In today’s political landscape, it is hard to think hardened partisans can agree on anything. And it would certainly be surprising to learn the most conservative Republicans and most liberal Democrats agree on something as controversial as how to teach about race and equality in public schools.
But that is exactly what the March wave of our State Voices project has found. We looked at whether registered voters nationwide believe we need to rethink K-12 education (vs. believing we know what to do and how to do it) and what specific aspects of the system needed to be revamped.
Over half of voters believe we need to make major changes to how we approach topics of race and equality in public schools. But surprisingly, the numbers are identical among the most extreme ends of the ideological scale. Most differences between partisans fell within the margin of error for the study.
It could be that national numbers even out because most liberals in Texas are unhappy along with the conservatives in states like New York. We tested this theory by looking at self-identified Republicans and Democrats in red and blue states (leaving out any states that might be considered purple). There are larger differences on the belief we need to change how we teach race and equality between partisans within the context of red and blue states. However, these differences are not the kind of extreme gaps that would indicate either side can make sweeping changes when in power that would satisfy their base.
It is unclear if the issue of teaching race and equality is surpassing tribal allegiances to become an issue where there is bi-partisan dissatisfaction, or if the two parties are both firmly convinced the other side is winning and doing untold damage. What is clear is that the dissatisfaction with how schools handle race and equality is unlikely to end anytime soon without greater transparency of what is actually happening in the classroom. And that transparency is something most voters favor. In the fight to make sure we are addressing these critical topics in an appropriate and constructive manner, transparency policies are the best place to start.
In the coming months we’ll be diving into this topic further to identify the specific ideas and concepts voters think are problematic and help design effective policy. Please send any specific ideas or examples that would be useful to test to Erin Norman (firstname.lastname@example.org).