Education journalist to discuss partisan politics’ increasing influence on public schools April 9

Laura Pappano headshot
Laura Pappano

National education reporter Laura Pappano will discuss her latest book, School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics, and the Battle for Public Education (Beacon Press, 2024), at the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries on Tuesday, April 9. In her book, Pappano draws on archival research as well as on-the-ground reporting to offer a nuanced view of how schools across the country have become lightning rods in the culture wars. 

Joining Pappano in conversation will be Nancy Garrett, former chair of the Williamson County, Tennessee, Board of Education, and Lindsey Kimery, coordinator of library services for Metro Nashville Public Schools, both of whom are featured in the book. 

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Central Library Community Room. Copies of Pappano’s book will be available for purchase on site from the Vanderbilt Bookstore. A book signing and reception will follow the discussion. 

From attending the inaugural Moms for Liberty National Summit in 2022 to meeting with activists on the front lines in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Tennessee, Pappano identifies key factors creating conflict in communities nationwide—including changing demographics and values in suburban areas and the increasingly partisan nature of local school board elections. Pappano’s reporting finds there is a concerted effort to diminish the authority of trained education professionals and to wield books as political tools. 

"School Moms" by Laura Pappano book cover
(image courtesy of Beacon Press)

Booklist calls School Moms “a serious piece of reporting. For public and academic libraries, this is a capsulized view of a hot topic.” 

Pappano is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about K-12 and higher education for more than 30 years. A former education columnist for The Boston Globe, she has written about education for The New York Times, The Hechinger Report, Harvard Education Letter, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. Pappano is also the author or co-author of three books: The Connection Gap: Why Americans Feel So Alone; Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports; and Inside School Turnarounds. 

Co-sponsors of the April 9 event include Dialogue Vanderbilt, which aims to affirm the university’s commitment to free speech and civil discourse; the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center; and Heard Libraries. The event supports Vanderbilt’s goal of creating an environment in which all members of our community can engage in dialogue, learning, innovation and discovery and feel that they belong.

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