California schools are not immune to political attacks, analysis finds

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A new analysis by researchers at UCLA and UC Riverside shows that even in the blue state of California, political attacks on public schools are widespread and on the rise, hindering learning and the role schools play in a diverse democracy. Political division and community conflict negatively affect student interactions, and many California students experience hostility and intolerance at school. Alarmingly, the survey finds high levels of hostile comments toward LGBTQ students and racist remarks targeting Latino, and in particular, African-American students.

“The surprise here is not that California is different, it’s that our public schools are experiencing similar levels of political attack and conflict to what we’ve seen across the country,” said John Rogers, director of the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Accessed and co-authored the research. “About two-thirds of schools in the state experience some level of political conflict, mirroring what we’ve seen in other states. The level of conflict affecting schools seems to reflect the intense and pervasive nature of what’s happening nationally.”

The research brief, “Educating for a Diverse Democracy in California,” is based on a representative survey of 150 California high school principals conducted in 2022 that examined the chilling effect of political conflict on the nation’s schools. The analysis compares the experiences of schools in “Blue” congressional districts where less than 45% of the 2020 vote was in favor of Donald Trump, with schools in “Purple” California communities where the vote for Donald Trump was between 45% and 54.9%.

“California high school principals in Purple communities were significantly more likely to report that community conflict occurred frequently over issues such as those affecting LGBTQ students, teaching about race and racism, and efforts to limit access to books. ” said Joseph Kahne, co-director of the Political Engagement Research Group at UC Riverside and co-author of the study. “And unfortunately, political conflict over highly charged educational issues is increasing. More than four in ten California principals said the number of conflicts at the community level was higher than before the pandemic.”

Key findings (partial list) of the California analysis include:

Political conflict is pervasive and growing, particularly in Purple communities

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of California principals surveyed reported significant local political conflict over educational issues. California high school principals in Purple communities were significantly more likely than those in Blue communities to report that community conflict occurred frequently. For example, Principals in Purple communities were 2.5 times more likely than Principals in Blue communities (28% to 12%) to report frequent community conflicts related to LGBTQ issues.

Political division and community-level conflict shape student interactions

More than two-thirds (71%) of California principals report that students have made derogatory or hateful comments to liberal or conservative classmates. Managers in Purple communities were more than twice as likely as managers in Blue communities to say this problem occurred often. Ninety-three percent of California high school principals in Porphy communities reported that “the level of political division and incivility” in their schools had increased since the start of the pandemic.

Many California students experience hostility and intolerance at school

Forty-two percent of California principals said the incidence of intolerance among students had increased since before the pandemic. In Purple communities, 64% of managers reported that the level of intolerance had increased.

More than three-quarters (78%) of California principals reported that their students had made hostile or derogatory comments to LGBTQ classmates. Half (50%) of California principals reported racist remarks directed at Latino students, and two-thirds (66%) reported such remarks were made about African-American students.

“The findings regarding derogatory or hostile comments toward African-American students are particularly striking,” Rogers said. “The two-thirds of California principals who identify such incidents is identical to the nationwide report, even though African Americans make up 5% of the K-12 population in the state, compared to 15% nationally. Moving to forward, they must redouble our commitment to ensure that all California students feel safe and respected in our public schools.”

While the community conflict and student hostility playing out in California public schools mirror patterns across the country, researchers also say there are some hopeful signs that some California schools are reacting differently. Nationally, in the face of conflict, many schools in purple communities backed away from trying to educate for a diverse democracy. In California, many schools in Blue and Purple communities continue to speak out about the importance of LGBTQ rights, as well as support teaching about the literature and history of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

“While these efforts offer a glimmer of hope, the research findings make it clear that California schools are not immune to the conflicts occurring in school communities across the country,” Kahne said. “Make no mistake, our schools are under political attack, as are the values ​​associated with a diverse democracy.”

“This is an existential moment for our public schools,” Rogers concluded. “We hope that educators, policymakers and members of our communities will come together to forge a vision for a shared future – one that embraces the values ​​of a diverse democracy.

In addition to data analysis of the survey findings, the research brief offers suggestions for steps educators and community members can take to protect learning and democracy in public schools.

Provided by University of California – Riverside

Reference: California schools not immune to political attacks, analysis finds (2023, March 14) Retrieved March 14, 2023, from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-california-schools-immune-political-analysis .html

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