Getting Back on Track
The temptation to use the K-12 classroom to enact partisan aims is eternal, and arguments about what should or should not be included are perennial. There is no shortage of people or organizations who think they know what educators should or should not be covering in school. After all, if one can convince young people of certain ideological viewpoints, while restricting their access to dissenting opinions, one can exert a tremendous amount of influence over the future of society.
The currently most talked-about iteration of perceived educator overreach — colloquially referred to as “critical race theory” or “CRT”— is but one example in a long line of curricular changes that have attracted concern and sparked a popular backlash. In previous eras, teachers were accused of inappropriately promoting a Christian-dominated worldview, or other non-secular aims, thereby violating the aim of separating church and state. Evangelicals have had to learn that they can’t co-opt the classroom to promote their belief system in a secular school; so, too, now must passionate advocates of CRT, anti-racism, and other currently popular doctrines. We need committed teachers, not preachers, in American public schools.
Whatever the ideology in question, the essential issue remains the same: using the classroom and access to other citizens’ children to promote or attempt to enact a preferred worldview. Of course, the state has its own aims that it is trying to achieve with the public funds that it directs towards the “government speech” that takes place in public school classrooms. This has traditionally been understood to be along the lines of promoting domestic tranquility that leads to desirable levels of shared civic identity and cultural bonds, promoting desirable levels of social cohesion—cre
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