Education Watchdog Points Out Three Big Myths About Public Schools

Written by K. Walker on June 16, 2023

NOTE: This article may include commentary reflecting the author’s position.

These widely believed myths are affecting the education of millions of American kids.

Tim DeRoche, founder and president of “Available to All”, a nonpartisan watchdog organization defending equal access to public schools, wrote a fascinating and uncomfortable piece in “The Free Press” on Thursday.

In it, DeRoche highlights just three of the myths surrounding public education in America.

These commonly-held beliefs are preventing us from addressing the problems that are plaguing public education in America.

He identifies these myths this way:

Myth #1: Public schools are equally open to all American kids.
Myth #2: Educators are experts in teaching and know best how to instruct kids.
Myth #3: Our public schools are free from religion and ideology.

Below is a quick’n’dirty Clashified summary of DeRoche’s article.

1. Educational Redlining

Public education is not equal. It’s no secret that some schools are better than others and that many of the failing schools are in lower income neighborhoods that tend to be predominantly black and Hispanic.

It is unfathomable to those of us that live in a neighborhood with average-to-good public schools to read articles about schools in some urban centers where kids haven’t learned how to read entering middle school, or only 7% of students are proficient in math at their grade level, or that teens can essentially graduate from high school functionally illiterate.

The schools are failing, so why are kids going there?

The answer is simple — because they don’t have a choice.

Homes in a school zone with the best school can cost $200k or more than an equivalent home in a neighboring area with a lower-ranked school.

According to his own research, DeRoche says that “the attendance zones of many elite elementary schools actually mirror the racist redlining maps of the early twentieth century.”

From his article:

In 2022, the Urban Institute released a rigorous nationwide study showing that attendance zone lines—and district boundary lines—divide American families along the lines of race and income level. For an individual child, these lines can mean the difference between going to an elementary school like Lincoln Elementary, where over 70 percent of kids can read, versus a school like Manierre Elementary, where only 3 percent can. Both schools serve the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, but the two school communities are kept separate by an attendance zone line that runs down the middle of North Avenue. Lincoln serves just 12 percent low-income students, but Manierre’s kids are over 97 percent low-income. These are two schools a mile away from each other. District bureaucrats will insist that these maps are necessary to preserve the neighborhood school. But it’s worth remembering that we all shop at neighborhood grocery stores, and we don’t need exclusionary government maps to do it.

DeRoche briefly tells the tale of Terry Grier’s attempt to reform Houston’s magnet schools when he became the district superintendent back in 2009.

Magnet schools were an attempt in the 60s and 70s to draw students with common interests, abilities, and/or talents from all over the district. This would combat the natural racial and economic segregation that occurs with delineated school zones.

It turns out, some of these highly-desirable magnet schools in Houston weren’t bringing in students from outside their zone at all, despite raking in millions in extra funding for their “magnet” status.

Grier eventually managed to get a moderate reform measure that only provided additional magnet funding if the school used a lottery system to bring in 15-20% of the student population from outside the school zone. (Exceptions for the lottery were made for the gifted and performing arts magnets so that they could stay true to their missions.)

But, he said that he got push-back from school board members, influential community members, and the media for even that small change. Grier said that one education writer was “furious” with him when her child didn’t get into the first magnet school of her choice because of the lottery system.

2. Educators Are Experts

Teachers are not infallible. Just like everyone else they are susceptible to fads and groupthink.

DeRoche illustrates this through the absolute catastrophe of educators en masse favoring the “balanced literacy” approach to reading over the tried-and-true method of phonics instruction.

If you haven’t already, listen to Emily Hanford’s extraordinary six-part podcast Sold A Story, which documents how the educational establishment came to reject all evidence about the science of reading in favor of a cult-like devotion to the literacy guru Lucy Calkins and her ineffective program of “balanced literacy.” (Bari Weiss, editor of The Free Press, interviewed Hanford earlier this year on the Honestly podcast.)
A public radio reporter in Washington, D.C., Hanford tells a harrowing story of groupthink through the eyes of teachers who taught “balanced literacy” for years and realized that it was doing more harm than good only when their own children started to struggle with reading. Their stories are heartbreaking, as many of them feel tremendous guilt for buying into a program that failed to teach children the basics of phonics-based reading. Many admit they assumed there was something wrong with their students when they didn’t respond to Calkins’ “three cueing” system. 

Now that teachers are seeing that their own children aren’t learning to read, they’re issuing apologies for not listening to parents’ concerns.

The students weren’t the problem, the instructional model was.

3. Indoctrination Centers

Conservatives have long complained about the left-wing bias in education in everything from science education with global cooling global warming climate change to rewriting history with Howard Zinn’s anti-American textbook, “A People’s History of the United States” and the a-historical “1619 Project” to far-too explicit sex education and the new gender ideology craze that seems ubiquitous.

Removing Christian values from schools left a vacuum that rabid secularists were very happy to fill.

DeRoche does say that “reactionary conservatism” is filling the void in some places, but I would argue that this is more of a grassroots correction because the pendulum went so far left that progressivism wasn’t possible without introducing twerking Drag Queens and literal gay porn.

American public schools were once explicitly Christian and even Protestant. I would argue that, until recently, they were implicitly Christian while also offering a heavy dose of moderate liberalism, the dominant American civil religion of the last century. But as our politics have fractured, this traditional approach to education has given way in many schools. What’s been sucked into the void has differed from place to place: sometimes a reactionary conservatism, and sometimes a radical progressive ideology that seeks to destroy much of what we’ve inherited from prior generations.
Parents of all political persuasions are finding that the local public school is not a haven of tolerance and critical thinking, but is instead advancing a quasi-religious ideology that conflicts with their core values.

With all of that information in mind, listen again to former President Barack Obama trashing Senator Tim Scott for not having an “honest accounting of our past and our present” regarding racial issues in America.

Obama talks about “equality” and “fairness” when it comes to criminal sentencing, but he damns himself by not addressing the elephant in the room — the inequality in education.

Gee, Barry, maybe the solution is to stop forcing black kids in low-income communities to stay in failing public schools that are nothing more than woke indoctrination centers, eh?

But you know Democrats will never reform the system because they’re beholden to the teachers’ unions, and the teachers’ unions love the system just as it is. It doesn’t matter one whit to them if it is failing kids. We saw that with the pandemic when they pushed to keep public schools closed.

It’s time to move away from myth and into reality.

We need to be awake, but not woke.

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In our putrid, worldly culture that has turned away from God, this book is a must-read for every Christian.

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DeRoche, Tim. “Three Big Myths of a Public School Education.” The Free Press. June 15, 2023.

ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll and on Gettr @KarenWalker