These 64 education laws are now part America’s culture war – The Washington Post

by | Oct 18, 2022 | Education

October 18, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDTListen15 minComment on this storyCommentGift ArticleA wave of new state laws meant to alter how students learn and the rights they have at school has taken effect across nearly half the country, a Washington Post analysis has found, as part of the rising battle over cultural values in American education.Over the past three academic years, legislators in 45 states proposed 283 laws that either sought to restrict what teachers can say about race, racism and American history; to change how instructors can teach about gender identity, sexuality and LGBTQ issues; to boost parents’ rights over their children’s education; to limit students’ access to school libraries and books; to circumscribe the rights of transgender students; and/or to promote what legislators defined as a “patriotic” education.Of these, 64 bills have been signed into law across 25 states, whose populations together add to roughly 42 percent of all Americans.AdvertisementA plurality of the passed laws, 42 percent, bar transgender students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities, The Post found. Laws limiting instruction on race, racism and history make up 28 percent of all passed laws. Legislation that restricts what teachers can discuss related to gender identity, sexuality and LGBTQ issues accounts for 23 percent of the passed laws. It is often up to state education agencies and school districts how to enforce the new provisions.The burst of education laws around cultural and societal issues is unprecedented, said Houman Harouni, a Harvard lecturer who studies education. It suggests that both political parties in America are doubling down on the culture war, he said, using the education laws to signal their values to voters: While Republicans are proposing and passing the measures, Democrats are loudly opposing them.“This, to me, reads more like a PR campaign,” Harouni said. “On either side, I don’t really think this is about education” — although it will have real effects for tens of millions of American children in public schools.The spike in legislation is due to a combination of factors, experts say, including the close look parents got at their children’s education when it was offered online during the pandemic. Some grew discontented with what they saw, said Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, particularly when teachers referenced race and cultural issues where parents would have preferred to see a straightforward focus on academics.AdvertisementThen Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, swept to the Virginia governorship in 2021 by campaigning to change education and give parents more control over lesson plans, Pondiscio said. Politicians everywhere sat up and took notice.“So now, there’s a sense among some conservatives that pushing this kind of legislation can actually win over swing voters,” Pondiscio said. “A sense that attacking public education is an electoral winner.”At almost exactly the same time, The Post reported, a trio of conservative organizations — including the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-leaning legal firm — began baselessly raising the alarm that educators and health-care workers are attempting to convert children to become transgender or queer, ultimately convincing Republican legislators nationwide to file hundreds of bills that restrict the rights of LGBTQ youths. Many of the bills affect health care, but some target schooling.An overwhelming majority of the education laws The Post identified were proposed by Republicans, passed by Republican-dominated legislatures, signed into law by Republican governors and took effect in red states.End of carouselPondiscio said he believes these measures are a necessary corrective to the recent sway that progressives have achieved in education, partly by training teachers to act as agents of social justice who encourage children to make the world a more equal place. A growing movement of conservative parents, politicians and pundits believe educators should remain focused on basic academics, Pondiscio said, and leave societal and cultural issues to parents.“There’s always going to be a push and pull between professional educators and parents in a free country,” he said. “Right now the pendulum is coming back a little bit in the direction of parents.”The Post obtained data on laws and bills affecting the culture wars by reviewing the public records of state legislatures nationwide, as well as by examining data sets of legislati …

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