Reading, Writing and Fighting

    What do we brawl and battle about next?

    As the summer heated up, I watched the conditions and spirit of these conversations change. When political leaders started weighing in with their opinions about what schools should do, it affected attitudes and decisions.

    Classrooms have become the ground zero battlegrounds for just about everything education related.

    But somewhere along the line “what’s best for our students” became politicized while we have other real in-school issues to focus on.


    Gender correct bathrooms, armed security guards, moments of silence, teachers’ in-class opinions, charter school funding, vouchers, updated Sex Ed, excessive homework, learning iniquities, the reasons for death by suicides, Title 1 funding and everything in between has become flashpoints. But sadly over the years education “protest and public discussion” have become incredibly rude, disgustingly nasty, extremely personal and, many times, violent. Sound familiar?

    As we watch debates continue to unfold in many different contexts, I worry about the future of public schools. The events of the last year will lead to fierce fights that could either significantly hobble public schools or lead to a chapter of profound progress. Our commitment to the debate and to the core value of disagreement will determine our fate.

    All of this makes you yearn for the days when it was only one or two simple issues such as when almost all education in the South and across much of the country was racially segregated and school districts fed students a full plate of racial propaganda and white supremacy. History books downplayed and mischaracterized slavery, barely mentioned lynching, glorified and recast the Civil War as the “celebration of the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments.”


    What was traditionally the place for nonpartisan, hyper-local activity is yet another arena for battles, bouts and brawls. Individuals now patiently wait to hear their name called, step up to the microphone and blast school board members.

    Quoting from the Bible, reality shows and even video games – it seems as if school board meetings have also become ground zero for the country’s culture wars, often resulting in combative and confrontational forums as students prepare to head back to school in the fall. Conservative and progressive parents now clash over “all things school” while pushing unqualified combatants to even run for office themselves.

    All of these actual and perceived policy failures are again compounding this time as the Delta variant is surging and the coronavirus seems likely to become a permanent feature of life.


    The debate over mask mandates puts two values into conflict, collective responsibility versus personal liberty. And CRT has forced us to examine our country’s history of racism challenges against the cherished ideas about America’s founding.

    Politicians and political groups have stoked the mask debates in large part. They inject partisanship into questions of education and public health.

    From the start of the pandemic, elected officials seemed more concerned about reopening bars and restaurants than safely reopening schools that hold the futures of more than 50 million children in their hands.

    Failed leadership continues to be painfully evident as the states enter yet another pandemic school year without enforcing common-sense public health policies that would make a much-needed return to in-person schooling as safe as possible.

    But as the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out “Protests against public safety measures in the pandemic created opportunities for crossover with a variety of right-wing extremist groups — militia, Boogaloo, QAnon, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers showing up.”


    These groups claim they are protecting the rights of parents and keeping the government from meddling in the relationship between parent and child. Parents certainly have the right to decide what’s best for their child. Unfortunately, school districts have the right to decide what’s best for their students.

    The goal of providing a quality education for all students is nonpartisan, but I think it would be naive at this point to say that your average person views it through that lens.

    This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Consulting. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or email at and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project.

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