The most revealing part of a recent River Forest District 90 school board meeting, the part showing how far from education these mini-politicians have taken their community, was this what-if moment: “Who’s to say five years from now there isn’t a group of seven people here that say I want to remove a curriculum that talks about evolution from a process, or doesn’t talk about the Holocaust.”

The motion on the floor was expediting adoption of a reading curriculum supported by science instead politics. “Remove Lucy Calkins Units of Study from consideration” was the motion from new board member Katherine Mackey. Still, all D90’s doyenne felt was an attack on their politics.

The effectiveness of school curricula is something that can be imperfectly, but objectively, measured. It can be dispassionately discussed and deeply debated, and unfortunately it hasn’t been. Instead, residents have been jerked around with jargon and divided with distraction that, so far, has come at the detriment of mostly low-income and minority students, and the newest demographic, the un-tutored.

Mackey’s comment was on target, the arguments were disingenuous.

Trying to elicit a distracting emotional response by injecting extraneous topics like evolution or the holocaust is how River Forest lost a foothold on educational excellence in the first place. Cognitive science told us the learning theory was flawed long before the math and reading wars were re-waged in River Forest. Leaning into arguments about what children will learn, instead of whether they’ll learn, typifies an ideologue mindset.

Abhorrent behavior won the day.

On Sept. 5, all four No votes seemed to tell River Forest there will be no deal-making on what constitutes their version of “social justice.” Listen to the meeting and decide for yourself if you want to stay distracted and divided, or worse, leave our public schools in the hands of mini-politicians (

Steve Lefko
River Forest

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