cover image The Education Wars: A Citizen’s Guide and Defense Manual

The Education Wars: A Citizen’s Guide and Defense Manual

Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider. New Press, $24.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-62097-854-2

The “very existence of public schools” is being threatened, according to this essential overview of recent right-wing attacks on the teaching of material concerning race, gender identity, and sexuality. Journalist Berkshire and education policy scholar Schneider (co-authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door) contend that such attacks are merely the latest iteration of the right’s longstanding agenda to privatize public education. By slandering public schools as radically left-wing, activists hope to siphon off students into charter schools and private Christian academies, starving the public education system of funding, according to the authors. Emphasizing that a common education is crucial to a healthy democracy, Berkshire and Schneider argue that broad resistance to what can otherwise seem like a niche culture war issue is necessary. Treating education as a public good critical to society’s well-being is also the best resistance strategy, suggest the authors; by pushing back against individual parents asserting overweening authority in the classroom as undemocratic, leftists can effectively counter right-wing bluster over “parental rights.” Berkshire and Schneider do a fabulous job highlighting hypocrisy (e.g., right-wingers harp on public schools’ subpar test scores as a means of pushing more students into private schools—where many states don’t track test results at all) while concisely cataloging the billionaires and think tanks funding this fight. It’s an invaluable primer on what’s motivating the public education culture wars. (July)