Public education is in a ‘race to the bottom’
Parents across the country have trusted their children to K-12 public schools. Trusting that a pursuit of academic excellence is being prioritized. Trusting that students are being prepared to be informed and engaged members of society.
But a pandemic, school closures, and forced online learning revealed to many of these same parents that their children’s education is being compromised. Academic excellence has taken a backseat to a political ideology, and it didn’t happen overnight.
In his new book Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education, Luke Rosiak investigates the public school system and exposes the hidden agendas that have been pushed for decades by special interest groups and bad actors. He identifies how education got to the state it is in today, who enabled it, and why.
It all starts with “schools putting their resources into everything except preparing our children for college or careers,” Rosiak writes. And it’s not a money problem. Billions of dollars have been spent on initiatives promising to solve racial inequalities and improve academic performance but that instead work against the very ideas of excellence.
That hasn’t kept school leaders from hiring for-profit racial equity consultants and partnering with philanthropic foundations more concerned with tagging any “system” that highlights racially unequal results as inherently “systemically racist” than pursuing ways to help all students excel.
As Rosiak unravels the spider’s web, he finds that those bent on turning our education system into something it was never intended to be are involved with multiple front groups.
Far from “merely the rich families who paid for some art museums or public television programming,” philanthropic foundations have spent billions of dollars, accumulated through capitalism, to create various associations and activist groups to fight against it. “The foundation money serves as seed money that is eventually leveraged by another source,” Rosiak writes. “The foundations have created their own mouthpieces and gotten others to pay for it. There are hundreds of such activist groups, local and national, pushing complaints about ‘systemic racism,’ equity, and the evils of capitalism to public schools and children.”
Take the MacArthur Foundation. Rosiak explains how the controversial 1619 Project likely saw the light of day thanks to the foundation. In 2014, MacArthur awarded a $1 million three-year grant to ProPublica, a liberal nonprofit news outlet for which Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote about race issues. She joined the New York Times the following year and shortly after produced her 1619 Project series. The Pulitzer Center, the nonprofit organization that has pushed school curricula based on the 1619 Project, is also funded by the MacArthur Foundation. Additionally, “MacArthur secured a position for Hannah-Jones as a professor at Howard University, where she would teach her racial ideas and continue the 1619 Project, by donating $5 million to the school.”
National political interest groups have also used local education and school boards as prime real estate to amass “extraordinary control, all over the country.” In Fairfax County, Virginia, out-of-state dollars influenced local campaigns, and new school board members were driven to pursue a variety of agendas, few of which had to do with education.
Consultant Glenn Singleton’s Pacific Educational Group has made “millions of dollars implanting radical ideas into K-12 schools” and laid the groundwork for the rhetoric that now dominates a large portion of school districts. His teacher trainings have focused on “white privilege” and even included separating attendees into racially segregated groups, Rosiak documents.
All this focus on money and equity, Rosiak continues, has resulted in crumbling academic standards, the effects of which will hurt children in ways that will affect them for decades.
If there is a silver lining to COVID-19, it is that it has resulted in a “long-overdue wake-up call” regarding the state of the public education system, Rosiak concludes. “For the sake of our kids’ happiness, for the sake of our constitutional republic, for the sake of a modern world fueled by scientific and technological advancement, we can never, ever go back to sleep.”
This article first appeared in the Washington Examiner.