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An on-the-ground look at the rise of parent activism in response to the far-right attacks on public school education
For well over a century, public schools have been a non-partisan gathering place and vital center of civic life in America--but something has changed. In School Moms, journalist Laura Pappano explores the on-the-ground story of how public schools across the country have become ground zero in a cultural and political war as the far-right have made efforts to seek power over school boards.
Pappano argues that the rise of parent activism is actually the culmination of efforts that began in the 1990s after campaigns to stop sex education largely fizzled. Recent efforts to make public schools more responsive and inclusive, as well as the pandemic, have offered openings the far-right have been waiting for to organize and sway parents, who are frustrated and exhausted by remote learning, objections by teacher’s unions, and shifting directives from school leaders. Groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education are organizing against revised history curricula they have dubbed as "CRT," banning books, pressing for "Don't Say Gay" laws, and asserting "parental rights" to gain control over the review of classroom materials. On the other side, progressive groups like Support Our Schools and Red, Wine & Blue are mobilizing parents to counter such moves.
Combining on-the-ground reporting with research and expert interviews, School Moms will take a hard look at where these battles are happening, what is at stake, and why it matters for the future of our schools.
About the Author
Laura Pappano is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about K-12 and higher education for over 30 years. A former education columnist for The Boston Globe, Pappano has written about education for The New York Times, The Hechinger Report, Harvard Education Letter, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. She is the author or co-author of three books, The Connection Gap: Why Americans Feel So Alone, Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports, and Inside School Turnarounds.
“School Moms reveals the real monster under the bed. Through stories of the distracting scuffles in the fight for public schools today, Laura Pappano illuminates who is at war and what is truly at stake in the immediate and dire struggle for the survival of public schools as a bedrock of democratic society. These stories point to the politicization of a public good at the expense of children. It is a rallying call to those of us who care about the well-being of our youngest citizens.”
—Peg Oliveira, PhD, director, Gesell Program in Early Childhood, Yale Child Study Center
“Pappano strips away the mask of right-wing ‘parents’ and ‘moms’ cabals to reveal their political strategy: a fear-driven assault on public schools. But she presents hope too—in teachers, principals, librarians, and, yes, caring moms and parents who fight for their communities.”
—Maurice T. Cunningham, author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization
“America’s public schools find themselves in the crosshairs of a calculated campaign, driven by dark-money donors and relying on lies to incite fear, anger, cruelty, and intimidation. What do the attackers seek to achieve? To grasp the vast stakes of this siege, read School Moms. And take a stand with our embattled school boards, teachers, and librarians before it is too late.”
—Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America