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Education choice reduces wokeism in schools, new research finds

Education choice reduces wokeism in schools, new research finds

Anna Miller
November 17, 2022

Despite the wishes of parents, Idaho’s K-12 public schools are decidedly advancing woke ideologies. From sexually explicit curriculum to pornographic books in school libraries or changing student pronouns without parental consent, public schools are force feeding children values against their families’ wishes. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. New research shows that education choice could be the answer to reducing wokeness in the education system. 

A recently released study by the Heritage Foundation empirically demonstrates that empowering parents to choose the best education for their child significantly reduces wokeness in schools. 

It is reasonable to ask how education choice could reduce woke ideology given that some elite private schools and schools of choice within the public system (charter schools) are pushing the same radical agenda. Teacher training in universities and accreditation reinforces this problem. If critics are right that parental control over their children’s education makes little to no difference, then education choice policies will not solve this impending problem. Perhaps we’re experiencing market “failure” where the only solution is to further regulate the public school system through bans on critical race theory and gender ideology.

Heritage scholars address this question by examining whether more strictly regulated charter school markets are more woke than less regulated markets. The study uses a unique measurement tool evaluating publicly available parent-student handbooks usage of woke terminology (e.g. equity, gender identity, social justice) compared to levels of government regulation. It found that schools in states with higher levels of government regulation are more woke, even after accounting for partisan leanings of states. 

Essentially, the preferences of government officials are more woke than parental preferences. The market for non-woke education isn’t failing. Rather, there is a failure for the market to exist due to the government imposing preferences on its monopoly system of schools. 

The study also demonstrates that the expansion of gender ideology and critical race theory in schools is occurring against the wishes of most parents, not at their behest.  For example, far-left states that highly regulate charter schools, such as Illinois and Washington, have higher levels of wokeness. Whereas Florida and Arizona, where charter schools are more accountable to parents and have fewer regulatory burdens, have lower wokeness levels. 

Ultimately, government bureaucrats and authorizers act as “gatekeepers” for woke ideology in schools. 

This new research should serve as a cautionary tale to Idaho lawmakers. Education choice policies should avoid regulation and protect private and religious schools from government interference. Parents should be given maximum freedom in deciding the education best suited to their child’s needs. It's simple — when schools are held accountable to parents rather than government bureaucrats, the less woke those schools are. 

Parental empowerment is a viable path forward to help stop the spread of corrupt ideologies in the public education system. In a free market, where money truly follows the child to the school of their parent’s choice, wokeness will be reduced and accountability will increase. Lawmakers would be wise to recognize that accountability begins with parents, not government bureaucrats.

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