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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Conservatives shouldn't give up on public education

Public education is progressive in its goals, yet schools are conservative institutions, writes Robert Pondiscio in National Affairs. Most teachers are not pink-haired, non-binary radicals. They're moderates.

In recent decades, left-leaning education activists have pushed too hard on the progressive side of the equation, causing trust in public schools among conservatives to plummet. In turn, many conservatives have escalated their attack on public education — and public-school teachers in particular — while calling for parents to abandon local public schools in favor of alternatives like charters, private schools, and homeschooling.

"School choice is a necessary corrective," Pondiscio writes, but conservatives should not retreat "from engagement with traditional public education." For all the problems, traditional public schools are "where the children are."

In a 2017, Education Week survey, only 5% of teachers described themselves as "very liberal," while another 24% described themselves as "liberal," Pondiscio notes. Forty-three percent, a plurality, said they were "moderate," while the remaining 27% identified as "conservative" or "very conservative." If this has held up, he writes, it "would make the teacher workforce only slightly less conservative, and somewhat more moderate, than Americans at large."

Conservatives could ally with public school teachers on a number of issues, he writes. Like Daniel Buck, Pondiscio focuses on student behavior. "Conservatives, already skeptical of trends like restorative justice and impatient with lax student discipline, are likely to find supporters among teachers who demand safe and orderly classrooms."

Conservatives want schools to offer advanced classes, rather than placing students of very different achievement levels in the same class. Many teachers agree, writes Pondiscio. It's very hard to meet every student's needs in a mixed-ability class.

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