Taking Stock of America’s Public Schooling Battles

Neal McCluskey:

It is probably fair to say that Americans are highly polarized right now. Public schooling is likely a reflection of, and contributor to, that division. A reflection, because political control of schools is likely to replicate the divisions and animosities of the electorate. A cause, because public schooling requires people with diverse views and backgrounds to engage in political combat to determine whose values, views on history, and more, will be taught.

Cato’s Public Schooling Battle Mapcatalogues values and identity‐based conflicts – highly personal battlegrounds versus, say, fights over school budgets – in public schools. We started documenting such conflicts in the 2005-06 school year, but it was a few years later that we started regular, consistent collection and launched the Map. What follows is a basic summary of what the Map contains.

Note that the Map almost certainly under counts conflicts, perhaps significantly. Entries are only obtained from searches of media reports. That means the Map does not include (1) any battles that generate media reports we do not see, (2) battles that occur but receive no media coverage, and (3) people who feel aggrieved by school policies or curricula but do not challenge them in open forums. Also, the years reflect when a conflict began. Years before 2006 with very few battles contain only conflicts we discovered in later years but that originated in those years.