The Real School Wars, Part Two: Let’s Say the Quiet Part Out Loud

On Friday, I started a series about the latest issues in education politics. The big issues aren’t CRT or gender-neutral bathrooms, but accountability over school closures and classroom practices. 

Last week, I gave a little intro to the topic and talked about the best way to get closure on that sad chapter in education history. We need more reparations, rather than putting public officials in the stocks, I said.

Today, let’s talk about the why’s. Why didn’t people push back against school closures at the time, especially in places where things were really extreme, like New Jersey, California, and Chicago? We have to go back to the 2016 election.

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3 thoughts on “The Real School Wars, Part Two: Let’s Say the Quiet Part Out Loud

  1. I’m not sure if this is a regional difference or what, but I think that CRT/DEI and gender issues are much more active conflicts than accountability for what someone did years ago. School closures ended in 2020 or 2021 for much of the south (I’m in Atlanta), and that’s fairly ancient history — I think everyone recognizes it’s unlikely to happen again. It was the push for Moms for Liberty to start getting involved in schools, but they’ve really moved on to social issues.

    As an example, our school board races last year broke down very explicitly over political lines, with active party participation and endorsement. Gender and CRT/DEI/SEL were the headlines on the mailers we received. One of the two candidates in my area was an out lesbian with a wife and kid, and that was prominently mentioned on a flyer paid for by the Fulton County GOP. Facebook got pretty ugly too.

    This is metro Atlanta, so I wouldn’t classify it as an isolated issue. I think the scenery is just very different in bluer Northern areas, where the population is generally social liberal and uncomfortable with open racism and queerphobia.


    1. I have to agree with you, though. I think school closures probably eroded trust because of the Ozone Hole Paradox: because we did something about a potential disaster and so the disaster never happened, people think that the potential for the disaster never existed.

      In my New England town, the Moms for “Liberty” types have mounted an assault on our community. They managed to win a seat on school committee, though not a majority, and they harassed the superintendent until he took a job at another, slightly better district. A month or so ago, they got upset about a flyer for the elementary school’s mother-son activity that said that all boys, those who identify as boys, and non-binary students were invited to attend. This ended up on Twitter, and there were threats made online, and the activity was canceled.

      I do see evidence that young people were negatively affected by the pandemic (though I think they are also pretty traumatized by the political landscape as well; keep in mind that I am currently teaching the generation of college students who spent high school in lockdown). But I will always believe that we took the better of two unpleasant options.


  2. In Ontario we had the longest closures in North America I believe. It was a Conservative government that kept closing the schools…my own cranky view is that after the first wave closures, the government used the schools as a way to make up for failures in other policies — “hospitals about to be overrun? close the schools!”

    I supported the closures early on, and because we would have probably kept our kids virtual for a while anyway due to having a senior living with us, I don’t have a lot of ire for about 2/3 of them. The last round was stupid. We ended up with some of the same political stuff because the US drives a lot of our media, but I don’t think here the lines were the same. And yet – a metric tonne of closures.

    Our science table flagged the impacts: – you’ll note they came up with the same solution: money.

    I agree that closures had a profound impact on kids and that there needs to be money and effort put into that. Our schools and board have made free online tutoring available…I sort of feel like the kids that would do okay with online tutoring probably were the kids that did okay online, so…?????? At my kid’s high school it’s been pretty merciless though. At my younger son’s elementary school he was blessed with a small class (10!) and two excellent teachers.

    The teachers at that school set up a free “homework club” that meets several days a week and they rotate helping kids. It’s really awesome. I am being reminded to celebrate them more from your post.

    At my workplace we’re still seeing kids with social issues, but they are starting to – I don’t know if the phrase is catch up, but we’re seeing forward momentum.


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