Hyped conservative takeover?

blackboard advocacyI am struggling to dissect this front page piece in today's Washington Post. Initially it seemed like a hit piece, but on a second reading, I have trouble finding any gaping holes in what is an extremely well reported and relatively balanced piece of journalism. Here’s the main idea of the story:

Margaret Young, chairwoman of the Charles County Board of Education, has at times taught her children at home in Waldorf using a Christian-based curriculum. She says she wants teachers to stop assigning books that contain profanity and what she believes are immoral messages. As an example, she cites Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which is an option on the 10th-grade reading list.

Young, 46, has been a controversial figure on the school board since she pulled her eldest son out of fifth grade for a day in 2000 to protest a state exam she considered a meaningless diversion. But now, she leads a voting bloc that has shifted the balance of power on the seven-member board in Charles, a growing suburban county.

The conservative views of Young and her allies are not typical among school boards in the Washington region. But such ideas have been building on boards across the nation since the 1980s.

Perhaps it was the tone of the story? I sensed an attitude of disbelief that someone who does not send her child to a public school could serve on the board governing the public school system. I also felt that the writer clearly did not understand arguments for including religious material in public school curriculum and choose to present the idea as something that only religious fanatics tied in with Jerry Falwell would advocate.

Key questions that must be asked:

  • What real changes in the school’s policy and curriculum have this conservative bloc made since coming to power?
  • What other restrictions is Young seeking on what teachers can include on optional reading lists?
  • Why are the lives of these four individuals the only ones so thoroughly researched and reported (down to the fact that one is a member of Gideons International)? What about the other three board members?

Right now this article seems like a lot of hype drummed up by opponents of Young and her allies. The main fire of the story is a lot of religious talk from the board members that will scare secularists and opponents of religion in schools. I am perplexed as to why this story was given such prominence without it containing more substantial news value. Sure, the issue of evolution vs. intelligent design is hot, as are school vouchers, but until this board actually does something, this story belongs on the cover of the Metro section.

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