The conservative strategy of school boards

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Today we take a look at how Republicans attempt to use school boards and critical race theory to engage their constituents. And we explore a free speech debate that divides the world of science.


Once upon a time, school boards were the sleepy backwaters of local government, where concerned community members volunteered their time to debate topics like budgets and timetables.

These days seem far, far away.

The change started with the coronavirus pandemic. For over a year, angry parents have gathered to shout out mask or distance learning warrants.

Now the conversation has turned to race, particularly concerns that school boards are bringing critical race theory into the curriculum. Some conservative activists and politicians use these concerns to conduct school board recalls and rally their constituents in statewide elections.

In 2021, Ballotpedia, a non-partisan political encyclopedia, said it tracked 80 of those efforts against 207 board members. This is the highest number since he started tracking in 2010. Parents then run for seats, and often win.

Many elections are taking place next week, the November 2.

In Virginia, the Republicans make schools at the center of their final effort to capture governor, in the hope of rallying the Conservatives both over their frustrations with mask warrants and mandatory vaccinations and their fears about what their children are being taught.

Republicans See School Board Races As A Way To Take Back white suburban neighborhoods, who evolved into Democrats over the past eight years. In Wisconsin, a pivotal state that President Biden won by just over 20,600 votes, critical race theory could be a big issue.

My colleague Stephanie Saul reports that some Republican activists and politicians are hoping to use a school board election in the Mequon-Thiensville district, an affluent suburb of Milwaukee, to lay the groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections.

Traditionally, school board elections in Wisconsin have been non-partisan. But with midterms on the horizon, potential statewide Republican candidates are widening, including former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for governor, and Senator Ron Johnson. , who has not announced whether he will stand for re-election.

Both stressed their opposition to critical race theory, and both defended local school board races.

Johnson recently urged voters to “take back our school boards, our county councils, our city councils.”

And a political action committee associated with Kleefisch recently contributed about 30 candidates across the state. Kleefisch’s campaign also helped at least four members of the Mequon-Thiensville school board.

Chris Schultz, a retired teacher in Mequon, is one of four school board members facing a recall there. She gave up her Republican Party membership when she joined the board. Now she thinks the impartiality is over.

“The Republican Party sort of decided it wanted to not only have a say in the school board but also determine the direction of the school districts,” Schultz said. “The fact that this is politically motivated is heartbreaking. “

The sometimes heated conversation about free speech and academic freedom on American campuses is generally rooted in the humanities and social sciences.

That debate spilled over into science this month, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology canceled a prestigious public lecture given by a renowned geophysicist after faculty and students voiced concerns about his take on affirmative action.

Here is the background.

Dorian Abbot, a professor at the University of Chicago, studies climate change and whether distant planets could harbor atmospheres suitable for life. Abbot, who is white, has previously said diversity programs treat “people as members of a group rather than individuals, repeating the mistake that made the atrocities of the 20th century possible.”

It fosters a diverse pool of applicants selected on merit and supports the removal of inherited admissions – which give privileged admission to children of former students – and sports scholarships.

Although his lecture reportedly made no mention of his views on affirmative action, his opponents in science argued that he represented an “inappropriate” and oppressive choice.

So, after protests, MIT canceled the conference. Cue: another firestorm.

First, an influential Princeton program invited Abbot to speak on the same day the canceled conference was called.

Then, the director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center at the University of California at Berkeley announced that he would resign from his post. He had tried to persuade his colleagues to invite Abbot to speak, and thus reaffirm the importance of separating science from politics.

“There are certain institutional principles that we must take as sacred,” said David Romps, who is also a professor of climatic physics.

Questions about what these institutional principles are – and how sacred they can be – have started to shake STEM.

Already, some fields have clean scientific terms and names considered by some to be offensive. There is also a growing call for “quote justiceWhich means both intentionally noting the work of more scholars of color and not citing the research of those with unpleasant opinions. Some departments took stock of their own racial diversity, or the lack of it.

And while some faculty members still believe that STEM should be organized outside of cultural debates, a growing number believe that conversations about racial identity and inequalities are more urgent than questions of muzzled speech.

Abbot, unsurprisingly, disagrees with this take.

“There is no doubt that these controversies will have a negative impact on my scientific career,” he said. “But I don’t want to live in a country where, instead of discussing something difficult, we are going to silence the debate.”

  • A key FDA advisory panel advised that regulators allow Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for ages 5 to 11, bringing about 28 million children closer to vaccine eligibility.

  • My colleague Sarah Maslin Nir spoke to several public school employees in new York who lost their jobs after refusing the vaccination.

  • A federal judge ruled in favor of a mask mandate in a Tennessee school district.

  • Ohio will adjust quarantine recommendations in order to keep more students in the classrooms.

  • After Minnesota recorded first student death from Covid-19 this year, members of the state teachers’ union call for more protections. Two staff members also died the same week.

  • School groups are practice again, although sometimes masked.



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