What Did You Learn In School Today?

As Hoosiers anticipate the upcoming session of the General Assembly–an anticipation tinged with trepidation for many of us– we would do well to focus on the harms our Lords and Masters at the Statehouse intend to visit on public education this year.

This will be a budget year, and education is a huge part of that budget. I should note that, despite the pious concerns about taxes and spending voiced by Republican legislators each year, Indiana lawmakers have thrown millions of dollars into efforts to privatize education via the country’s largest voucher program, sending those dollars primarily to religious schools while routinely shortchanging the needs of our public schools.

According to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, the state is currently short 2300 teachers, a shortage undoubtedly exacerbated by inadequate pay levels and the legislature’s obvious disdain for the profession, demonstrated by its persistent efforts to dictate what can and cannot be taught in the classroom. In the upcoming session, a don’t say gay bill will be introduced, along with one purporting to keep Critical Race Theory out of the classroom. (The fact that actual CRT has never been in the classroom is irrelevant to the culture warriors, most of whom couldn’t tell you what it is if their lives depended on it.)

Classroom teachers and school board members I’ve talked to are exhausted by the constant assaults by Rightwing parents–the uninformed demands that they teach (or omit) certain materials,  efforts to ban books or remove them from school libraries, and hysterical accusations about education perceived to be “woke.” These high-decibel accusations are front-page news, despite the fact that–according to research–the great majority of Americans who actually have children in the public schools are satisfied with the education those children are receiving.

The harassment of teachers and school board members has little to do with what actually goes on in the nation’s classrooms; instead, it is one of the more visible battlefronts in the GOP’s culture war.

The linked study, done by Pew prior to the midterm elections, underscores the fundamentally partisan nature of the assault.

As the midterm election approaches, issues related to K-12 schools have become deeply polarized. Republican and Democratic parents of K-12 students have widely different views on what their children should learn at school about gender identity, slavery and other topics, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

They also offer different assessments of the influence parents, local school boards and other key players have on what public K-12 schools in their area are teaching. Republican parents with children in K-12 schools are about twice as likely as Democratic parents to say parents don’t have enough influence (44% vs. 23%, including those who lean to each party). And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say school boards have too much influence (30% vs. 17%). These parents also differ over the amount of input they personally have when it comes to what their own children are learning in school.

At the same time, Republican and Democratic parents – including those with children in public schools – are equally likely to say they are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving (58% each) and that the teachers and administrators at their children’s schools have values that are similar to their own (54% each).

The large differences between what Republican and Democratic parents believe their children should learn are illuminating.

When it comes to what their children are learning in school, U.S. parents of K-12 students are divided over what they think their children should learn about gender identity: 31% say they would prefer that their children learn that whether someone is a boy or a girl is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, and the same share say they’d rather their children learn that someone can be a boy or a girl even if that’s different from their sex at birth. A 37% plurality say their children shouldn’t learn about this in school.

There is also no consensus when it comes to what parents want their children to learn about slavery: 49% say they would prefer that their children learn that the legacy of slavery still affects the position of Black people in American society today, while a smaller but sizable share (42%) would prefer that their children learn that slavery is part of American history but doesn’t affect the position of Black people in American society today.

The self-appointed education experts in Indiana’s General Assembly should take note of another Pew finding: more parents say that state and federal governments have too much influence on what goes on in the classroom–and complain that teachers and principals don’t have enough.

Perhaps if legislators respected teachers–and compensated them accordingly–we wouldn’t be frantically searching for 2300 more of them.


  1. I for one am glad I no longer have to deal with parents who think they can dictate what I taught in the classroom, including the parents of university students. The reality that I taught manufacturing and industrial technology, possess an earned doctorate and virtually none of the parents had any knowledge in the field(s) did not matter. Instead they were the ones “paying the bills” and therefore “had the right” to interfere reducing professors to nothing more than hired field hands. BTW, 1972 Federal legislation prohibited my turning over the student’s grades, etc to the parents also didn’t seem to make any difference with them. Fortunately this type of parent was a minority, a very slim minority. I kept my educational law textbook with a bookmark referring to the aforementioned Federal Statute on one of my bookshelves in my office for use when I had a particularly ignorant and obnoxious parent.

  2. As a science educator and former industrial engineer, I, like Stan, experienced inputs from parents who had no clue, but demanded to have influence. More than once a parent told me that I was teaching things that they didn’t know. DUH! My retort was something like, “Isn’t that the point of learning?”

    After retiring, I wrote an acclaimed book, “Saving the Seed Corn: A Memoir by an Educator for Educators and Parents.”

    This blog today, once again underscores the vast differences between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans want world-class everything, but don’t want to pay for it. Democrats also want world-class everything, but want EVERYONE to pay their fair share of the costs. That canyon cannot be bridged as long as Republicans continue cascading to right-wing fascism and anarchy.

    Indiana Republicans are among the most disturbingly ignorant and backward thinking I’m familiar with…except maybe Texas Republicans. Heck, those nut jobs want to secede from the union. Are Indiana Republicans competing for the lowest bar with Texas Republicans?

  3. In 1969 I moved my family from New Whiteland, IN, (very appropriately named) to the Irvington area of Indianapolis. Having been an active member of the PTA in New Whiteland’s elementary school, one of the first questions I asked my new neighbors was about the local school and their PTA. I was told that the teachers and parents had voted against the PTA due to it being too communistic and had created their own PTO(rganization). The neighbors and I shared a rueful laugh. When registering 3 of my 5 children in the neighborhood school #77 the principal actually apologized to me; “I’m sorry but the law requires all schools hire colored teachers and one of your children will be in her class.” I told her I was glad to know this because one of the reasons I moved back to Indianapolis was to remove my children from the racist town we lived in to the real world where not everybody looked alike. About 2 years later busing was the news and the city held two public meetings, inviting all parents to attend to be “educated” on this new system and to voice their opinions. The first meeting was held at Arlington High School; my husband and I arrived to find the Indianapolis Police Department’s armed SWAT Team also in attendance in case their service was needed. One of the officers was a high school friend; he explained they were there because the City expected problems. The second meeting was held at Thomas Carr Howe High School; I got into that discussion with the attorney representing the Board of Education who insisted that the busing was not due to racial balance but to provide quality education for all. He had no answers as to why our children had to be moved from current schools to other schools and importing children (who happened to be “colored”) into our neighborhood school if all schools provided quality education. No explanation why the “colored” children living in our area were not allowed to attend our school.

    The Irvington area school my children attended was a newer building with quality teaching staff but not enough books for each child to have one so they shared books during school hours. No homework because not enough books to take home; they also had to walk home for lunch, walk back to school and walk home at the end of the day. They were transferred by bus to a lower income area which was primarily “colored”; each child had their own book, they had hot lunches and reading labs for study periods. The bus traveled by interstate picking up students around the city and one morning the children watched as one wheel came off of their bus and rolled past it; the bus parked on the side of the road waiting for the replacement bus.

    All of the above happened to my children more than 50 years ago; the faces have changed, new rules have been applied along with the addition of ignoring the state and U.S. Constitutions to add the voucher system which is sucking the public education budget dry and the overall state of education in Indianapolis is in worse condition than 50 years ago. Politics rule; and Indiana being a red state means the Republicans rule. Like school 77 creating PTO to replace PTA which they believed to be communistic, the Republican Organization is deciding who qualifies for education and who can be left behind.

    “The self-appointed education experts in Indiana’s General Assembly should take note of another Pew finding: more parents say that state and federal governments have too much influence on what goes on in the classroom–and complain that teachers and principals don’t have enough.”

    The fact is that only the politicians have influence, power and full control of education here.

  4. Ah, the public school teachers are underpaid canard. Teachers have brilliantly convinced virtually everyone that they’re underpaid. Meanwhile, people in my profession, law, went the other way. They convinced everyone they make great salaries practicing law. Both are myths. I have plenty of attorney friends who have left law because they can’t find legal jobs or the pay is low and benefits non-existent. Back to teaching.

    The average teacher salary in Indiana according to the State of Indiana Teacher Compensation Report prepared for 2019 through 2020 is $53,463. With benefits, the average total is $70,540. That’s good pay. They have great benefits, including a PENSION, which is virtually unheard of in the private sector, health insurance and plenty of vacation. They only are instructing students for 180 days out of 365. There are a few more in class instruction days, but not many.

    A teacher’s school day is about 6 hours, though they often have to work additional hours to grade tests and prepare. But you know what? All professionals have to work extra hours. Grow up. That’s just the nature of a professional job. Many professionals put in more hours than teachers. And cry me a river about how much education teachers have to have. Many professionals are more highly educated than teachers and received less compensation.

    For a couple years, I substituted in K-12 schools in Pike and Wayne Township. You know how many times I heard teachers complain about how much they were being compensated? ZERO. You know how many times I heard teachers complain about working conditions, such as disruptive children and unsupportive parents and administration? CONSTANTLY.

    I was at dinner with a retired public school teacher who taught kindergarten for 35 years. Another dining companion tried to say how teachers were underpaid. The retired teacher (who did also have an advance degree) shot that down … she said she was very happy with her compensation when she taught When she retired she was up to like $80,000 per year in base salary.

  5. Please consider reading Hijacking History by Kathleen Wellman. She provides a detailed review of right wing history curriculums that is probably the curriculum goal for many attacking public schools.

  6. Paul Ogden,

    Your misinformation and disinformation could only come from a whining lawyer. You have NO idea how many hours teachers work. Your canard about the 6 hour day is pure B.S. Teachers who are worth their degrees and commitment to excellence in their classrooms aren’t being paid via “billable hours” like lawyers. They get a salary that barely keeps food on their tables. BTW, in case you missed it, $50,000 in today’s dollars equals, in buying power, about what teachers earned 20 years ago. Teachers have families too, in case you missed that little item. If their salaries were so great, why do most teachers with families moonlight and work summer jobs? Why are a significant number of single-parent teachers’ children eligible for assisted lunch programs? You carefully cherry-picked the data – like any good lawyer – to justify your opinion.

    More: Teachers remain the most lowest paid professionals with college degrees of any. Don’t give us the crap about not all lawyers are rich. Even the ambulance chasers make more than teachers. The idea behind public schools was to advance our culture. We put trust in our teachers. Teachers built the curriculums until politicians got their slimy hands into it to curry votes.

    Perhaps more people everywhere need to step back and away from the whiners and the politics and look at our test scores compared to other industrialized nations. Also, imagine what sort of people would enter the education profession as classroom teachers if the salaries equaled those of engineers, software designers and even those scuffling lawyers.

  7. Well; we got Paul K. Ogden’s Republican world view out of the way early, we can now move on to the reality that everyone who works believes they are not being paid enough. That is not so much related to the amount of their take-home pay after the government completes their deductions, but to what they are able to afford in the ever rising amount of day-to-day living expenses. Republicans consider Social Security recipients to be “on the dole” when we are reaping what we sowed with our FICA deductions all the years we worked. Those of us with Social Security and Medicare have the Medicare payment deducted before we receive the “take-home” balance from our SS checks. This was explained to me 70 years ago when I was 15 years old and had my first job; the drug store owner said one day I would be very glad I had paid that tax. That day came early for me due to becoming disabled and I am very glad to have paid that tax because the salaries I earned through the years were not enough to put aside savings for my future. I didn’t learn that in school but I did learn the math to figure how to juggle bills to keep them paid on time. The government uses these deductions to invest and earn interest and have “borrowed” millions of our paid in dollars but none of these “loans” have been repaid, nor will they ever be. I didn’t learn that in school either.

  8. While the pay and culture issues are intellectually interesting, IMHO, the bigger issue is the slow death of public education as one leg of our American Democracy “stool”, along with such things as a free press, rule of law, etc.

    The data is strong – look it up. Even taking into account fewer marriages and fewer children, more and more kids are in private education or being home schooled. The “melting pot” can’t happen without public education and our divides are only being fed by this.

  9. I am sorry to hear that the General Assembly has moved from their intense hatred of teachers’ associations, especially ISTA, and is now focused on every aspect of public education. I miss my Indiana friends, but I do not miss Indiana’s racist, bigoted, and misogynistic Republican Party. Republican Senators Morris Mills and Larry Borst would be Democrats today.

  10. We could bounce around all day comparing salaries, but is that the point? I partially agree with Paul and with Stan. However, I also worked in the social services and behavioral health fields, and guess how much they get paid for their master’s degree?

    I would love to see ALL workers protected and covered by legitimate UNIONS so they can set their value in our free market system. Even the poor CNAs do long hours of back-breaking work to serve our elderly, yet make pennies.

    We could go on all day about who makes justifiable wages and doesn’t—private pensions versus public pensions, etc.

    The goofballs in Indy are carnival characters, and so are many parents because they listen to pastors and conservative media who slam anything “liberal.” The crazier the ideas, the more followers/viewers they get. Why should the politicians be any different?

    It’s all a “free market of choices,” right??

    p.s. The “free market of choices” we espouse is causing our race to the bottom. Maybe we should find a system that serves the people versus us serving an unequal economic system.

  11. Paul, just to be clear, I make more in retirement than any of the teachers I know make actively plying their trade. I also make more than many of the attorneys I know. So at least that part of your whine is correct. The reason for the imbalance in thinking is that when you look at average salaries that include partners in large firm, results become skewed to the high side.

  12. Interesting to note that Indiana has a shortage of lawyers. NPR reported yesterday that only 10% of lawyers who graduate from Notre Dame law school stay in the state and less than 50% from IU. It is not from lack of clients. The cost of a degree means years of student loans to pay off.
    The following article quotes Justice Rush on those statistics.
    Mr. Ogden may want to read it.
    A family member who taught for more than 30 years was instructed to prepare a year’s worth of lesson plans for a new curriculum (the 3rd in 3 years) to be reviewed and approved by the start of the next school year, done on her own time without compensation of any kind.
    Another family member who is still teaching spends hours every semester grading and prepping. Student loans finally paid off after nearly 30 years of teaching.
    Teachers are expected to work toward advanced degrees, get re-certified and attend work sessions to prepare for new curriculum, many times paying thousands of dollars in the process with no compensation to fund those demands.
    I spent years in the book business meeting with teachers who came to workshops on their own time, often traveling hours to attend, learning about the new books to engage students, buying books with their own money to build a classroom library.
    A young teacher I know goes to yard sales whenever she can to buy used books for her classroom of middle school students.
    “Indiana is one of just eight states where parents pay for textbook fees, according to a report from the Education Commission of the States. INDIANAPOLIS — As students return from fall break around central Indiana, many families are raising concerns over covering the cost of textbooks for their kids.Oct 17, 2022” WTHR
    The state legislature’s disdain for the profession is evident by the continued under-funding of public education, the funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars to private education.
    As has been discussed so often on this blog, Indiana lags far behind most other states in education, quality of health and life. It will only get worse as women, who currently outnumber men in law schools and medical school, decide to leave the state permanently due to lack of access to reproductive healthcare. Women comprise the majority in the teaching profession. The shortages are alarming and only will get worse.
    Adding insult to injury with the assaults on teachers and school boards by bigots and racists will drive even more from the profession.
    I fear for the current generation of students who have lived through a pandemic, short staffing and underfunding. Is it any wonder that achievement levels have dropped? Can we depend on them to be the leaders of tomorrow, the cogs in the wheels of labor feeding the oligarchs’ yawning maw, the future of our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? You get what you pay for.

  13. education on the road,priceless, i get to join in with the blue collar rambles between doors shut and doors open, the more diverse the people,i find from other countries,had a better education,and many times didnt cost them much for,higher ed. most of these people come here to America for the dream. they start trucking,and as soon as they see the exploitation of this bottom feeder job,they leave for something else.( and ya wonder why we have a annual turnover of 95% in this industry) the fact, we as employees, are paid less than teachers,though we babaysit a truck 24/7 when on the road,we only get paid in this devised system of,milage driven/per mile,,percentage of whats paid to haul the load,or if your lucky,hourly. but that means you dont get paid (or a hotel at night/or meals)away from home sitting in a truckstop,or trying to find a safe place to park. we are goverment mandated ,in most cases, to run a electronic logging device.GPS and timed and logged. when the law was first implemented , i raised the question,now we have a time clock,lets get paid for all our time,the republicans slid a bill into some other bill, to make sure we couldnt do that. mandated tracking by the goverment, and we cant get paid for being for every hour were away from home,(or,any compensation)(trump,took away a per-diem, that mayhave changed things if,it,worked in the first place(it was a IRS target to claim it)this is the way it is since 1933. i feel for the teach to have to supervise good and unruly kids with parenets today filling the kids mind and techers time with inferior bullshit. but then again you could drive a truck and really be next to poverty all your life to.remember,someone still needs to pad everyone elses ass befor their own..the working class also has a job that takes skill and some sort of devotion to find where your cog lands. hey paul,the republicans see us a garbage,and treat us truckers as such, maybe you should haul your own garbage..

  14. Culture war is all that these GOPIGGIES have, and the susceptibility of their followers to this garbage is sad!

  15. ALEC (Koch-funded) has, it appears from reading their model bills (red states), proposed legislation that:

    — limits workers’ and consumers’ rights,
    — makes it harder for victims of corporate crime to sue,
    — promotes privatized schools and opposes government help for young people to get a college education,
    — blocks government-funded healthcare,
    — protects the profits of pharmaceutical companies,
    — guts the social safety net,
    — increases the profits of the fossil fuel industry,
    — ramps up the difficulty facing working-class people who want to vote,
    — expands private for-profit prisons,
    — and fills states with more guns.

    Small wonder, then, that the Red states adopting these laws often have the highest gun murders in the developed world, maternal mortality and morbidity rates compared to third-world countries, and even widespread health crises involving parasites and sexually transmitted diseases.


  16. Whataboutism in disguise, Paul. You should consider using a means rather than an average to anchor your complaint of overpaid teachers. Huge administrative salaries for superintendents and their ilk distort the reality, i.e., that teachers are leaving for lack of reasonable compensation and such hostile work sites for other states or are leaving the profession altogether – or both.

    My now deceased wife held a doctorate in elementary education from the University of Illinois and was a professor achieving tenure after only three years of her seventeen years teaching teachers how to teach. She would have found today’s private-religious-public dustups fueled by culture warriors and the introduction of parents into setting curriculum abhorrent, as I do, and as John Dewey and other philosophers of education would if still among us.

    Truth be told, culture warriors are less interested in educating children than indoctrinating them, and have cleverly persuaded state supreme courts that giving public funding to private and religious “schools” is in accord with their states’ constitution(s) which clearly ban use of such funding.

    I don’t know how such supreme court justices sleep at night. Where is some replica of Thomas Jefferson and his Preamble when we need him or her?

  17. Hoosier legislators have learned how to simplify their lives by promising rural voters freedom from obsolescence. Or at least the illusion of it. And not by the usual method of keeping up with the rest of the world but by building a fantasyland like Disney created in California and Florida.

    Other less capable illusionists would wonder how to pay for such entertainment but Hoosier legislators and in fact many Republicans have solved the problem by a combination of massive debt and selling cities, home of the future, to mega-wealthy patrons.

    It’s truly Magicland.

  18. My school system was willing to pay attorney fees to avoid bussing, architects to design a fancy new building for the superintendent’s office and “statement” upgrades to existing buildings, expanded sports facilities, fancy office furniture for administrators, etc.. But were they willing to economize on any of these things so they could hire more teachers to reduce class sizes? Not a chance. Administrators just quoted some ancient, bullshit “research” that “proved” class size was irrelevant. Why listen to the teachers? This is the kind of stuff that drives good people out of the profession. Then there are all the other things previously mentioned that make teachers aware of badly they are undervalued and underappreciated. Salaries are only one, among many things, that are responsible for a shortage of high quality teachers.

  19. Gerald; “teaching teachers how to teach”, what an incredible vocation your wife chose. I have always believed that good teachers instilled in their students a strong desire to learn. During my 12 years of public school I remember only 3 of my teachers; Mrs. Goodus in 5th grade who told us that many years in the future Indiana would have weather that is so enjoyable in Florida because the earth is constantly changing slightly the tilt on its axis. Climate Change in the 1940s, Imagine that! I believe that is when my interest in Climate Change and Global Warming began. Mr. G.K. Barr who taught biology in high school; he treated his students as intelligent people by listening to our questions and answering them fully without making us feel like little children. And Jean Welles who taught English Grammar in the same high school who responding to my question about a rule I didn’t understand by telling me, “That is a stupid question and you are the dumbest student I have ever tried to teach.” My best friend from high school and I were talking not long ago about high school days; she said Jean Welles had responded to one of her questions with the same response. My friend became a writer for magazine in the San Francisco area, a play writer whose production on stage at San Jose University about the historical dangers of women’s fashions through the years was requested and performed at other universities in the SF area. She also obtained TWO Masters Degrees in different areas of Social Work; she was at times in classes in one area of SJU and teaching classes in another area. She was also a political activist for more than 50 years; the week before her 70th birthday she was arrested for Civil Disobedience, Trespassing for refusing to leave Rep. Honda’s office after an anti-war demonstration. Handcuffed, mug shot, tried and convicted, fined and assigned to community service in the jail system where she had volunteered earlier. We met in Mr. Barr’s Biology class where we were taught to ask as well as listen and trust ourselves to know when to speak up. We remain best friends today; we speak of him often and can now laugh about Jean Welles’ lack of teaching abilities.

    Indianapolis schools have lost many good teachers due to the political intrusion into the education system and especially the public education budget; it began long before the voucher system was enacted by Republicans who do not know the difference between their religious beliefs and the human and civil rights of others.

  20. Ah, Paul. I am sorry that the legal profession didn’t cap the number of practitioners so that salaries remained high, like physicians did. You are correct that people have been led to expect a law degree to guarantee a reasonably high salary and it no longer does.

    That is where the agreement ends.

    First, being a substitute teacher is a placeholder; it’s not the same as being a teacher. Good teachers work lang hours, and they pay for their own supplies. In the corporate work, you get your pens and paper from the supply cabinet or the supply administrator. Teachers don’t get have that luxury.

    Let’s talk salary. Starting salary for teachers in Indiana is $34,329-$50,119 with an average or $41,102. Starting salary for a business school grad is $65,183, but of course making certain that Company A has a bigger share of the widget market is more important than the education our children.

    Also, the only people who discuss “total compensation” are business exec complaining that the mere workers are so expensive and are depriving them of bigger bonuses, or HR people trying to explain the lowball salary they are offering you. The bank doesn’t ask for your “total compensation” when they approve your mortgage, they ask for your salary.

    But we have the best schools in the world, right? Oh, sorry, that would be Finland where teachers are highly compensated, well respected, and because of that, a competitive field to enter.

  21. Nothing makes me angrier than watching despicable hateful lying Republicans give my tax dollars to these phony religious con men and women for their bullshit private schools. I can’t make any better comment on this subject than what has already been said by others. My wife and I just bought a lovely little casita in the mountains of Costa Rica and we will be living there full-time before the 2024 elections. Fck Indiana and the rest of the US that has been taken over by these criminal bastards, I hate this country now more than ever

  22. @Ormand, your reference to Jordan Peterson is hilarious, that guy is one of the biggest douchebags on the planet 🤣

  23. Thank you all over again, Prof. Kennedy, Esq., for this forum where shills for The Powers That Be can tout the benefits of the Status Quo of The Corporations, v. the voices of the people and those experiencing the realities of modern U.S.A.

  24. When will teachers and others devoted to public education stop being defensive when dealing with ignorant, right wing , fascist, “parents”? Make THEM defend and define and show one scintilla of value to their shrill demands and indignant bellowing.

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