Culture War in the K-12 Classroom

When New Hampshire teacher Misty Crompton learned that she had become campaign fodder for a local school race, she said, “I immediately thought of the California privilege teacher.” Crompton is referring to a third grade teacher in Cupertino, California, who has become a right-wing media Punching bag after a lesson she had taught about white privilege, it went public. “I thought, ‘You’re going to try to tar me with the same brush.” ​​”

Crompton, who has taught middle school social studies in Derry for 21 years, seems like an unlikely target for culture fighters. She hasn’t even taught since August 2020 when she was awarded a paid sabbatical by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, an award given annually to an exceptional state teacher. But what Crompton saw as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study school district success stories and help New Hampshire become an equity leader was viewed by conservatives as a nefarious conspiracy.

“Right now a Derry teacher is training to change our social studies curriculum to teach racial critical theory (Marxist ideology) in our schools without community involvement,” warned campaign postcards sent to voters in this southern New Hampshire mill town were sent. Then a Republican representative from Derry, Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien, Weighed in, complained to school board members that Leaders for Just Schools, a program Crompton participates in, has been linked to Black Lives Matter. “I know a lot of people like Black Lives Matter. They don’t know it’s a Marxist organization, ”warned O’Brien, who also cited the Cambodian genocide.

That spring, New Hampshire witnessed an extremely bitter debate over public education. GOP lawmakers who took control of the legislature in 2020 have prioritized controversial – and deeply unpopular – laws, including a major expansion of a program that offers tuition fees Coupons for private schools and a discussion ban “divisive concepts“Like racism or sexism in public schools. Crompton, a staunch opponent of both measures, says: “I became a pawn in the culture war and in the scheme to discredit public schools.”

She’s not the only one. Fueled by the GOP’s insatiable appetite for red meat in the Trump era – and the search for fertile soil in a public politically polarized by the pandemic – the culture wars are raging, reshaping school board races, reshaping local politics, and now threatening public education self.

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