Is Public Education “Woke”? Improving education is the claim of elected types across America. They’ll have a fight on their hands by extremists who see public education as a dragon to be slain, which is sad because it’s actually a knight in shining armor. (CDA Press). What do the extremists across our country hope to achieve?
Although often viewed as local community issues actually are part of a years-long effort by a growing contingent of conservative groups to chip away at what they view as education’s liberal bias. They’re seeking legislation targeting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, critical race theory, and more. The bills have centered on K-12 schools. Increasingly, though, the legislation has focused on higher education . Thirty-nine percent of bills in 2022 targeted higher ed, compared with 30% in 2021 , according to an analysis last year.
State Legislation targeting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives is irising. For example Florida Governor DeSantis’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” whose higher education provisions are on hold for now because of a lawsuit . Governor DeSantis effort has been termed institutional recapture which means essentially change teaching methods to conform to extremist points of view Woke is defined by the DeSantis administration as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and a need to address them,” according to DeSantis’ general counsel. “Woke” originally meant a person who recognized injustice. The term was originally coined by progressive Black Americans and used in racial justice movements in the early to mid-1900s. To be “woke” politically in the Black community means that someone is informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states. How that word acquired such a distorted meaning today reflects the ignorance of some people. The term has recently been used by some conservatives as an insult against progressive values.
One Press article recently stated public education can be the single most effective way to improve the lives for generations to come, and fortunately, some governors and school leaders understand and embrace that truth. A pacific-northwest think tank has been promoting what it calls a “school choice” plan. The words conjure up visions of parents being offered a variety of school options from which they can pick and choose. Actually, the options are the same ones that are presently available to parents but the issue is paying for them. It is, in essence, a tax-and-spend proposal that would force taxpayers to finance private and religious schooling, in addition to paying for what might remain of our public education system.
School choice is merely a plan to shift some of the cost of private schooling from parents of private and parochial students to the tax-paying public. A recent poll in Idaho showed that 63% of respondents opposed spending taxpayer money for private school education. When tax revenues are at risk, those who pay taxes are not so keen about paying for private schooling.
Our main threat comes from a group of Republican legislators determined to redirect school funds to a voucher scheme called “ESA’s (“education savings accounts”). The plan is to create an ESA voucher program on the model of Arizona’s voucher scheme, which senators hailed as “the gold standard.” But it turns out that the vast majority of beneficiaries were affluent families whose children were already in private schools. In the program’s first year, it blew a $300 million hole in the state budget.
Vouchers divert money from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. Vouchers provide tax dollars without oversight. Public schools must abide by learning standards and have elected school boards accountable to voters.
There’s little government oversight of religious schools. They do not have to comply with the ADA or Title IX, leading to discrimination. Nor do they have to comply with state civil rights laws protecting LGBT students.
Besides K-12 what may be the “woke” impact on higher education. Is it the intent of some recreate colleges into a version of Hillsdale College? Hillsdale is a private Christian college in Michigan that has been lauded by some on the right for championing conservative values . The college doesn’t receive any federal funding, exempting it from some of the civil-rights mandates typically applied to higher education institutions. Is this what we, citizens, want for our local colleges?
Greed combined with ideology means this nationwide effort seeks to take over various existing educational institutions, their elected or appointed leaders to change these schools to their liking. Determining a need exists for a new college and curriculum, seeking a location, raising money and recruiting students and staff is both time consuming, tedious and expensive but the proper method. Taking control, changing the instructional programs from academic to faith based whether the people who built and support the current programs agree does not matter to these people. Some current extremists want to take what is not theirs and convert it to their liking, the public be damned. This process is not right, not intended by our constitution and certainly not Christian.
Is the public paying for private “Christian” based schools including K-12 and college level our future? If we as citizens and voters fail to know more than the names of those we elect then public education may be doomed. We must also understand candidates and various issues which require voter approval. Our problems are a problem County wide, statewide, nationwide and funded by extreme conservative groups. Time to slay the dragon and become knights in shining armor and begin our crusade.