The Kid Angle: Mike Hixenbaugh on the fight for America’s schools

“Schools are the place where our society grapples with what to teach a new generation about what’s right and what’s wrong about our history,” NBC News journalist Mike Hixenbaugh says on this week’s Speaking of Kids podcast.

Armed with his new blockbuster book “They Came for the Schools,” Hixenbaugh talks with podcast co-host Bruce Lesley about the need to center the voices of children — especially Black, brown and queer children — in the debates engulfing the nation’s public schools.

These debates aren’t new. They harken back more than a century, from fights over how to teach evolution in the 1920s and 30s, to school integration in the 1960s, to uproar over “secular humanism” in the 1970s and 80s. And groups like Moms for Liberty can trace their lineage to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. But, Hixenbaugh argues, these debates are different.

“The difference today is, there’s been much more success in terms of codifying this,” he says. “There’s been a wave of state laws in red states to ban certain perspectives and to privilege a more patriotic, Christian perspective favored by folks like Ron DeSantis. And those policies have also been replicated at many school boards locally.”

On whether the current cycle of disturbing trends is on its way out or just gaining steam, Hixenbaugh tells Bruce we’ll just have to wait and see.

“It’s possible that we’re at a moment where this maybe will plateau and start to die off,” Hixenbaugh says. “But…there’s still a ton of energy and activism around this in communities where somehow they’ve avoided having these fights. And it’s kind of sparking now…So it’s still unfolding.”

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