More and more, America’s public school classrooms are becoming ground zero for political indoctrination. The same contentious ideologies and social activism that have taken over colleges and universities have crept into K-12 education. Increasingly, critical race theory and ill-defined concepts such as “systemic racism” and “unconscious bias” are adopted into policy and curriculum as undeniable truths and packaged as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) or Social Emotional Learning. The push isn’t new, but many parents were unaware this is what happened in their children’s classrooms until pandemic-era school closures and e-learning gave them a front-row seat to their children’s education.
The kinds of commitments public school systems are making these days aren’t simply words on a page. They inform everything the district does, including who gets to teach there.
While much attention has been turned to identity politics infiltrating American classrooms, less focus has been paid to the influence on the people schools are hiring to impart this indoctrination on students. A recent survey shows DEI departments and administrative positions have become more common, especially in large districts. What about classroom teachers?
The National Opportunity Project, a nonprofit government watchdog and education organization, has produced the nation’s first survey and overview of the DEI hiring process in K-12 education. If Americans are concerned about political indoctrination in their children’s classrooms, NOP must start by understanding how public school districts hire teachers to impart such politics.
Is there reason to believe districts are seeking teachers who have certain political or social beliefs—and weeding out those who don’t? For instance, are applicants to a P.E. instructor position screened for their beliefs about equity? Is a qualified candidate for a third grade teaching slot less likely to get the job if she publicly espouses conservative views? Can a critic of critical race theory expect to be seriously considered for a job teaching world history?
The kinds of commitments public school systems are making these days aren’t simply words on a page. They inform everything the district does, including who gets to teach there. If applicants to such districts who don’t subscribe to certain views are weeded out, then the practices are merely another tool for indoctrinating K-12 students into a single political ideology.
Key problems: What NOP found
Among districts that provided records, NOP found myriad examples of political and social ideology influencing the teacher hiring process. NOP also faced resistance to providing either requested records or fully-unredacted documents.
1. Ideological qualifications in teacher job postings
Districts are using coded language in job postings—specifically, in attributes that qualified candidates should have—that potentially deters ideological dissenters from applying. These are invitations for (or virtue signals to) ideological partners. The most politically-charged job ads incorporate strong language about racism, systems, and/or justice. Their message to applicants is clear: Be prepared to join our crusade, or don’t apply.
2. Application and interview questions that screen for political and social ideology
NOP also found application and interview questions that presume and screen for agreement with equity, diversity, and related concepts. Some were more open-ended, but NOP also encountered questions that were loaded and presumptive.
Likewise, NOP saw a range of questions in interview protocols that interrogate candidates on DEI concepts. Most alarming are questions that go beyond teaching responsibilities to personal disclosure.
3. Using evaluation criteria to find an ideological fit
The criteria or guidance that some districts give to anyone evaluating a candidate is the starkest, most direct evidence of screening teachers for ideological conformity. Perspectives that diverge from or fail to mesh with the district’s views on equity, for example, are judged poorly.
4. Setting racial and ethnic diversity hiring goals
Some school districts go beyond the American “melting pot” idea, or removing barriers to certain groups of applicants, to saying faculty and staff should or will directly “mirror” or “reflect” characteristics of the student body. Not only does this standard create a moving target, but it could also exclude highly qualified candidates due to their race or other immutable attribute.
5. Identity quotas for hiring committees and interview panels
Consistent with the ideological emphasis on identity and identity politics, the guidelines for forming hiring committees and interview panels in some districts use identity quotas. Public school districts are setting criteria for staff who must be part of interview or selection committees that could discriminate against otherwise qualified staff, due to race, gender, or sexual orientation. The directions are akin to the teacher diversity goals highlighted earlier.
Why do these hiring practices matter?
A kind of social engineering is at play when public schools limit their teaching force to those who share the same social or political views—or feel like they can’t disclose their opposition to controversial ideologies. One applicant who is penalized for challenging controversial doctrines is one too many. This is as much a problem if the ideologies are from the right, instead of the left.
Intentional or not, a concerted effort to find teachers dedicated to a district’s anti-racist pledge potentially discourages or filters out applicants with moderate or conservative viewpoints. It begs the question: Do such practices withstand legal scrutiny?
Considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision outlawing affirmative action, maintaining and expanding these employment policies may land school districts in federal court even if they don’t seem like obvious discrimination. If nothing else, seeking out devotees to a single political or social perspective may constitute de facto discrimination by creed— especially if an applicant’s aversion to a perspective is rooted in his/her religious convictions. Public school districts run the risk of violating a candidate’s civil rights should the person have reason to believe his/her religious, political, or social views played a significant role in denying employment.
What to do
If certain political and social activists and allies are privileged in the teacher hiring process—and skeptics discouraged from applying, or from disclosing views that don’t conform—students are being robbed of diverse viewpoints, skilled teachers, and a quality education.
Local scrutiny and resistance to teacher-hiring practices that put applicants at an ideological disadvantage is crucial.
- All hiring practices should be transparent and subject to public feedback.
- School board policies must be revised, if necessary, to prevent potential ideological or identity bias in the teacher hiring process.
- Only research-based qualifications and skills most relevant to impactful teaching should be emphasized and sought.
- Policies should be re-evaluated to ensure they stand up to legal scrutiny in the face of recent court decisions outlawing discrimination.
School boards and administrators must also be held accountable for the impact of hiring practices on teacher quality and student achievement. Do politically-oriented questions and criteria yield teacher hires that end up having a positive impact on what and how much students learn? Do “identity quotas” for interview panel members result in hiring teachers who teach all students well? Unless such hiring goals and practices at least achieve their educational goals, they fail to pass their own test.
Public-School Districts Perpetuate Left-Wing Bias through Discriminatory Hiring Practices, Watchdog Finds, National Review
September 29, 2023
Report: Public Schools Pick Teachers Based On Their Allegiance To Cultural Marxism, The Federalist
September 14, 2023
Elementary school teachers must now embrace DEI principles to get hired at many public schools: study, New York Post
September 9, 2023
DEI hiring practices in K-12 schools require teachers to show commitment to left-wing ideology: Watchdog, Fox News
September 2, 2023
Patrick Hughes on Fox News: New report on DEI hiring practices in K-12 schools, Fox News
August 30, 2028
The Hidden Racial Bias in K-12 Education, RealClearEducation
August 28, 2023
School districts question applicants on diversity, equity commitment during hiring process, Daily Caller
August 22, 2023