Arguments against school choice miss the mark.
The Purposeful Degradation of America’s Schools
Radical ideologues fueled by billions of woke foundation dollars are destroying public education.
In the wake of school shutdowns, distance learning, and widely publicized school board battles, two trends have become increasingly difficult to conceal. The first is the failure of many of America’s primary and secondary schools to educate children competently—a failure marked by distressingly low levels of student proficiency and widening achievement gaps in core subjects like math and reading. The second is the growing prominence of radical ideology in the nation’s K-12 classrooms.
Equally disturbing is evidence that these trends are largely correlated and that an iron triangle of self-interested actors is contributing to their acceleration in school districts across the country—even those esteemed for high achievement.
Over the past decade, local school districts have proved easy targets for radical ideologues seeking to acquire cultural power. Though prolonged distance learning and draconian mandates have shaken the pre-pandemic confidence that many parents had in edu-crats to put the well-being of their children first, local districts and school boards have historically enjoyed a high level of public trust. Until recently, little attention was paid to union politics, school board decision making, classroom curriculum, or teacher training. As a result, activists and special interest groups bankrolled by far-left foundations have inundated primary and secondary education with radical race, gender, and queer theory, usually under the guise of innocuous sounding phrases like equity-based education, culturally responsive teaching, and social and emotional learning. While children are increasingly being taught that western institutions are systemically and irredeemably racist, sexist, etc., they are not adequately learning to read or do math. The districts most vested in radical ideology often have the worst results in terms of academic achievement and racial disparities. Seattle has embraced left-wing initiatives for decades and has one of the worst black-white achievement gaps in the nation.
Many people concerned about the perversion of children’s minds by radical theories still believe that the poisoners are animated by the good intentions of promoting racial sensitivity, tolerance, and advancement of the vulnerable and less privileged. More attention, however, ought to be paid to the monetary and other interests motivating those facilitating such initiatives and how these actors directly gain by betraying the interests of children.
In his new book, investigative journalist Luke Rosiak highlights pocket lining by captured interests. In the name of “equity” (a code word for forcing equal outcomes and making reparations for real or alleged past injustice, even by lowering the bar and rigging the stats), school districts have hired an army of extravagantly paid bureaucrats and consultants. Even as children were barred from attending schools, newly installed equity officers continued to bring in six figure salaries. School districts across the nation, including many that are financially struggling, frequently dole out hundreds of thousands to cover the extravagant fees charged by “anti-racism” consultants, sometimes having to lay off teachers as a result.
These highly paid hustlers are not the only ones who profit from the lucrative “equity” and “anti-racism” racket. Union leaders, superintendents, and others seeking to conceal responsibility for failure have a vested interest in maintaining the charade. Rather than working to fix the problem and admitting that they are failing children, tax paid activists promulgate the idea that attendance requirements, performance standards, and other criteria used to measure merit and success are rigged to preserve white cis-gender privilege. Low and high performing educators alike are pressured to drastically lower the bar. Practically speaking, this has resulted in wide-spread grade inflation, eliminating testing and attendance requirements, and graduating students from high school who are functionally illiterate. This enables self-interested parties to cook the books and claim success even when the situation has worsened.
All of this dysfunction is funded by elite foundations, staffed by radicals and stuffed with billions of tax-free dollars. “It doesn’t occur to most people that the Ford Foundation is a villain,” Rosiak says. “The people behind CRT are the foundations I named, they are profoundly radical and profoundly powerful. And so it’s like a lot of things in the school’s world. Radicals escape accountability through anonymity.”
This shameful coverup for the abysmal performance of government schools hurts poor, minority, and other vulnerable students most. Furthermore, the bigotry of low standards, which has only aggravated disparities, is used to justify expansion of the same initiatives that contributed to the problem in the first place. In the end, the destructive cycle further advances the interest of radical ideologues. Children who aren’t prepared academically, who are told that they are either victims or perpetrators of racism, and who are constantly pressured to question their identity, are more easily groomed into disgruntled activists. Lacking the skills required for upward mobility and the capacity to critically evaluate what they have been taught, they become useful serfs in the Left’s cultural revolution.
It’s time for lawmakers who believe that education should be directed towards academic achievement and preparing American children from all backgrounds to live responsible, meaning-filled lives to stop funding radical, destructive interests. Instead, they should vest power, influence, and options directly into the hands of parents—the only group across race and class whose self-interest is based simply on a desire to see their children thrive.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
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