Parents learned more about their children’s education during remote learning and COVID-19 pandemic and should have access to curriculum, among findings.
Book bans not supported by Americans or Floridians
ST. LEO, FL ¬ Parental involvement, cameras in the classroom, book bans, and the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) are education issues examined in a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey (polls.saintleo.edu).
Polling was conducted online February 28 – March 12, among 1,000 respondents nationally and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.
This poll examined high-profile education issues that are in the news such as the “Stop W.O.K.E” legislation in Florida—where the Saint Leo University Polling Institute is based—as well as in other states, which have “divisive concepts” bills about limiting how educators discuss history, race, and gender in the classroom.
Saint Leo’s poll examined “awareness” and “knowledge” of critical race theory. Slightly more than three-fifths (63.4 percent) of all respondents indicate they are aware of CRT, the poll shows, and of this group, 61 percent note they are very or somewhat knowledgeable about CRT.
Support for teaching CRT in public schools is nearly evenly split—41.2 percent are in support with 38 percent noting opposition, the poll shows.
Saint Leo University also polled 500 Floridians about CRT, and those results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent. Among Floridians, 66 percent say they are aware of the concept, and 62.2 percent say they have knowledge of the theory.
A majority of respondents, 53.2 percent, are unsure if CRT is being taught in their own local public schools. Some (16.1 percent) suggest CRT is being taught while 30.7 percent note it is not. Among Florida respondents,17 percent say CRT is taught, while 29 percent and 53.4 percent suggest CRT is not being taught or they are unsure, respectively.
“I think there continues to be a misunderstanding about what critical race theory is, versus some of the current laws and policies being written that are effectively attacks on history,” said Dr. Daniel DuBois, associate professor of history at Saint Leo. “Critical race theory is not being taught in public schools. It’s not even being taught in colleges. It’s a legal theory sometimes taught at law schools. What has happened, however, is that the term [or CRT] has become shorthand for a crackdown on what type of history people think should be taught, and what history should not.”
Dr. Holly Atkins, associate professor and chair of the undergraduate education program at Saint Leo, which prepares teachers, said CRT is “a theoretical framework found at the graduate level and in law schools,” but not in grades kindergarten through 12th.
Among the 41.2 percent who say they support critical race theory being taught in public school classrooms, support among African-American respondents is 63.5 percent, 52.8 percent among Hispanic respondents, and 33.5 percent of white respondents. By political party, 23.9 percent of Republican respondents say they support teaching the theory as do 68.3 percent of Democratic respondents and 35 percent of independent respondents.
In the Florida-only poll, among the 44.8 percent of respondents who say they support teaching CRT, 68.4 percent of Democratic respondents agree, with 26.4 percent of those who are Republican and 42.2 percent of independent respondents supporting it. Support among African-Americans surveyed shows 72.5 percent support teaching CRT while 55.8 percent of Hispanic respondents and 33.5 percent of white respondents say they support it.
“History helps us recognize the good and bad in past behavior and to use that information to make sense of our current world and think about how we should live going forward,” DuBois said. “History is not meant to make people feel comfortable—especially those in power. It’s a critical function of a free society and one of the best tools we have, as a democracy, to call out the failures of our systems and our leaders, and to guard against authoritarian impulses. I see it as ominous that many of the same politicians who just months ago mobilized political movements against Big Tech and corporate censorship of free speech now lead a charge against the First Amendment by using the power of the state to restrict the honest study and discussion about the past.”
The recent Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey examined several other education issues.
Respondents were asked to indicate if they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed with each of the following statements. The cumulative totals for strongly and somewhat agree are presented in the following table:
National Strongly & Somewhat Agree – %
|Over the past two years, during COVID-19 and remote learning for students, parents learned more about the curriculum in schools than they knew previously||
|Parents have a right to see curriculum used in their children’s classrooms||
|Curriculum in our public schools should be transparent and available to anyone interested||
|I could support some bans on certain books in public schools such as To Kill a Mockingbird which has racist language and has a plot that centers on an allegation of rape||
|The Tennessee school district that banned the book Maus in public schools because of eight curse words and nude imagery did the right thing||
|I could support cameras in classrooms so parents and others may see and verify what is being taught||
“Parent involvement is very important, and communication between all stakeholders needs to be a priority,” said Dr. Fern Aefsky, professor and director of graduate studies in education at Saint Leo. “Protecting the rights of all stakeholders is a responsibility of school personnel, and cameras in a classroom would violate some of those rights of children, parents, and teachers. Building trusting relationships is key to effective communication practices and procedures, and parent involvement opportunities could address many of the issues identified in the polling results.”
Atkins, the chair of undergraduate education, also welcomes parental and community involvement. “I encourage community members with an interest in becoming better informed regarding classroom instruction to become active members of local school PTAs and SAC [School Advisory Councils],” she said. “Volunteer in a teacher’s classroom. Become knowledgeable. The curriculum taught in schools is clearly and specifically detailed in our state standards published on the Florida Department of Education’s website (https://www.fldoe.org/academics/standards).”
While the majority of respondents did not support banning books, Aefsky emphasized the need for varying ideas in multiple platforms.
“Schools need to be places where conversations can occur, opinions shared and respected,” she said. “Schools also need to be places where children learn about differences and celebrate those differences as they learn to be productive members of a democratic society. Books and concepts should not be banned, but entities for discussions at appropriate age levels.”
Public schools were created to serve the needs of the public writ large, Atkins added. “Public schools are therefore by design representative of the diversity that constitutes the society in which they exist. Private schools, however, may reflect a particular perspective or philosophy and our laws recognize and respect their right to do so. The National Council of Teachers of English provides this guidance for educators in book selections: ‘In selecting texts to read by young people, English teachers consider the contribution each work may make to the education of the reader, its aesthetic value, its honesty, its readability for a particular group of students, and its appeal to young children and adolescents.’
“NCTE goes on to say that different texts would be used for different purposes,” Atkins continued. “A whole class novel, for example, would be different than a book to include in small groups or within a library for individual reading.”
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted February 28 – March 12, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
A statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 Florida respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 62 degree programs to more than 15,800 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and sisters, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 100,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.
Media contact: Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.