Does the Partisan Divide Include the K-12 Curriculum?

Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
September 04, 2015
Education Week

Americans have generally wanted much the same things taught in their public schools. Elementary students should learn three “R’s”—reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. In high school, it’s time to prepare for college or a career by studying core subjects, such as English, history, algebra, biology, and a foreign language. That basic understanding has not prevented political spats over school spending and school attendance boundaries. But the core operations of schools have usually been left undisturbed.

But partisan debate has increasingly turned the core curriculum into a political football. A highly politicized battle over global warming taking place in Washington is one driver. This past July, Democratic senators proposed an amendment to a new federal education bill, which would have allowed districts to apply for funding to facilitate instruction in climate change. The Republican majority killed the proposal. Said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander: “Just imagine what the curriculum on climate change would be if we shifted from President Obama to President Cruz and then back to President Sanders and then to President Trump.”