Jan Resseger was taken aback to read a major article by Laura Meckler of The Washington Post blaming the public schools for all their problems, in a classic case of blaming the victim. Schools did not cause COVID, and they are doing their best to overcome its consequences. Meckler even blames schools for gun violence, but schools are not handing out weapons or writing lax gun laws.

Resseger writes:

Meckler writes: “For public schools, the numbers are all going in the wrong direction. Enrollment is down. Absenteeism is up. There aren’t enough teachers, substitutes or bus drivers… Political battles are now a central feature of education, leaving school boards, educators and students in the crosshairs of culture warriors. Schools are on the defensive about their pandemic decision-making, their curriculums, their policies regarding race and racial equity and even the contents of their libraries. Republicans — who see education as a winning political issue — are pressing their case for more “parental control,” or the right to second-guess educators’ choices. Meanwhile, an energized school choice movement has capitalized on the pandemic to promote alternatives to traditional public schools.”

COVID-19 has brought a mass of challenges to America’s public schools, our largest civic institution. But there are myriad ways Meckler fails to sort out the issues. She fails to point out that most of the problems she names were not caused by public school leaders and teachers, and few are the result of mismanagement. Almost all of the problems she mentions fall into one category: challenges public schools haven’t been able fully to overcome…

Meckler worries about gun violence as a problem of public schools. School shootings are a problem of a society overrun with guns, but the problem is definitely not caused by public schools.

Meckler quotes a staff person at the pro-voucher Ed Choice about how such pro-privatization think tanks are exploiting today’s challenges for public schools as these organizations work hard to lobby state legislatures for vouchers and charter schools. She utterly fails to consider that almost nobody is celebrating remote schooling; millions of parents all over the country are demanding that their public schools reopen in person. Presumably the privatized online charter academies have suffered in reputation as we all learned that putting school on remote during COVID worked neither for students nor their teachers.

Meckler describes the uprisings by parents across American school districts—parents protesting mask mandates—parents protesting teaching about slavery and “controversial topics” that might make some children uncomfortable—parents demanding that school boards ban specific books on “controversial topics.” She neglects to mention that what appear to be grassroots parent-led attacks are in most cases the result of a well-designed political initiative—led by organizations like Moms for Liberty, FreedomWorks, Parents Defending Education, and No Left Turn in Education—designed by think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute—and paid for by far-right philanthropists. This project has been set up to inflame white parents in segregated suburbs, or, as a new report summarized by the National Education Policy Center shows, in districts currently experiencing racial change, by stoking these parents’ fears that their privilege and their protective historical myths are threatened

Public schools are durable and complex institutions. Public school teachers and administrators are struggling right now to bring students comfortably back to school after more than a year of disruption. My belief is that most of these professional educators will survive and succeed.