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Keller @ Large: Poll Reveals Most Think Public Schools Heading In Wrong Direction

BOSTON (CBS) - The kids are back in class, the masks are mostly gone, and everything's fine in your local school, right?

Wrong, according to a new national poll from Iowa's Grinnell College.

Asked for their views on what's being taught in public schools, only 24% of the 1,000 respondents thought it was on the right track, while a whopping 64% said schools are heading in the wrong direction.

What's the problem? In part, a sharp disagreement over what a public school education should be focused on.

The poll found a consensus that students should be learning reading, math, writing, American history, home economics and budgeting above all else. Lagging nearly 20 points behind: foreign languages, art and music, and sex education.

"Our school systems right now are not even doing a good job of covering the basics – teaching our kids how to read, teaching our kids how to do math, preparing them to enter the workforce," says longtime Massachusetts activist Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union.

She says these poll results are the tip of a parental mistrust backlash that's been turbocharged by the study-from-home pandemic experience.

"The fantasy that we had in our heads about what was actually going on in school every single day, it all fell apart," says Rodrigues. "Now that the wool has fallen from our eyes, it's gonna be very difficult to fool parents and say 'no we've got it from here,' because we don't trust you anymore. We've seen too much. Parents are not in the mood to stand by and just trust that this system, which has obviously failed, is going to step up and meet the challenge [of lost learning and mental health issues]. We've seen too much."

That poll wasn't all bad news for the schools. Seventy-one percent still trust them to stock their libraries with appropriate books, for instance.

But there's no doubt the pandemic left a lot of students and their families struggling to deal with academic deficits and mental health problems caused by school closures. And public trust in the public schools won't be restored until everyone's in agreement about how to deal with that.

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