School Choice Is Not Enough

If there is a public policy silver lining to this past year, it is the increased support for school choice. Most public schools went online during lockdowns and parents, dissatisfied with the results, sought out other solutions, including private schools, pods, charter schools, online learning, and homeschooling. The last more than doubled with 11.1 percent of households homeschooling, up from 5.4 percent the year before.

Many state legislatures improved school choice options in their states. This is to be celebrated and continued.

School choice by itself, however, will not save students from a failing education if charter and private schools adopt the same curriculum and practices as the most woke schools. Without a focus on the right subjects and lessons, students will be unprepared for personal or professional success. 

Worse, the “1619 Project” curriculum that thousands of U.S. schools rushed to adopt will ensure students are divided by race, left ignorant of the principles of the American founding, and divorced from the Western heritage that has nurtured American greatness. Students will be unable to fully pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful.

The curriculum prevalent in U.S. public schools reflects lower standards, lower expectations, and the interference of Washington, D.C., in matters best left to state and local governments. The greatest influence in recent years has been Common Core, a top-down approach intended to provide national standards of excellence to prepare students for the 21st century. Instead, it renders students unsuited for college work and citizenship by treating them as cogs to be fitted into the workforce.

Students would be far better served by a rigorous, content-rich curriculum designed to develop virtuous, knowledgeable, and independent citizens capable of pursuing happiness, contributing to the economy, and participating in our republican form of government. Students should study history and literature, mathematics and science, art and music in a systematic progression. Otherwise, their education will be a miscellany of the latest fads to emanate from the Ivy League.

The importance of curriculum is most evident in the spread of critical race theory (or its simulacra) in elementary and secondary schools. It is a pernicious theory that “makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life.” The consequences of its rapid rise to influence are severe: it undermines equality under the law, presumes every inequality is the result of systematic racism, and promotes censorship in the name of eliminating “implicit bias.” Race essentialism—which is what such curricula advances—is inconsistent with the principles of the founding, and inimical to national unity. 

No one should doubt that CRT, while descended from a theory taught in law schools, is widely pushed in schools. Examples abound:

  • The New York State Association of Independent Schools’ online training includes “Embodying Our Anti-Racist Values at School.”
  • The National Association of Independent Schools POCC Equity Seminars declare, “we will challenge ourselves by first examining the racial lens through which we experience the world.”
  • The National Education Association’s Business Item 39 calls for one of the nation’s largest teachers unions to support CRT and defend the historically inaccurate “1619 project.”
  • The Potomac & Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling encourages reading all articles from the “1619 Project” and “Who Gets to be Afraid in America” by Ibram X. Kendi.
  • Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has said the union will counter state legislation banning CRT while simultaneously claiming CRT is not taught in schools.
  • The Fairfax County school district paid Ibram X. Kendi $20,000 for a one-hour lecture on antiracism.

Parents and legislators should not doubt that pernicious and divisive racial teachings are being pushed aggressively in our nation’s schools, public and private alike. 

School choice has made great strides this last year. However, if advocates are not careful they will merely create thousands of private and charter schools providing a subpar education. Concerned citizens need to ensure that any institutions born of the increased popularity of school choice provide a rigorous, content-rich education while avoiding the leftist pedagogies that have gained sway across the nation. The fix should not be as bad as the problem.

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About Zachary D. Rogers

Zachary Rogers is a graduate of UCCS, Hillsdale College, and the John Jay Institute. Additionally, he is a former intern of the Independence Institute, Family Research Council, and the Claremont Institute. He resides in Arkansas.

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