Strengthening Public Schools

Culture Wars in the Classroom: Texas Voters Call for a Cease-Fire

For more than 15 years the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has been warning about the consequences of the damaging "culture wars" raging on the Texas State Board of Education. The contentious debates over what will be taught in social studies, science and sex education classrooms, in particular, have attracted national attention and derision. These divisive battles, while serious, are really been symptoms of the larger problem: Texas has allowed politicians with personal agendas, rather than teachers and scholars, to write our children's curriculum.

But there has been little research into public opinion on these important issues. In May 2010 the Texas Freedom Network Education fund commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to find out where likely Texas voters stand on the heavily politicized State Board of Education, the process of writing curriculum and textbook requirements and other issues on the far right's agenda for public education.

Read the report: Culture Wars in the Classroom: Texas Voters Call for a Cease-Fire.

Some key findings:

  • 72 percent of likely Texas voters want teachers and scholars, not politicians, to be responsible for writing curriculum requirements for public schools.
  • The overwhelming support for putting experts in charge of writing curriculum standards is bipartisan (84 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents) and evident in all of the state’s major urban regions.
  • Texas voters have complex views regarding the intersection of religion and education, with 68 percent saying separation of church and state is a key constitutional principle but 49 percent saying religion should have more influence in public schools.
  • Support for more religion in public schools, however, should not suggest that Texas voters also back the positions of social conservatives on hot-button “culture war” issues: 80 percent of likely Texas voters agree that high school classes on sex education should teach “about contraception, such as condoms and other birth control, along with abstinence.” 88 percent of likely Texas voters think public schools should be required “to protect all children from bullying, harassment, and discrimination in school, including the children of gay and lesbian parents or teenagers who are gay.” 55 percent of likely Texas voters oppose using publicly funded vouchers that allow some students to attend private and religious schools.

The rich data from this survey provide important insights and practical advice for policy-makers, political candidates and activists alike as lawmakers consider whether and how to reform the process for deciding what Texas children learn in their public schools. One thing is clear: Texans are fed up with state board members playing politics with curriculum and textbooks, and they are looking for a solution that ends the "culture wars" in our children's classrooms.

Read the report: Culture Wars in the Classroom.
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