“Eighty-four percent (84%) of voters believe that parents should be able to see all curriculum plans and materials for classes their children take,” reports NewsMax, citing a national survey conducted by Scott Rasmussen.
It’s a shocking statistic, but it’s easily explained when we look at parents’ concern today for their children’s education. Worries over radical idealogy, sex education, and low standards of teaching have been plaguing parents the last few years, as the statistics show.
Parents are starting to ask questions and face the consequences. One such parent, Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas, went viral last year. According to Fox News, Solas was sued by the National Education Association in 2021 after trying to get information from her daughter’s school about their stance on critical race theory and gender pronouns.
Nicole Solas isn’t the only parent meeting resistance from teachers’ unions and school boards across America. There have been dozens of such cases in the past few years.
Academic transparency isn’t a sideline issue anymore.
What is academic transparency?
Before jumping into the arguments for and against transparency in the classroom, understanding what is meant by “transparency” may be helpful.
Many concerned parents today are asking to simply have access to review what their children are being taught in class, whether through public records requests or by having teachers post lessons online. In some cases, taxpayers are pushing for more extreme transparency, such as live video feeds in classrooms.
While the privacy concerns of the latter approach are debatable, for many people the benefits of transparency in curriculum choice are not. Many parents, just like Nicole Solas, want to be able to ask questions about their child’s education without being tuned out or turned off.
These changes seem to be important to parents. But the question then becomes: why? Why are 84% of American voters sure that this is the right step to take?
Why transparency is important to many parents
The rise in objectionable lesson content is a major concern in today’s world. But there is a deeper issue at stake here, according to a teacher at Real Clear Policy. After assuring readers that some teachers are also concerned about the state of education in America, she cuts to the root of the matter. “It is parents, not teachers, who are and ought to be the arbiters of their children’s educations,” she states.
After proposing that education is a collaborative effort between the school system, teachers, and parents, she goes on to advocate for academic transparency: “Creating and maintaining a transparent academic environment will foster this spirit of collaboration, as well as provide parents with an opportunity to extend in-class discussions at home and enrich their child’s learning.”
Parents advocating for more transparency value their children above all else, so it’s only natural that they wish to have some supervision of their education. It’s also typical for parents to want to pass on closely-held family values to their kids, such as kindness, open-mindedness, and closely-held religious beliefs.
Instead, parents are finding their children suddenly picking a different gender identity, feeling ashamed of the color of their skin, or coming home from school with the wrong impression about a historical event. It’s not a welcome discovery that the school you trusted is working behind your back.
Conservatives are adamant that we need academic transparency to turn the tide. But they posit that the lack of accountability in government-run schools is just a symptom of a bigger issue: the amount of trust and responsibility we’ve given public schools to train and educate our children is immense. Now parents are wondering if that trust was a mistake made decades ago that has come back to bite us.
The argument against transparency
In December 2021, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed curriculum transparency legislation, says Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, “denying parents access to the classroom materials in our public schools.”
The pushback against transparency is just as intense as the call in favor of it. Many state and federal government officials and agencies are strongly against letting parents know what their children are learning in school. Wisconsin isn’t the only state that has vetoed transparency legislation in the past year.
Many teachers’ unions have taken the same stance as the government on these points. They claim that the responsibility of posting class material online would be a heavy burden on already-harried teachers. In the case of the proposed video feed of classroom activity, teachers have said that using cameras in classrooms is a waste of funds and an intrusion on children’s privacy.
With so many differing opinions from parents, teachers, and government officials, it’s no surprise that the media has latched onto the controversy.
NBC News recently claimed that “teachers, their unions and free speech advocates say the proposals would excessively scrutinize daily classwork and would lead teachers to pre-emptively pull potentially contentious materials to avoid drawing criticism.”
Claiming to be a voice for those busy teachers, mainstream news sites across the country have been slandering conservatives and concerned parents alike. A prime example is a situation that The Goldwater Institute reported on in March 2022 after “Arizona lawmakers advanced a curriculum transparency bill that would require governmental K-12 schools to post online a listing of the instructional materials being used in the classroom.”
Immediately, the Arizona Republic responded. They reported that teachers would have to post their curriculum online “a week before school started.” In reality, The Goldwater Institute says the bill requires that “teachers post materials only after they are used….” The Arizona Republic even quoted a teacher saying that “having teachers upload all their lessons for the entire year by a certain date is probably some of the worst practices that you can have…You don’t know what students are going to need when you are planning for children you have never met before.”
Worse still, when the Arizona Republic realized that the original quote did not apply to the bill, they shortened the teacher’s quote to: “Having teachers upload all their lessons…is probably some of the worst practices that you can have,” misconstruing the statement, and the situation, even more.
From the media to teachers, to the government, calls for academic transparency are being hushed up or laughed at on every side. But does that mean the fight is over?
How transparency in the classroom can be realized
In reality, the battle is just beginning. And it starts with parents.
Parents, teachers, and conservatives of all types recognize the need for transparency. There are plenty of hurdles. For privacy reasons, some are against utilizing video feeds; proponents have suggested password protection for video feeds to keep children’s and teachers’ identities private while still allowing parents access. Some teachers are concerned that posting learning material online will take up energy they don’t have. However, supporters argue that this is a responsibility that teachers should be required to take on as a part of their collaboration with parents.
Maybe there are compromises and solutions we don’t yet see. Regardless, developing transparency in our public schools will take work.
As a parent, simply raising awareness on social media is a good way to support transparency legislation if you see a need for more accountability in your child’s school. Sending a letter to your senator or voting for an official who shares your views will also encourage change. You may even want to go a step further and run for your school board.
There are many ways you can influence the school system for greater accountability. Which will you choose?
Want to learn more about how to promote academic transparency in our schools? Check out the Goldwater Institute’s proposed Academic Transparency Act.