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.
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.
Pappano will be in conversation with Nirvi Shah. Nirvi Shah is a longtime education journalist, currently working as executive editor for the national education nonprofit newsroom The Hechinger Report, where Laura Pappano has published work. Shah is the former education enterprise editor for USA Today, working with the national education reporting team and Gannett education reporters across the country. She recently spent a year as a Spencer fellow in education reporting at Columbia University. Prior to that, she spent eight years as an editor and reporter for Politico, in the U.S. and Europe, including as founding editor of the Politico Pro education policy team. She also covered K-12 education at school districts across Florida and for the national trade publication Education Week.