Election Results, NSBA Blunders, and the Civics Bait-and-Switch

John D. Sailer

Resolute is the Civics Alliance’s newsletter, informing you about the most urgent issues in civics education. Above all, Resolute will provide information about federal and state legislation that seeks to impose action civics, or to preserve traditional civics.

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Election results across the country confirm what pundits have repeated for nearly a year: education is now the top issue for Americans. Last week, concerns over education prompted robust voter turnout across the country, not only in high-profile statewide elections but also in oft-forgotten local elections.

Electoral energy only marks the beginning. It provides an opportunity to fortify curricula, to eliminate indoctrination from K-12 schools, and to reinvigorate true civics education. The proof, however, is in the policy. If this momentum is to continue, it will be the result of results—newly elected officials using their authority to make good on their promises.  

Here are today’s updates:

Election Update

The story of last week’s election is now familiar. In September, 15 percent of registered Virginia voters viewed education as their top issue, according to Washington Post polling. By the end of October it was 24 percent, overtaking any other issue in the race. Many local districts echoed the debates taking place in Virginia. In Douglas County Colorado, voters heading to the polls reported that they were motivated by the county’s school board equity plan. 

Ultimately, opponents of racializing ideology won big. The 1776 Project Pac, an organization that campaigned for school board members who opposed Critical Race Theory, saw roughly 75% of its endorsed candidates win their elections. 

In Johnson County, the most populous county in Kansas, school board candidates prevailed on a platform of “parents’ choice” and opposing CRT. Andrew Yeager of Southlake, Texas won in a landslide on a platform opposed to increased diversity training and CRT Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, four members of the Mequon-Thiensville School Board defended their seats against opponents of CRT in a recall; in Guilford, Connecticut, CRT opponents were similarly unsuccessful

The Domestic Terrorism Narrative Falls Apart

In the last two issues of Resolute, we gave updates on the National School Boards Association’s letter on school board protests, which raised concerns about the supposed threat of “domestic terrorism.” As we noted, that narrative quickly fell apart. One of the NSBA’s examples of a “domestic terrorist” was the father whose daughter was sexually assaulted in Loudoun County, Virginia. As it turns out, the NSBA worked with the White House on its open letter. Now, after pushback and reporting on the controversy, the NSBA’s board of directors have issued an apology

Civic Knowledge On the Rise?

Proponents of civics education reform often cite America’s abysmal civic knowledge as the impetus for new legislation, even if that legislation mandates student activism that has no connection with civic knowledge. Recently, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released the results of its annual civic knowledge survey. It turns out that America’s civic knowledge is increasing, albeit marginally. As one summary notes:

The 2021 Annenberg Constitution Day Survey found that U.S. adults’ civic knowledge is continuing to improve. For example, 56 percent of surveyed U.S. adults could identify the three branches of government – the highest percentage since the survey began in 2006.

Many would-be civics reformers perform a bait-and-switch. They highlight the need for basic civic knowledge, while their proposed solutions—action civics, media literacy—have little to do with that knowledge. The survey results from Annenberg reveal that the “bait” might be flawed too.

Bolstering the American Story

The Edwin J. Feulner Institute, a project of the Heritage Foundation, just released Bolstering the American Story, a website that provides what it calls “Resources for Patriots.” On the site, teachers, students, parents, and anyone else interested in the American story can find curricula, essays, and primary source documents useful in teaching American history. 

Battle of Trenton

Another resource worth highlighting: James Hewitt composed “The Battle of Trenton” for piano in 1792. Recently, a composer arranged the music for middle school string orchestra and percussion, adding narration and optional staging. The narration describes what is happening in the music. The arrangement serves as an interdisciplinary project, combining history, music, and theater.

Texas State Board of Education: A Call for the Work Group on Social Studies

The State Board of Education (SBOE) in Texas is now accepting applications for a work group on social studies. This is an important opportunity, a chance to play a role in shaping Texas state curricula. The SBOE can review and modify each subject of the state’s required curriculum, ​​the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). It just released its call for applications for its 2021-2022 Social Studies TEKS Review.

Civics Alliance State Affiliates

The Civics Alliance would like to build up a network of state affiliates—groups dedicated to removing action civics in their state, whom we would list on our forthcoming website. If you would like to form such an organization, or suggest an existing organization, please get in touch with David Randall ([email protected]).

Continuing Priorities: Federal Legislation

At the federal level, the Civics Secures Democracy Act threatens to impose action civics nationwide.

The Civics Bill Tracker

Civics Alliance members may now use the Civics Bill Tracker to track all proposed federal and state legislation related to civics.

Public Action

We encourage Civics Alliance members to inform the public and policymakers about the stakes and consequences of action civics bills.

John Sailer is a Research Associate at the National Association of Scholars and serves as Keeping the Republic Project Lead.

Image: Element5 Digital, Public Domain

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