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Jonathan Shutman,Ed.D., is a retired school principal and administrator who has worked in the Marlboro, North Brunswick, and Montclair public school districts. This was first posted at InsiderNJ.
In Ocean Township and replicated in many school districts across the state, there is a surfeit of signs up for school board elections. Names, slogans, red, blue, and green, abundant. There is a dearth of information online about these candidates. The district website and the school signage boards did not publicize what was an online debate last week hosted by the LWV.
What do these folks stand for, know, and why are they running?
What I do know is that in our critically divisive political landscape, whereas boards of education were at least purportedly non or bipartisan, school boards are becoming ground zero for political and partisan rhetoric, anger, and intrusiveness.
For those running and serving, the first question to answer should be, “Do you believe the 2020 election for president was legitimate?” Their agenda becomes clear based on the answer to this one simple question. For the election deniers, if they win, they will of course accept the results. If they lose, they will claim election fraud.
The basics of democracy are on the ballot, including school board elections. We need to know more about those running. With that simple question, related ones come to the fore.
Censorship is on the rise, in the classroom, school libraries, and even public libraries. What are the positions of those running for board on censorship? What books would they want banned and why? Censorship has been extended to increasing prohibitions on teaching and learning and not acknowledging sexual diversity. Are we now back to denying the theory of evolution or its false equivalence in biblical explanations? Are we now going to teach a revisionist US history, including how slavery was not so bad and slaves were treated OK? Or will we teach the truth, with its values, successes, and positives as well as its scars and negatives, of which slavery and racism is part?
For those running or on school boards, “Do you understand that the separation of church and state is part of the Establishment Clause in our US Constitution?” With anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, Asian and Black hate crimes substantially on the rise, are we going to whitewash teaching the US Constitution, US History, and the reality of current events? What radical revisions will be placed on teaching and learning? With know-nothings in Congress and their partisans, are we going to dismiss anti-Semitic rantings about Jewish space lasers, refute the age-old trope of a Jewish cabal controlling political power and world finances, or that Jews “better get their act together” (implying or else) as recently barked as a dog whistle by the former president. Based on these offenses and ridicules is the corrupted solution, we should be a white nationalist Christian Evangelical nation? Are we going to teach that this was the intention of the framers? It was not. It was the opposite – a separation of Church and State, directly stated – no establishment of a state religion.