The Fight for Greater Transparency in Public Schools

The Fight for Greater Transparency in Public Schools

One of the big fallouts of the COVID pandemic has been the revelation of what is being taught in the regular public schools.  Some of the most publicized revelations have occurred in California.

Last year, it came to light that the Santa Clara Office of Education had conducted a series of teacher-training sessions on how to implement ethnic studies in the classroom.

According to City Journal, the training was rife with homages to influential Brazilian Marxist education theorist Paulo Freire, references to the United States as an example of “settler colonialism” based on “a system of oppression,” and calls for teachers to transform students into leftist activists.

As important as the substance of what was being pushed on teachers was the admonition for secrecy that came from the trainers.

“[We] have to be extra careful about what is being said,” City Journal reported one trainer saying, “since we can’t just say something controversial now that we’re in people’s homes [because of remote learning].”

Another infamous incident occurred last fall when a video tape allegedly showed a left-wing teacher in the Sacramento area admitting that he was turning his students into revolutionaries.

On the video, the high school teacher allegedly said: “I have an Antifa flag on my wall.  A student complained about that and said it made them feel uncomfortable.  Well, it’s meant to make fascists feel uncomfortable, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“I have 180 days to turn them into revolutionaries,” the teacher allegedly boasted.

Again, as in the Santa Clara case, the issue was not just the teacher’s extremist ideology and blatant political proselytization, but the fact that parents had no idea that such teaching was going on in the classroom.

According to the local Sacramento CBS affiliate, parents were especially concerned by the teacher’s claims “that he is not the only teacher that is teaching his viewpoints inside the classroom.”

One mom told the television station: “I have a problem with people teaching our kids things without our knowledge.  The one teacher is not just the problem, we would like to see some steps that are going to protect all our children now and all the ones that are coming up in the future.”

Indeed, as opposed to student performance indicators such as test scores, a report by the Goldwater Institute found “visibility into instructional content often remains startlingly opaque, leaving parents unable to establish whether the materials at their local schools meet their expectations or reflect what they consider to be appropriate content.”

“For parents,” says the report, “it is often nearly impossible to know whether the instruction awaiting their children at school will reflect a scholarly and politically neutral rigor, or whether it will insist on ideological immersion at the expense of historical truth.”

Alluding to the Left’s claim that the arrival of the first slaves in America in 1619 marks the birthdate of the country, the report recommends empowering parents “to decide for themselves whether they want their children attending schools that teach 1776 or 1619 as the birth year of the United States.”

Legislators in at least a dozen states states are introducing bills to increase public school transparency and empower parents.

In California, Assemblywoman Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) recently introduced AB 1785, which she dubs as a “California Parents’ Bill of Educational Rights.”

The bill says that local schools, “at the start of each quarter, shall provide parents and guardians opportunities to learn about their minor child’s course of study, including the source of any supplemental educational materials.”

Further, schools will be required to post: “School choice options offered by the local educational agency”; “How to inspect instructional materials, including curriculum materials”; and “Access to information relating to the state public education system, state standards report card requirements, attendance requirements, and instructional materials requirements.”

“It is the right of every parent to make decisions they deem best to protect the health and welfare of their children,” says Davies.  Parents must therefore have “a greater voice on where their children go to school and what they’re taught.”

The Goldwater Institute’s Matt Beienburg observes, “Everybody should be able to rally around the fact that we shouldn’t be teaching something in secret.”  Parents across the political spectrum are rallying for greater classroom transparency, which is the kind of revolution that scares the daylights out of the Left.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute.  He is the author of the new PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.

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