I don't think very highly of this piece, but it features a couple of great historical anecdotes
[Horace] Mann’s lowest-common-denominator approach to religion in public schools may have been informed by his own religious upbringing and his shift away from the fire-and-brimstone Calvinism of his parents to a kinder, gentler Unitarianism. When Mann was fourteen, his older brother Stephen drowned after skipping a Sunday church service to swim in a local pond. The family minister devoted his eulogy to castigating Stephen for profaning the Sabbath, proclaiming that his future life would be one of eternal damnation.
Holy shit, Calvinists.
This war of words between Catholics and Protestants on the subject of public schools exploded into real violence in Philadelphia in the spring of 1844. Allegations that Catholic residents wanted to remove the King James Bible from the city’s schools led to widespread rioting, with pitched battles between Protestants and Irish Catholics on the streets of Philadelphia featuring stones, torches, sabers and muskets. At least fifteen Philadelphia residents died in the fighting. Dozens of homes and two Catholic churches were razed to the ground. Two months later, at the Fourth of July parade, Protestants marched with banners proclaiming “Foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of a Republican Government” and “The Bible is the basis of Education.”
I didn’t know the King James Bible had been so particularly warred over!
Re: conflicts over religious education, don’t miss a later PNW KKK angle.
Ultimately I don’t recommend this piece. Here’s an example of why:
This academic year, let’s imagine that my son’s seventh-grade math teacher will be following “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction,” a recently published antiracist toolkit for teachers, funded in part by the Gates Foundation. Embarking on her “antiracist journey,” my son’s teacher will have learned that standard mathematics instruction is plagued by “the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture” such as “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word” and “objectivity.” In math classrooms, the workbook explains, white supremacy culture manifests whenever “math is taught in a linear fashion,” “rigor is expressed only in difficulty” and grading practices “center what students don’t understand rather than what they do.” To “dismantle” white supremacy in collaboration with her students, my son’s teacher must “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views”; and “expose students to people who have used math as resistance.”
I don’t like this kind of agglomeration of tiny quotes to imply that, you know, there’s no way that perfectionism could be bad so this toolkit is obviously bunk. Maybe within the toolkit they talk about why it’s bad when math is taught in a linear fashion. Maybe there are reasons given why we shouldn’t fetishize objectivity (I am a partisan here). The author has not given himself the responsibility of summarizing an argument (and thus its substantiating evidence and arguments), only of clipping out things that’ll bother people. Reducing something to signaling can’t be called good-faith intellectual engagement.