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Voters want parental say in schools, history of racism taught WYPR/Banner poll shows

People cast votes at Edmondson Westside High School during Maryland's primary election in Baltimore. Goucher College polled recently voters about top issues in the General Election.
Julio Cortez/AP
People cast votes at Edmondson Westside High School during Maryland's primary election in Baltimore. Goucher College polled recently voters about top issues in the General Election.

About 68% of Maryland adults agreed that schools should teach students about how racism exists in society and its institutions, according to a recent Goucher College survey. About 27% of adults said they disagreed that racism should be a school subject, while 4% didn’t know and 1% refused to answer the question. The poll surveyed 1,008 adults in Maryland and was funded and co-sponsored by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, WYPR and The Baltimore Banner.

Democrats were much more likely to agree that racism in society should be taught in schools, 88% felt that way while 39% of Republicans said the same.

Baltimore County Republican Scott Geare is among the minority of Republicans who favored the history of racism should be taught in schools.

“The history of our country and our states and individual areas must be understood in terms of what was happening among and in between the races over the course of our history,” Geare told WYPR. “If you don't understand that you don't understand where we are today.”

Education and public schools were among the top three issues for 59% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans, according to the poll.

Baltimore City Democrat Caroline Berry said that there’s value to learning about racism.

“Explaining how racism has shaped not only how we view people, but you know, the economy and just institutional aspects of it really can give children a better aspect on why the world is the way it is and why things are the way that they are,” Berry said.

About 69% of adults said that parents should have a say over the curriculum or what is taught to students in K-12 schools while 26% disagreed, 4% didn’t know and 1% refused to answer.

Baltimore City Democrat Yolanda Seabrooks said that while experts in education are important, parents should have some control over what their children may be learning during the school year.

“I think as a parent, I have to be comfortable with knowing that I'm sending my child to school, and they are getting appropriate information for their level that it aligns with, you know, my values,” Seabrooks said.

The concept of parental rights in public schools, especially as schools introduce culturally sensitive topics such as the LGBTQ+ community, has gained traction. Some parents are demanding more transparency about public school district curriculums, including any books for required reading.

Even Republican State Sen. Mary Beth Carroza introduced a bill to require transparency of school curriculum that died in committee

The senator, who represents District 38 which includes Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties, filed the Curriculum Transparency and Publication Act. If signed into law, it would require schools to publish any course materials such as textbooks and syllabi online.

But Brian, a Montgomery County Democrat who asked not to share his last name because of his profession, felt that parents should not have control over what is taught in school.

Brian works in politics and has two young children.

“I think the experts should be able to figure out what is appropriate for children to learn at different stages of their lives,” he said.

Read full poll results here.

Kristen Mosbrucker and Rachel Baye contributed reporting.

Zshekinah Collier is WYPR’s 2022-2023 Report for America Corps Member, where she covers Education. @Zshekinahgf
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