In Purple Districts, Polarization Prevents Teaching Democratic Skills

In late November 2022, researchers from the University of California found evidence the culture wars have taken a heavy toll on schools. In a survey of over 600 principals across the country, more than two-thirds had experienced significant political conflict in their schools. The issues sparking those conflicts included teaching about race, supporting LGBTQ students, social-emotional learning and deciding what books should be permitted in school libraries.

These conflicts were most pronounced in purple school districts, where roughly equal shares of the community belonged to each political party. Schools in these communities have seen an uptick in students making demeaning or hateful remarks to each other for expressing political views with which they disagreed. Yet, at the same time, principals in those communities reported a decrease in professional development for teachers about how to conduct productive conversations around controversial issues.

In other words, the teachers in communities that most needed support to discuss controversial issues and political differences actually received less training in 2022 than they had in 2018.

Study co-author Joseph Kahne, co-director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at University of California, Riverside, sat down with Ed Post to talk about the research and how district leaders and teachers can rebuild civility, civic education and civic engagement in schools.

Listen to the conversation here.

Maureen Kelleher
Maureen Kelleher is Editorial Director at Future Ed. She was formerly Editorial Partner at Ed Post and is a veteran education reporter, a former high school English teacher, and also the proud mom of an elementary student in Chicago Public Schools. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an ...

Join the Movement

Read more about