They’re loud. They’re furious. They want their schools back. They want books banned and teachers fired and school board members ousted. They claim to be parents fighting on behalf of America’s conservatives, as if they represent the oppressed majority on issues like critical race theory and gender identity. The rest of the country, including this editorial board, scratches our collective heads in confusion, wondering: Where did all these angry people come from?
It turns out that they came from the fringe, or as Rep. Ann Wagner correctly appraised their ilk last year, the “wacko birds” that Republicans have been trying hard to isolate because they don’t represent mainstream Republican thought. They don’t represent even close to the majority of Americans and not even the majority of Republicans, according to a new NPR-Ipsos poll.
Parents are not furious, and they’re not loudly demanding book bans and school board ousters. In fact, parents overall are pretty happy with the way things are going.
The poll of more than 1,000 parents of school-age children found most believe their children’s academic performance is back where it should be despite the long pandemic shutdown and months of remote learning. More than 80% believe their child’s school has handled the pandemic well and has clearly communicated with parents. An even greater percentage credit teachers with doing the best possible job despite all of the educational challenges they’ve faced.
On social issues, the levels of extreme discontent expressed by vocal protesters at school board meetings around the country simply do not represent how most parents feel. Three-quarters of parents surveyed, regardless of party affiliation, believe their child’s school does a good job keeping parents informed about curriculum. They apparently don’t believe there’s some kind of secret agenda to indoctrinate kids without parents’ knowledge or consent.
Only a third of Republicans and less than a quarter of Democrats believe they have too little say over what is taught in the classroom or what books are in the school library. A plurality of parents said they just don’t know enough to answer the question.
As for the uproar over critical race theory, sexuality and gender identity, more parents of both party affiliations believe that what’s being taught in schools is consistent with their own values. Only a quarter of Republicans and 11% of Democrats disagree with school instruction on these issues.
The poll covered adult parents of various ages, races and ethnicities, urban and nonurban from across the country, and varying education and income levels. The 3.5 percentage-point sampling error means it has high reliability for accuracy.
So why is this small group of loud, activist parents so worked up? We suspect this year’s highly contentious midterm elections have a lot to do with it. Whatever the reason, all that commotion thankfully hasn’t swayed most parents from their satisfaction with the status quo.
This was first published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.