Third graders who attend public school in North Carolina learn about the solar system and volcanoes in science class. Fourth graders study fossils. Social studies at the second grade level teaches students about democracy.
In fifth grade, students discuss rights that are protected under the U.S. Constitution. But according to Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, kids shouldn’t be learning about any of that.
Robinson has all but guaranteed he’ll run for governor in 2024. And, as he’s already demonstrated with last year’s laughably unsuccessful task force to uncover evidence of “indoctrination” in schools, he has quite a few thoughts about public education. Some of those thoughts made their way into his forthcoming memoir, WRAL News reported, and they include this doozy: eliminating the State Board of Education and removing subjects like science and history from first through fifth grade curricula.
In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” he writes. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.” Because learning about scary liberal concepts like plants or geography is clearly a threat to elementary school children.
Does he think kids need to wait until middle school to learn that the earth isn’t flat? But as patently wacky as Robinson’s suggestion is, it’s also just plain bad for our state. Public school curriculum, especially in elementary school, provides students with the basic tools they need to succeed in the world. That’s not just a North Carolina thing. It’s how it works everywhere.
Robinson’s no-science, no-history curriculum is bad for our children, who will fall behind because they’re learning concepts like gravity and the three branches of government at a slower pace than their peers in other states — or because they simply haven’t been taught how to think critically. It’s also bad for our “best in business economy,” which depends on a workforce that can match states competing with us for elite companies.
Nor will those companies want to come here if the schools that employees send their kids to don’t teach basic things that are building blocks to deeper learning. And it would make a mockery of North Carolina — something Robinson already manages to do quite often when he makes headlines like this.
Does Robinson really want us to plummet to the bottom? To be known for the inferiority of our public education system and struggle to recruit industries outside of manufacturing?
Brian LiVecchi, Robinson’s chief of staff, appeared to offer more context on Twitter, arguing that reading should be prioritized over other subjects like chemistry and economics. “NC public schools are failing to reliably meet even the basic and fundamental requirement of teaching our kids to read. Get that right first,” he wrote.
Reading and other subjects are not mutually exclusive, however, and sending kids into the world with an incomplete understanding of how it works is hardly better than failing to teach them to read. Students need a well-rounded education — something that, for the most part, they’re already receiving right now.
What do Republicans think about Robinson’s latest pronouncement? Are they willing to help him advance this kind of legislative agenda? If Robinson were governor, he technically wouldn’t have the authority to initiate such a radical change to public school curriculum on his own. But we’re not sure who actually would, since Robinson also wants to eliminate the State Board of Education, which is the entity responsible for revising content standards and the required course of study.
As lieutenant governor, Robinson is currently a member of the very board he’s seeking to eliminate. Perhaps we should thank the lieutenant governor for his candor, because North Carolinians now have a more precise idea of what they’d be voting for in 2024. Robinson keeps giving Democrats and Republicans alike more reasons to think he’s bad news. We can’t say we weren’t warned.