Where Americans Agree and Disagree on Teaching Race in SchoolBreaking News
tags: education, teaching history, critical race theory
American schools have suddenly found themselves at the center of several fierce cultural debates, particularly related to race and racism. The stakes are high — both politically and educationally.
So what do American voters and parents actually think about these issues? It can be hard to get a good sense of that amid an avalanche of anecdotes, news stories, and viral videos.
Chalkbeat examined over 20 polls since last year to find out. In some cases, what we found was surprising, while others confirmed conventional wisdom. And there were instances of both widespread agreement and sharp division.
There are real divides in this country on how to teach about race and racism, particularly on whether to teach about racism as a present-day phenomenon. Parents are also divided about whether schools pay too much or too little attention to race and racism.
But most parents surveyed also say their child’s school does a good job keeping them apprised of what’s taught in class. More broadly, most Americans agree on certain issues: that schools should teach about the history of slavery and racism, that books shouldn’t be banned for political reasons, and that schools shouldn’t divide students by race for class discussions.
Keep in mind that polling provides only a snapshot of opinion, and results can shift based on question framing, political messaging, or the arguments of one side or the other. That said, here are several important takeaways from these surveys.
There is a fundamental divide among Americans on whether schools should focus more or less on race and racism.
Perhaps the simplest way of understanding the clashes over schools is the question posed in a recent Associated Press poll: “Do you think your local public school system is focusing too much or too little on racism in the U.S., or is the focus about right?”
Divisions were clear: 37% of Americans said about right, 34% said there was too little focus, and 27% said there was too much. In other words, a majority of adults believe schools need to change the amount of focus — but they diverge on what direction they should go. This split is echoed in other polling too, including surveys of parents.
There are really big racial and political differences on these issues
Divides about schools break sharply along racial and political lines. Democrats and people of color tend to support a stronger focus on race in schools; Republicans and white Americans tend to be much more skeptical of focusing on race. This pattern shows up in poll after poll in mostly predictable ways, including a national poll about how much schools should teach about racial inequality.
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