What Drove Education Voters In Virginia? Plus Goldstein Goes Wild, Texeria, Jacobin, Hess, More…

This Michael Goldstein essay on evidence and education is excellent. Recommend. Also, what teachers are saying about teacher pay.

Here’s a reasonable take on the CRT in schools debate:

To be sure, voices on the political right, including Youngkin, must do better when it comes to specifying what they oppose. They, and we, would be better off if they explained that they oppose philosophies influenced by critical race theory, rather than claiming C.R.T. itself is being taught. Bills intended to ban the teaching of C.R.T.-lite shouldn’t be worded as if the intent was to ban the teaching of anything about race at all. And if that’s what any of these bills do mean, they should spell it out in clear language in order to expose that intent to debate — one within which I would be vociferously opposed, I should note. The horror of slavery, the hypocrisy of Jim Crow, the terror of lynching, the devastating loss of life and property in Tulsa and in other massacres — no student should get through, roughly, middle school ignorant of these things, and anyone who thinks that is “politics” needs to join the rest of us in the 21st century.

But the insistence that parents opposed to what is being called critical race theory are rising against a mere fantasy and simply enjoying a coded way of fostering denial about race is facile. It is an attempt to wrest a woke object lesson from the nuanced realities of life as it is actually lived, in which the notion of a white backlash against racial progress may appeal as narrative, or as analysis of an electoral upset, but rarely tracks with on-the-ground reality.

And here’s Ruy Teixeira on the election and “CRT” and the election in general. Rick Hess on the generally pretty lousy coverage of the “CRT” debate. I’m not sure how much of this was willful or just a mixture of what Teixeira calls the “Fox News fallacy” and just general lack of awareness/understanding. It’s not surprising that when some pretty obscure postmodern theories burst into the public awareness there will be confusion and they won’t emerge intact.

I did a podcast with Susan Pendergrass of Show Me to talk about a variety of things including school choice and the Virginia election.


Speaking of the election, it’s an understatement to say a few things the education sector doesn’t do well are ecological fallacies (what’s true of individuals/specific populations is not true of groups and vice versa), multiple things being true at once, and separating small factions from large sentiment while also appreciating how much small factions can drive things in politics.

That’s clear with this Axios poll about schools everyone keeps citing to show that education somehow didn’t matter much in the VA election.

The actual data tells a more complicated story. 

As we’ve discussed here, for instance before the election, right after the election, and this  74 interview, as well as this podcast, the idea that the election was all about education is overblown. The novelty of education being a top-tier issue made it more interesting than the economy and Covid also being top tier issues. When better voter data is available (in other words be skeptical of exit polls right now)  we’ll have a better sense of what happened in VA but it was probably some education, and some contingent education issues, and also  a lot of fundamentals showing up again.

And, of course, as with 2016, and 2020, 2021 in Virginia a close election gives everyone something to point to.

But a few tells – in the closing days the McAulliffe campaign focused heavily in Northern Virginia and Northern Virginia voters were more likely to say education was a big issue for them and be fired up about it. They knew they had a problem. Not surprising given the context of school reopening in the vote rich northern counties, the school board and policy drama in Fairfax and Loudoun counties as well as generalized frustration. And notably, frustration that was persisting until election day, parents in Arlington, for instance, remain exasperated with that county’s virtual options, which look like they are out of compliance with federal law on special education. In addition, the break of education voters to the Republican is not something you see all the time. The national polls don’t really reflect VA dynamics in the fall of 2021.

Anyway, short version: National voters are not Virginia voters, and multiple things can be true at once. And issues drive frames and the Dem frame on education in Virginia in 2021 was less than ideal. Sick of Virginia yet? I am and I live here.

The risk of Republicans overreaching here is real, but so is the risk of Dems wishing this all away rather than parsing what happened. But as we’ve discussed, pivoting the VA experience to the national stage is not straightforward. Finally, this Pew data on where voters are is fascinating, recommend.

And check out Jacobin’s data as, too:

 In reality, most voters hold a host of seemingly conflicting views simulta- neously —liberal on some issues, conservative on others —and the salience of any given issue varies widely. For instance, a Catholic voter could fall on the extreme left of the spectrum on economic issues, but if opposition to abortion is their most important issue, then pro-life candidates might be the most appealing overall. In the models mentioned above, we would be forced to classify this voter as a moderate who prefers centrist or even conservative candidates —yet such a conclusion does not capture the com- plexity of their political beliefs.

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