Public education is one of the hottest of the hot-button issues in America right now. In red states all over the nation, there is a war being waged by right wing legislatures and communities to wrest control of what goes on in classrooms. It seems that everyone knows what’s best for education except for the people who’ve received the most training and have the most expertise and experience, the classroom teacher. Under ever-increasing pressure and stress and ever-decreasing support, teachers are fleeing the profession in droves just to maintain their mental health. Because of this fact and the continued ravages of the Covid pandemic, public schools across the nation are desperately scrambling to cover teacher shortages by putting even greater stress on those classroom teachers who remain. To listen to the debates about all this new legislation designed to further muzzle and control public school teachers, you’d get the impression that everyone thinks they could teach. But when push comes to shove, nobody really wants to do it. They just want to force existing teachers to be their puppets.
Each day in every school I’m aware of, teachers are asked to cover classes during their prep periods. This puts much additional stress on a teacher. Being thrust into a group of students you don’t know is never an ideal situation. On top of that, the loss of prep time adds much to a teacher’s workload, forcing them to work extra hours to make up for their lost planning time. One day here or there is one thing, but day after day takes a big toll. But that’s the easy part. Often times, teachers are asked to take on whole other classes in addition to their own class. I’ve experienced this and it can be a nightmare. Imagine having your own class of 25-30 students and then being put into a large group room and asked to take on another 25-30 students—students you may not even know—who are working on something completely different than the content you are teaching. Once again, this is happening every day in schools in your communities. I know teachers who have had so much of this dumped on them—because they are team players willing to go above and beyond the call of duty—that they have had emotional/mental breakdowns and have been put on doctor’s orders to stay home for a period of time, which only adds more to the teacher shortage.
I’m seeing a surge in reports of school districts beseeching help from parents to come in and be substitute teachers but I’m not hearing of a lot of takers. All this in the era where increasing numbers of states are trying to give untrained parents more control over the curriculum taught in classrooms. Again, it seems everyone thinks they can teach but nobody really wants to do it.
There continues to be this baseless myth being spread about how teachers are barricading their classroom doors and filling their students with leftist propaganda while nobody’s looking. That is the paranoia that is driving all these legislative pushes to tighten control over teachers. The proposals to form community panels made up of majorities of parents to dictate curriculum is one example. This is preposterous because the state departments of education already dictate the curriculum taught in public schools; they are called state standards. It’s not like teachers are deciding for ourselves what we are going to teach. We are already held accountable (plenty accountable) for teaching our standards. This effort to localize the curriculum based upon the whims and wishes of the communities at large is nothing more than a not-very-veiled hostile takeover by conservative evangelical interests to force their own propaganda into the curriculum and circumvent the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. They desperately want their public school children to be taught about the book of Genesis in their science classes and about the unquestionable piety of our “Christian nation’s” history. They don’t want anything in our public schools to cause their children to think critically about any indoctrinated bias they’ve worked so hard to instill in their children. The teaching of critical thinking is the enemy of indoctrination, it is the opposite of propaganda. Don’t kid yourself, that is the pivot point for this war on public education.
We hear a lot of talk about putting cameras and microphones in classrooms to monitor every word teachers speak in class. That is a completely unnecessary invasion of privacy. The door is open to my classroom and on any given day, administrators might come in and observe what I’m doing. If I were trying to stray too far away from the standards I’m bound to teach or if I were attempting to influence my students’ core values by indoctrinating them, I’d be found out in short order. But, if you want to put cameras and microphones in my classroom, I’ve got nothing to hide. I’d only ask that the legislators pushing for this to have cameras and microphones following them all day long as well. I’ll wager we’d find out pretty quickly who is really trying to influence students with indoctrination.
If you have no problem with the agenda of the right wing on education, then I don’t know what to tell you. We are so far apart on this issue that it’s hopeless. But if this situation concerns you, then I beg you to do something about it. Contact your representatives and let them have a piece of your mind. If that doesn’t work, use your vote.
In Indiana, the pushback against Senate Bill 167 seemed to have a great impact and it died on the vine, but as I type this sentence, the very similar House Bill 1134 (same pig, different lipstick) is being discussed on the House floor of the Statehouse.
Keep fighting the good fight!
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