PPublic schools have become the battleground of culture wars across the United States. And it’s no wonder. Anger parents (remember Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzly Coalition?) and you can manipulate your way to utterly destroy public schools before anyone even realizes it’s happened.
I guess most parents would like their children to learn critical thinking. They would like their children to be able to identify fact from fiction, opinion from scientific fact. When children learn to think, to reason, to understand how to find informed sources as opposed to conspiracy and alarmist sources of entertainment, they will be well on their way to becoming functioning adults. The irony is that many of the same parents who want their children to be educated succumb to scare tactics.
When an individual, organization or group can instill fear in parents, whether it is fear of vaccines or critical theory of race, sexual orientation or gender equality, then they have an extremely powerful to exploit these parents. Fear makes people angry. And anger pushes them to act.
If people can be divided, if communities can be torn apart fighting over non-issues, then public education can be destroyed while we look the other way.
Some representatives of the Oklahoma Legislative Assembly have worked hard to create trouble-free legislation this session. If some of these bills pass, it would be a good time to get out of teaching.
Here are some examples:
SB 1142 by Senator Standridge
This bill says parents can request that books they don’t like be removed from public school libraries. If the book is not removed within 30 days, the school employee will be fired and cannot be employed at a public school for two years. There is also a financial incentive for parents. If that book stays on you, the parent can sue the school for $10,000 each day the book stays on the shelf.
So if you’ve always wanted to get rid of “Captain Underpants”, here’s your chance! The bill states: No public school district, public charter school, or public school library shall maintain in its inventory or promote books whose primary subject matter is the study of sex, sexual preference, activity sex, sexual perversion, classification based on sex, sexual identity or gender identity or books of a sexual nature that a parent or reasonable legal guardian would want to know about or approve of before their child be exposed.
Who makes the call on which books violate this mandate? Do you remember when some parents were angry about “Harry Potter”? They were sure that the witchcraft and magic in the books would somehow distort their children. But wasn’t Jesus an anti-hero like Harry? Doing good, helping people? Here is a list of the American Library Association’s list of most frequently banned books. Getting banned means the book usually gets a lot more reads, so check out this list! https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top100
And then there’s Rep. Olsen’s HB 2988.
This is intended to prohibit teachers from teaching any part of the 1619 Project. The first point – that teachers cannot teach that “America has more guilt, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery” sounds a bit like an 8-year-old saying, “Yeah, I threw that spitball but what about when you threw two spitballs.
The second point you cannot teach “That one race is the sole oppressor in the institution of slavery”, and the third point, “That another race is the sole victim in the institution of slavery,” made me wonder where he taught us the story. Were the oppressors green aliens and the oppressed purple Smurfs? Of course, white people were oppressors and black people were oppressed.
He goes on to say more ridiculous nonsense about withholding state funding for institutions that don’t conform to Rep’s version. Olsen of United States History. This should send shivers down the spine of any teacher or institution that values the free exchange of ideas and classroom autonomy.
Speaking of intellectual freedom and academic autonomy, Senator Standridge seeks to put a nail in that coffin with SB 1470.
I don’t quite understand this one. We have religious freedom in the United States. We can all worship or not worship as we want. We don’t live under anyone’s religious law. We also have the separation of church and state to help prevent a person from adopting religion to dominate in a public classroom etc. This law apparently states that if an employee of a school (usually a teacher) somehow presents something in class that opposes a student’s religious beliefs, that person (the teacher ) must be terminated, and the student’s parents can also collect $10,000 in damages whenever the students’ religious beliefs are challenged.
This one has a lot of holes. So if my child, who shall say, has a firm belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the earth and the teacher was teaching evolution, and my child was shocked to discover that the moon is not made of grated parmesan cheese, then I could request that the teacher be kicked out of the classroom and if the teacher was not kicked out I could collect $10,000? It’s a win-win.
Now, SB 1647 by Senator Treat is an interesting bill worth following.
It’s called the “Oklahoma Empowerment Act” or as I like to call it the “Kill Public Education Act”
In short, the state will abdicate its constitutional responsibility for the education of Oklahoma’s children. Instead, the state will give the parent a “backpack full of cash” (I stole this from the title of a documentary that describes how charters drain public school money and services) .
At first glance, it might seem like a great thing to get a pile of cash to send a kid anywhere or maybe just take them out of school altogether. But there is no control over how the money will be spent or the health of the child. There is also always the question of whether or not taxpayers’ money should be used in religious schools. And, will these schools be mandated to take whatever students want to go there, like public schools are?
It looks like school choice, but it’s school destruction. Does each parent know exactly how, where and when they want their child to go to school? Do they have the means to find a school, bring the child to school (if there is room for the child) and then use the money wisely to send the child to school ? I know people in my neighborhood right now who probably wouldn’t even bother to take their kids to school. They can “homeschool” them by putting them in front of the television.
The choice is not the choice if it is not a fair choice. It is an immoral abdication of our obligation to care for and educate our most vulnerable citizens.
So support this bill if you want to say goodbye to the greater good of public education.
And, in the same vein, Senator Dahm’s SB 1420.
This is a voucher invoice called a “purse” invoice. Again, this might help a handful of kids go to private school, but it’s so problematic. One of the main problems is that research shows that children who use vouchers to go to private schools do not fare better.
Senator Boren’s Senate Bill 1268 calls on parents to review what teachers are teaching and to withdraw their children if they object. I think parents could always talk to teachers about the program and what their children are learning. Do we really need a law? Can’t people just have a civil discussion? But again, it’s all about sex and that sex stuff and the opt-out. But it might not be a bad idea to opt out of all data collection schools do on children.
Social-emotional learning has become a buzzword over the past couple of years, primarily because educational technology companies in Silicon Valley saw an opportunity to profit from creating programs that schools can buy and connect to kids without worrying about whether the teacher or untrained adult in the classroom knows all about connecting with kids.
Senate Bill 1442 deals with, I think, some of the pre-packaged “social-emotional” stuff and instead supports play-based learning and developmentally appropriate education. I don’t think anyone would be AGAINST children learning about their emotions and learning to have healthy social interactions. It’s the HOW it’s done that can be problematic. If it’s something that’s on a screen where data is collected on young children, then it’s probably not a good way to promote social-emotional learning. The best way to provide social-emotional learning is to have a trained and highly qualified teacher from an accredited college or university program who understands children and is able to connect with them. This could be supported by social workers or staff trained in how to come into contact with young children. OU-Tulsa has a wealth of research, student, and faculty resources that could create a personalized site-based environment that supports children, teachers, and staff.
There are so many interesting bills introduced in this legislative session. These are bills that could become LAWS. Many of them would fundamentally change not only the way your children are taught, but also the way the state would be in charge of what happens in your child’s schools. Pay attention.