While most schools were closed for summer break, several state education departments were hard at work crafting new curricular frameworks that will shape what students learn in K-12 schools for years to come. What should be a straightforward exercise in setting high academic standards has devolved, in several states, into a free-for-all of cramming woke nonsense into every corner of curriculum.
These frameworks tell school districts and teachers what students ought to learn and when they ought to learn it. For instance, a state education authority might decide that students should know enough about America to name the president and vice president in second grade, explain the three branches of government in fifth grade, and explain how a bill becomes a law in eighth grade. Sadly, the latest batch of education plans are so full of politics that actual learning loses out.
For instance, California’s new math framework encourages “teaching toward social justice.” Sample classroom activities include “math identity rainbows,” in which students choose colors that represent their individual strengths to create an image of a “mathematical community.”
The math plan prioritizes equity over, well, math to such an extent that academia has taken action. As the framework was being crafted, more than 1,700 academics in the STEM fields signed an open letter decrying the lack of options for advanced students to receive advanced math instruction. Their letter also laments the setting aside of algebra and geometry, expressing concern that students will arrive at college ill-prepared to handle post-secondary mathematics.
New Jersey is currently considering new English language arts and math standards that indoctrinate children about climate change for the purpose of spurring leftist activism. The standards declare that the rising generation of New Jerseyans must have the skills to “create alternate discourses to change the present and shape the future.” If the end goal were not obvious enough, the standards also demand that teachers help students “become involved in the issues of our age, which include climate change and environmental justice.”
Massachusetts, too, has an objectionable framework, this one for health. Its draft standards would have middle schoolers learn the difference between sex and so-called gender identity. The document describes sex as “assigned” rather than biological, implying that sex is not intrinsic but grafted onto a person’s identity when the doctor says, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room. Parents have the right to opt their children out of sex ed lessons, but “please don’t indoctrinate my child” is not a special favor parents should have to ask for from the government. It should be the norm.
Perhaps no subject is so ripe for the cultural revolution as history. D.C.’s newly adopted standards inflict far-left politics on the capital city’s young minds. Students will learn “histories of same-sex relationships” in second grade and the history of the “Latinx resistance” movement in America in fifth. The standards call for detailed instruction on many historical evils; the word “resistance” appears at least 40 times in the new document. But other historical evils are nearly ignored; the word “communism” or “communist” appears only eight times; “socialism” appears four times, and “Nazism” appears twice. Eighth graders will soon be able to take an “Action Civics” course — a topic that trains students to be activists for leftist causes.
The processes for creating these documents are years-long and deliberative, as they should be, but those traits also make such processes incredibly opaque. Most people never think about statewide educational frameworks. Public education bureaucrats like it that way.
Most parents have no idea what an educational framework is or what it means for their students. They should not have to understand the intricacies of curricular frameworks any more than one who flips on a light switch should need to know how electric circuits work. Schools should provide a decent education just like a light switch should turn on a light. But public education has blown a fuse, and now it’s on all of us to look at the wiring to fix the problems.
When parents find out what’s in the curriculum, many are justifiably unhappy with the content. Pennsylvania parents and educators are suing the state’s education authority over its “culturally responsive teaching” guidelines, which instructed teachers to “believe and acknowledge that microaggressions are real.” That’s right, the state Department of Education is telling teachers exactly what to believe and to share that belief with students. Ideas this rotten should never make it past the drafting table, but they become academic standards thanks to activist education bureaucrats.
The ideal solution is, first, to stop these frameworks before they are enacted by ensuring that people in positions of power prioritize student learning over their attempts to hijack education in service of their extreme ideologies. Next, parents should have total transparency around school curriculum and the freedom to choose where their child will learn. If public schools are going to be crammed full of indoctrination at the expense of real learning, parents deserve to be able to send their children to places that have their priorities straight.