Education, a new field in the battlefield of United States politics

For Jon Baker, this Tuesday, May 3, is pretty special. Jon is 74 years old, 74 years old at full speed. He was in Asia when he aged in the mid-1960s, enlisting in the navy in the middle of the Vietnamese quagmire.

Since then, he’s had so much work that he’s having a hard time keeping up with it. “A hundred, I would say”, as he said, pout. In recent years he has dedicated himself to the restoration of homes. That’s not easy, as evidenced by the cast that immobilizes his left wrist.

Decentralized education, under the supervision of “school boards”

At a time when others are opting for a break, Jon Baker, white-haired and arms outstretched, has discovered a new role: the candidate. The former soldier entered politics. At the local level, sure, but he still has to make a message and speak at rallies to present his views on education.

In the United States, public education – primary and secondary – is administered by the county (including the definition of programs), under the supervision of a “school board” elected by the entire population. This is the responsibility he desires, at home in Tennessee.

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Her children have long since left the playground. But whatever. “It’s time for the teachers to settle,” as he. For transparency, he even campaigned for permanent filming and recording classes, so that parents don’t miss out. “After all, we know it’s all been working since Covid”, he slipped.

Representatives of angry parents

Republican Party member Jon Baker is running for Hamilton County’s Sixth District, which includes the town of Chattanooga and surrounding areas. That’s more than 350,000 residents, 79 schools, nearly 2,800 teachers and 44,500 students. But in his district, Jon is not alone in running on the Republican side. So he had to go through a primary, which would take place on May 3, and that was against him by two other newcomers: a retired teacher and a young mother, owner of a small company. in the tube.

Often, choosing “school boards” can evoke certain vocations. This is no longer true because Republicans have just started a new chapter in the “cultural war”: they accuse teachers of turning their students ’heads on certain topics, such as resistance. on racism or the question of gender. And applications are proliferating.

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To be honest, Jon was very little different from Cindy and Delores, his rivals for a day, as seen by fifty voters recently during a debate organized. in the suburbs of Chattanooga. The three suitors presented themselves as evangelical Christians angered by “experts” who heard parents told what to do, despite health.

Even if the United States is approaching a million Covid deaths, the mask is still not well -pressed. But the worst is elsewhere: “Teachers can no longer learn to read and write-in fact, the level has dropped. They spend most of their time ‘indoctrinating’ students. the three candidates take turns.

American Divisions Win Schools

The small crowd enjoyed it. This debate was organized by Moms for Liberty, a very conservative organization founded in early 2021 to protect “parents’ rights ”. He is one of the new actors in the American rights nebula. Its local branch opened in Chattanooga in May and reportedly has 400 members.

Its vice president, Robyn Kremser, does not rely on public education. She also homeschooled her three children – ages 13, 9 and 3. “About 30 years ago the federal government started taking on schools, to instill its ideas in students, assures this elegant young woman. Thanks to Covid and virtual lessons, parents know what’s going on in the classrooms. »

To the right of the color of American politics, this discourse is growing. It crystallizes especially in some books. Like that of African-American author, Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give (1), in the sophomore English curriculum in Hamilton County. On the Moms for Liberty website, all passages are judged “not appropriate” gibadlisan. Abusive language predominates, but also allusions to George Floyd’s case.

The book, which provokes police violence, should be pushed into chaos. “They teach white kids to feel guilty about whiteness, guilty of slavery, diversity, beaten by Robyn Kremser. This is the “critical theory of race”. It serves to divide us. »

Critical race theory (CRT), an obscure concept of ordinary people, is the new favorite red flag of American rights. “The CRT has become a favorite flag of Republicans and of American rights, who don’t know what we’re talking about”, complains Marcus Mauldin, professor of political science at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.

At UTC, one of his courses deals primarily with political controversy. “CRT is only taught at the university. It is a way of approaching many topics from a racial angle, in relation to the Frankfurt School. (2). This clearly has nothing to do with what the Republicans are talking about. he was angry.

Books, issue of “school war”

Moms for Liberty is trying to get some books out of curricula, but also from libraries. That made Taylor Lyons, Chattanooga founder of Moms for Social Justice jump. Assured to the left, this organization was created to help teachers with multiple books on their shelves. “It’s important that kids have access to as many books as possible, he explained. Especially in these poor parts of the United States, where many people have few books at home. We work with the American Library Association for the selection of books. »

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But this association is another enemy of Moms for Liberty. They accused him of being the armed wing of teachers, and of urging students especially to question their sexual identity. Some graphic novels, sometimes raw, have their crosshairs, criticized “malaw-ay” and “pornography”. “It is important that children who ask their own questions have access to school libraries with stories that tell about them, so that they understand that asking themselves this kind of question is not abnormal”, replica by Taylor Lyons.

Between Moms for Liberty and Moms for Social Justice, dialogue is impossible. At public meetings held by the Hamilton County school board once a month, it sometimes rains. Usually the room is very small. Jon Baker, if selected, promised to get a bigger space. The yards are no longer saved by American passions.


A highly decentralized education system

Public education in the United States is a local jurisdiction. This is the great responsibility of the county, with great autonomy for the services responsible for education (recruitment of teachers, programs, etc.). The county is the largest administrative subdivision of the states. There are, for example, 96 counties in Tennessee (population 6.8 million) and more than 3,000 in the country.

In matters of education, federal power is very limited. The role of the Ministry of Education in Washington, created in 1980 by bringing together departments that had previously spread multiple ministries, is more limited than in France. With only 4,400 employees, it is primarily involved in subsidies policy, as well as in the field of research and statistics. Within the Republican Party, many have been militate for its abolition, which it sees as a damaging extension of the role of the State.

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