation’s classroom. Nearly two-thirds of all voters—and 74% of parents—say their schools are teaching appropriate academic content and skills education while just about one-fifth of parents think teachers are indoctrinating students with a liberal agenda.
A large majority of voters also worry that “culture war battles distract public schools from their core mission of educating students,” the AFT said.
Teacher shortages, inadequate funding, dangerous schools, and recovering from pandemic learning loss are the most serious challenges that superintendents and their teams face, said the survey’s respondents, who also—by an 85% to 15% margin—said they would rather see Congress provide more support to K12 education than launch the multiple investigations that GOP leaders have threatened.
“One key weakness of the culture war agenda is that voters and parents reject the idea that teachers today are pushing a ‘woke’ political agenda in the schools,” pollster Geoff Garin said. “Most have high confidence in teachers. Voters see the ‘culture war’ as a distraction from what’s important and believe that politicians who are pushing these issues are doing so for their own political benefit.”