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The best editorial of the weekend: Polling confirms that there’s still lots of hope for our public schools

Polling shows that there remains much reason for optimism about public schools. Image: AdobeStock

To hear denizens of the political right pontificate, you’d think that there was an overwhelming national wave of parental anger and dissatisfaction inundating America’s public education system. You’ve no doubt seen the stories of rowdy school board meetings featuring paranoid complaints about critical race theory and, God forbid, books with actual LGBTQ characters.

Turns out, the wave may be more of a ripple.

As the lead Saturday editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal explains, some fascinating new polling makes clear that, contrary to the prevailing narrative, most American parents like their kids’ schools and want policymakers to support them, not tear them down.

This is from “A hopeful report card for schools”:

According to the national poll of 1,007 parents, most respondents — Democrats and Republicans alike — generally approve of their children’s schools and what their children are being taught. By substantial margins.

They cite some concerns about the impact of the pandemic, which has caused major disruptions in school instruction and activities, but, by and large, they say, the schools have done the best they could under the circumstances.

And there was a discernible hint of optimism in most of the numbers, not anger or outrage.

“It really is a pretty vocal minority that is hyper-focused on parental rights and decisions around curriculum,” Mallory Newall of Ipsos told NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Friday.

The editorial goes on to note that things are trending in the right direction and that the pandemic has perhaps not taken as dire of a toll as has often been reported:

Most encouragingly, parents’ responses are ticking upward when compared to the results from a similar survey conducted by Ipsos for NPR in February 2021….

For instance, 76% of the parents said they were being well-informed about what their children were being taught, including controversial subjects.

Among other highlights in the poll:

Surprisingly, almost half (47%) of the respondents said that the pandemic has not disrupted their children’s education, compared to 38% in the February 2021 survey. This suggests even though students lost ground during the height of COVID, more parents believe the situation is improving.

Eighty-two percent said their child’s school has handled the pandemic well.

Despite the hopeful numbers, most parents did say their kids would benefit from more mental health counseling (are you listening, North Carolina legislative leaders?). And the editorial notes, the pandemic has clearly taken a toll — another recent survey result which found that “a majority of teenagers said they had experienced emotional abuse at home from a parent or other adult during the lockdown in 2020.”

But the bottom line is this: chill out everyone. Yes, times have been tough, but our kids and schools are (and will be) alright — especially if we give professional educators the tools and space to do their jobs. As the editorial notes in conclusion:

…what our schools could use most right now is the support of the community, not overheated rhetoric or half-baked conspiracy theories.

There is a place for constructive criticism and in fact, a need for it. But in the spirit of building up our schools, not tearing them down.

The sooner we realize it, the better.

Schools are not the enemy. And our teachers are not closet communists who hate America.

Amen. Click here to read the rest of the editorial and the other polling results it reports.

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