The Cato Institute’s Public Schooling Battle Map, which I run, demonstrates this far more comprehensively. It includes nearly 2,000 conflicts in public schools, many over what values schools will teach or reinforce, such as comprehensive sex education or abstinence‐only; modest dress or student freedom; bathroom choice or bodily privacy. These conflicts attest to the diversity of values strongly held by Americans, though of course we also know this from our increasingly visible and deep polarization well beyond education.
Given this diversity, we should be very hesitant to impose uniform solutions to social problems (including education), even if we feel like most people would or should agree with us. On a practical level, such remedies may not be sustainable in many places because the people would ignore or work their way around them. More importantly, imposing morally controversial rules and policies curbs people’s basic rights to act according to their consciences. Seeking centralized remedies also raises the political stakes of all social disagreements, forcing more, diverse people into divisive political combat to have their values upheld.
The first protection against this in American education is local control of public schooling; letting individual communities make decisions for themselves about what is taught and what rules schools will have. Unfortunately, we have been eroding this bulwark for decades, both with consolidation of districts and moving decisions up to state and federal levels.
That said, if there is diversity within a district, freedom of conscience will still be threatened. That is why we ultimately need universal school choice—essentially, the most local control—freeing all educators and families to choose education that shares their values.
We can all agree that the school shootings in Parkland, Santa Fe, and many other places were evil, atrocious acts. But that does not mean that even communities affected by the shootings share the same beliefs about what can and should be done. It’s a powerful reminder of the diversity in America that we need to protect when we seek to deal with social problems.