Virtually all Americans support the importance of education and believe that schools set up students to navigate their careers and lives.
However, the American education system has not escaped the political polarization impacting the rest of society. Especially with race dominating the national conversation, partisans are pulling further apart on the “true” story of race in America. As a consequence, Americans are split around what values should be taught in schools and whom to trust with educating the next generation.
Already, a majority of Americans agree that public education can be unequal. Yet while Americans on both sides of the aisle agree that where students live plays a role in their academic success, they are less likely to agree on how well-equipped schools are to help students of all races and ethnicities get ahead in their lives and careers.
Opinion splits even further around including lessons about racism in the school curriculum. According to Axios/Ipsos polling, just 42% of Republicans agree that it should be a part of history lessons, compared to 88% of Democrats. Americans are especially divided on whether schools should teach about institutional racism, per a new Ipsos survey of 2,009 Americans.
In short, partisans exist at the opposite ends of the spectrum on how race and America’s legacy of slavery ought to be presented in schools. Conservative reactions to initiatives like the 1619 Project, efforts to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools at the state level, or attempts by former President Trump to create a “patriotic education” commission make this clear.
Education, after all, is crucial for the future workforce and talent pipeline. As students move beyond school, the values they have been taught and the lessons they have learned about America’s past will inform how they inhabit those new roles and spaces as workers and citizens. If education systems aren’t in alignment with the larger social contract, they risk failing students in one of their primary goals.