Who should set the K-12 history curriculum? Democrats say teachers; Republicans pick parents

Linley SandersData Journalist
February 09, 2023, 9:10 PM GMT+0

Last month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rejected the state's Advanced Placement course in African-American studies. Based on the draft curriculum, DeSantis claimed that the high school class would become a vehicle for a political agenda.

Most Americans (56%) strongly or somewhat support high schools offering an AP course in African-American studies, while 23% are strongly or somewhat opposed. Democrats support the classes by a margin of 76% to 23%, and Republicans are narrowly divided — with slightly more supporting (42%) than opposing (36%) the classes. Black Americans (74%) are more likely than Hispanic (55%) or white Americans (53%) to support the AP offering for African-American studies.

Nearly two in three Americans (63%) are familiar with AP courses, and 28% say they have taken one. Overwhelmingly, AP courses in general are thought of as a good option to have available to students: 85% of people who are familiar with AP courses say that.

More Americans say there is too little (33%) taught about Black American history in schools today than think there is too much (14%) being taught. More than one-third of Americans (37%) say they learned too little about Black American history when they were in school. Majorities of Democrats say they learned too little about Black American history (55%) and that too little is being taught today (53%). About one in five Republicans (21%) say they learned too little, and only 12% believe too little about the history of Black Americans is being taught today.

DeSantis has argued that parents should be more involved in deciding the curriculums that their children are taught in public schools. When asked how much authority different groups of people and entities should have over the K-12 history curriculum in their state, 50% of Americans say that parents should have "a lot" of say. Nearly the same share (49%) say teachers deserve to have a lot of control, followed by the state board of education (41%), the U.S. Department of Education (39%), school administrators (35%), the state legislature (20%), and the state governor (18%).

A majority of parents would give “a lot” of authority to parents and teachers. But there is a big party divide on both parents and teachers. While 64% of Democrats would grant a lot of authority to teachers, 39% of Republicans would. Just 34% of Democrats say it is parents who should have that kind of authority, compared to 65% of Republicans. There is little support within either party for giving a lot of authority for education to state political leaders, such as the legislature and the governor.

— Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on February 4 - 7, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (Monkey Business)

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