Policymakers | Intellectual Diversity

Blue State Residents Oppose Woke Education

WASHINGTON FREE BEACON   |  March 11, 2021 by Alex Nester

New poll shows Illinois Democrats are at odds with state lawmakers

Illinoisans oppose teaching woke doctrines in the state’s public K-12 schools and universities, a new poll of the blue state’s residents found.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni commissioned the poll, which found that nearly 50 percent of Illinoisans want students to learn that America is the world’s first free and democratic nation. Only 37.8 percent said the state’s schools should teach that the United States is systemically racist. And more than 60 percent of respondents were favorable toward teaching America’s founding principles at the university level.

The poll comes as Illinois Democrats push to replace current standards with radical curricula in state schools. The Illinois State Board of Education board in February approved a set of learning standards that ask teachers to assess their biases and “mitigate” behaviors that stem from “unearned privilege” and “Eurocentrism.” Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker on Monday rubber-stamped a bill that established an “Inclusive American History Commission” to ensure the education of “non-dominant cultural narratives.”

The poll reveals a rift between the state’s Democratic politicians and their constituents. Most of the poll’s 800 respondents said they were Democrats and voted for President Joe Biden in November. Less than a quarter of respondents said they were Republican.

The majority of respondents said they support free speech and merit-based college admissions practices over affirmative action or racial quotas. Only 26.5 percent of those polled said universities should combat white supremacy and systemic racism through education.

The respondents also largely objected to “canceling” historical figures deemed to have held racist views. Forty-five percent oppose renaming buildings on college campuses bearing the names of people deemed racist by present standards, who have in recent cases included Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Jonathan Butcher, an education fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Illinois residents are in line with national trends. Parents and school boards, regardless of political affiliation, largely disapprove of efforts to radicalize K-12 education and teach students a pessimistic view of the United States.

“I don’t think what parents are trying to say is they don’t want schools to handle these sensitive ideas of character,” Butcher told the Washington Free Beacon. “I think they do. But I think they are rightfully fearful because critical theory is so intent on characterizing people on skin color and ethnicity instead of measures of character or merit. They are rightfully afraid that it will create a negative view of their community and even their country.”

Many Illinois residents said they disapproved of the state’s education system. The K-12 system is “worse than good,” according to 47.7 percent of respondents. And more respondents said they held unfavorable views of Governor Pritzker.

Several other states have also taken steps to make K-12 and higher education curricula more woke. The North Carolina Board of Education in February approved new history standards to teach fourth-grade students how “revolution, reform, and resistance” shaped the state. A draft of the new ethnic studies curriculum in California excludes anti-Semitism from studies on historically marginalized groups yet backs the the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. It also teaches students to “resist” the “Eurocentric neocolonial condition,” which includes Christianity.

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