Quieter Context

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY

Why the School Wars Still Rage by Jill Lepore
The New Yorker, March 21, 2022

Who's Unhappy With Schools? The Answer Surprised Me by Jessica Grose
The New York Times, March 19, 2022

With so much attention on the quality (and equality) of schools at this mid-pandemic moment, it may be surprising to learn that the majority of parents are currently pretty happy with their children's schooling. In her essay, "Why the School Wars Still Rage," writer Jill Lepore cites the work of education scholars Sigal R. Ben-Porath and Michael C. Johanek who state that around 80% of parents are content with their kids' education. In fact, writes Jessica Grose in The New York Times, parental satisfaction is higher in 2022 than it was in 2013 or 2002. "Digging deeper," Grose says, "people who seem to be driving negative feelings toward American schools do not have children attending them." In other words, those least happy with today's schools are the farthest from them in terms of daily drop-offs and pick-ups. Grose's findings are fascinating, particularly alongside Lepore's retrospective look at the anti-evolution movement in Tennessee public schools nearly 100 years ago, a historical event that famously swept up two members of the Scopes family – John, for teaching Darwinism, and Lela, a math teacher in Kentucky, essentially for being John's sister. Lepore's account of the Scopes trial along with other discordant moments in the history of American K-12 education offers readers a brisk narrative of progressive push, conservative pull, and shifting understandings of parents' rights. Lepore's essay along with Grose's report help to turn down the volume on today's most contentious questions and put them into a quieter context.

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