By Auguste Meyrat – The Federalist
School choice is finally having its moment in the national conversation, to the joy of those interested in school reform. While some states have adopted various school choice initiatives in small doses, most have not. This may change after President Donald Trump publicly brought up school choice in his recent State of the Union address, and Republican lawmakers have introduced a series of bills that would increase federal funding for vouchers.
If school choice were adopted nationwide on the proposed scale, public education would change significantly, mostly for the better. Using a government-issued voucher, parents would finally have greater freedom in choosing whether to send their children to public school, private school, or a charter school. So many public schools that currently enjoy a monopoly would no longer benefit from automatic funding that comes regardless of their performance; they would have to compete with other schools for students.
With public schools no longer the only option for parents who can’t afford anything else, these schools would need to maximize their performance, efficiency, and attractiveness. Above all, however, schools would need to ensure their teachers use high-quality curriculum.
School Choice Counteracts Woke Curriculum
Currently, it can be difficult for parents to know what is in the curriculum of a typical public school. After all, there is little reason to be transparent when funding is assured. As Matt Beienburg writes in National Review, this situation has led to schools adopting questionable content that seems to promote an ideological agenda over serious learning. In particular, he mentions the nationwide adoption of the New York Times’ “1619 Project” for history class, along with Seattle’s math ethnic studies framework.
Although these represent the more extreme curriculum offerings, most public schools in both red and blue states routinely use left-leaning or “woke” materials while quietly doing away with older materials that encourage American patriotism, Western civilization, and Judeo-Christian values. In English class, this means replacing “Hamlet” and “The Scarlet Letter” with “The Hate U Give,” a novel based on themes from the Black Lives Matter movement, and “Symptoms of Being Human,” a novel about a gender-fluid punk rocker who blogs about his insecurities.
In social studies, this means incorporating Howard Zinn’s anti-American interpretations of history. In science, this means teaching Darwinism as an unquestionable fact and sexual differences as subjective opinion. In math, this means conscientiously applying social justice values in word problems and learning goals.
To make matters worse, many public schools never bother to tell anyone about these changes. Because of this, Beienburg argues for school choice as a remedy to this secret propaganda effort. If schools had to compete, they would be more open and less partisan in what they teach their students.
Educators Must Change How They Teach
Nevertheless, while school choice will indeed rein in some of the objectionable practices of public schools, it is important to understand why these practices occur in the first place, to treat the disease and not only the symptoms. The leftist propaganda taught in schools is no accident. It is the logical conclusion of the prevalent educational philosophy that favors skills over content and engagement over rigor. The choice of a novel or textbook often comes down to how well it aligns with this philosophy. Therefore, unless educators change how they teach, it really won’t matter what they teach.
The first step in the proliferation of woke materials has been the explicit deemphasis of content altogether. In a collective effort to combat rote learning and encourage critical thinking, the writers of Common Core and other leftist educational reformers made a point to first separate content from skills and solely focus on skills. The idea was that students who were memorizing things such as Shakespeare’s soliloquies, state capitals, and multiplication tables were not truly thinking about these things and what they meant. These reformers believed this commitment to traditional content was preventing analysis and creativity.
You can read more here.