Parents banning books, protesting mask mandates, and decrying Critical Race Theory in schools are not just advocating for “parental rights,” argues historian Jill Lepore
in this thought-provoking article. Rather, they are waging a campaign against public education altogether.
Prof. Lepore compares today’s school wars with those of the 1920s, in which Southern states, most notably in the Scopes Trial
, fought to make the teaching of evolution unlawful. Another campaign to reject the Progressive era’s tenets and to limit the power of public schools came after Brown v. Board
, when white segregationists advocated for “school choice” so their kids wouldn’t have to learn alongside Black children.
With the rise of charter schools and homeschooling, and with the pandemic further decimating traditional public schools, Prof. Lepore wonders if the free-market values of neoliberalism have triumphed, leaving behind public education’s dedication to a “bigger sense of covenant, toleration, and obligation.” (22 min)
+ More: “A functioning democracy needs citizens who know how to make decisions together,” writes George Packer in this essay
that I’m not sure I agree with entirely.