How Schools Were a Big Issue in the Election of Glenn Youngkin as Governor of Virginia

From a conversation on between Tyler Wyant and education editor Delece Smith-Barrow about how schools were a factor in Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia governor race”:

Let’s start with the issue we heard a ton about in Virginia: parental involvement in schools. From a practical standpoint in K-12 right now, how involved are parents in setting curricula right now? And do you see possible changes after its apparent resonance in Virginia?

School districts generally establish curricula, but parents can certainly influence how curricula is implemented. Parents can petition their school board about changes, and local parent-teacher associations can plan events that impact learning, such as a fundraiser to raise money for a new school club. And maybe that club wants to focus on social justice. There can be a thin line between curriculum and extracurricular activities.

I think if enough powerful parents advocate for or against a certain class or subject, school districts take notice.

As for Virginia, I think many parents have loudly spoken out about a fear of curriculum that delves into the history of systemic racism, and many have incorrectly called it critical race theory. Glenn Youngkin is seen as a leader of sorts for those parents who are nervous about how history is being taught, which books may be assigned for homework.

I don’t think the basic mechanics of how curriculum is decided will change, though. We’ve long seen powerful, vocal parents sway how school districts and individual schools operate.

Incorrectly used or not, “critical race theory” seems like a phrase we are going to hear in more races around the country. How are schools talking about it at the local level?

Critical race theory is a legal framework that’s usually taught at the graduate level. It’s been co-opted and talked about as something taught in K-12 schools, though there isn’t any concrete proof that it is. “Critical race theory” has become a catch-all term.

A number of lawmakers around the country, as well as parents and education advocates, are determined to eliminate or tamp down discussions about systemic racism that they believe will make white students feel ashamed of their race and heritage. We’re also seeing school board races, which usually fly under the radar, become more high stakes as parents run to stop what they call critical race theory from being taught in schools.

What they’re talking about is a very divisive issue at the national, state and local level. It just depends on how you think history should be taught, how much slavery should be discussed, how the Civil War should be explained, etc.

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