First off Happy Birthday to my kids. Kaylee’s birthday was last week, and George’s is today. I am very proud of both of you!
Secondly, sorry I have not written much lately. We have not had much going on, but hopefully that will be changing soon. Switzerland and most of Europe is starting to loosen up the COVID restrictions. I do not think they will all go away any time soon, but it is going to be much easier to travel again, so we are already making our plans.
I just booked a long weekend in Venice for Carnival! We are also making plans for Greece, Southern France, Belgium and other destinations in Europe; so those things are coming.
Today I have a little bit of a rant. I am sure I do not have the whole story, but the trend is troubling, and to me it is another sign that education as we know it is going away, and that we might as well stop educating teachers and instead start hiring baby sitters.
So this post actually starts in Reddit. For those that may not know. Reddit is a social media site. It is designed for someone to ask a question, and to rely on the crowd to give the answer. Because the type of questions are boundless, Reddit is divided into almost 3 million sections called a sub-reddit. “Am I the Asshole” is one of the 10 most active sub-reddits on the site. The poster lays out their side of a situation, and asks the question “Am I the Asshole?” in the situation.
So this morning, I was browsing through the site, and a parent poses a situation happening in their kid’s school. The science teacher is assigning episodes of “Breaking Bad” to the students, and then having lessons based on the episode. The teacher has sent out permission slips to the parents and the parent in question has refused to sign causing the teacher to change how the class is structured and re do a number of assignments.
The poster says the teacher was assigning entire episodes of Breaking Bad to be watched for homework and then the class will be doing other assignments based on the episode. The posters asks if they are the asshole for not signing the permission slip. The school apparently said there had to be 100% approval or no one could do these lessons.
After almost 20 years in education, the first thing that comes to mind is there might be one teacher, and one school somewhere that is so dumb they are willing to risk the fallout from doing something like that. I have learned in life to never discount the stupidity of people. This same 20 years is also telling the parent does not have the full picture of what the teacher wants to do. I find it difficult to accept that there is a principal that would sign off to let 13 year olds watch entire episodes of Breaking Bad. Sure there are elements of science in the show, but in an hour episode you might have 3 minutes of an actual teachable science lesson, and another 57 minutes of sex and violence. It turns out I am way in the minority. I really do not believe the parent when they say the class will be watching full episodes of this show. If I believed the parent, my thoughts would be different, because there is no way this show is appropriate to be shown in school.
So my post is not so much about this one Reddit entry as it is about the troubling trend I am reading about in American Education. Far to many states are imposing control at the state level on what a school can or cannot teach. It is one thing to have state approved standards. It is another thing entirely for a state to allow a teacher to be fined for teaching against a student’s religious beliefs. I think it is one thing to require a state mandated proficiency test in english or math and something entirely different to say it is illegal for a teacher to discuss something that might make a student uncomfortable or feel bad about themselves.
In Oklahoma a state senator has introduced a bill that would fine teachers $10,000 per incident any time a teacher offered an opposing view to a student’s religious belief. I find this troubling on many different levels. I mean this bill could stop every history, science or health class in the state. The same bill in Oklahoma would require pulling every book from the school library that could be seen as anti-religious. So do you pull every book that talks about Christianity because that could be anti-religious to someone following Hinduism. Do you remove any book that talks about birth control because that could be viewed as anti religious to a Catholic. Where do you draw the line? Whose religion gets to be the one that decides what every other student in Oklahoma gets to learn, and what happens a lesson goes against one student’s belief, but not anothers?
In my old state of Wisconsin, the State Assembly passed a law that says history teachers are no longer allowed to teach about racism. In part because white student’s might feel guilty when the learn how badly minorities have been treated. Can you imagine a US history class not being able to talk about the civil rights movement or not being able to talk about the deals that were made to allow our constitution to be originally approved? In another example, the Assembly passed a law that all schools will be required to teach cursive writing. I don’t know about you, but I do not remember the last time I actually wrote a letter. Heck, since I do not have to sign credit card receipts over here, I think the last time I actually signed my name to a piece of paper was when I had to get my Drivers License renewed last November, and I could have printed my name even then.
The state of Indiana is looking to pass a law that every teacher has to have the entire school years worth of lessons published online by the first of August each year. The same law says that teachers can only teach “facts,” and along with Wisconsin you cannot teach anything that might make a student feel bad about themselves or their race. My biggest question of the Indiana law is which “facts” because if the last two years have taught us anything it is that the word fact does not mean what it used to mean a few years ago. The definition of fact according to Miriam-Webster: Something that truly exists or happens, a true piece of information. I used the believe that we all knew what a fact was. I have learned that a fact is whatever someone believes to be true, not what actually is true. If this becomes law in Indiana, teachers will literally not be able to teach anything because there will always be someone that disagrees.
Education in the US is coming to a very troubling crossroads. Covid-19 made things incredibly hard with having to transition from in person to online learning with little notice. It was just as hard this year, even though most classes are back in person. The virus has made it difficult to find enough substitute teachers for one thing. For another how hard do you think it has been to have any continuity when large percentages of your class might miss a week at a time, due to how fast the virus has traveled through some school districts. I can imagine a teacher trying to teach the same lesson for weeks because so many children have been absent.
We ask our teachers to do an awful lot. We used to expect them to simply teach. Now we expect them to be teacher, counselor (both for school and other issues), nurse, and cheerleader. We want the schools to teach right from wrong, but heaven forbid if it is not OUR version of what is right and wrong. We say we want our schools to treat everyone as equal, but we do not see anything wrong with the fact that students of color are punished more severely than white kids. We want our schools to be inclusive of everyone, but we get up in arms and force our kids to pick sides when a group of students want to start a Gay/Straight Alliance club. We want our kids to be ready for life after High School, but we balk when it costs $50,000 for new welding equipment. On the other side we will spend millions putting astro turf down on the sports fields, or building a new weight room for the .001 percent that actually might play sports after high school.
I wish I knew the answers, if I did I would probably not be sitting at my kitchen table writing this blog. I would be on a US, maybe even Worldwide tour working with school districts, politicians, and parents. What I do know is that every successful school system relies more on local control than on state or federal control. I used to think that most people in the United States believed that as well, but what is happening now seems to show otherwise.
The only answers I do have: Support your local school district. Show up to some meetings and stay informed. Talk to your teachers and learn what they are doing. Everyone likes to talk about what they do for their job, and teachers are no different. Also, call them out when they do dumb things. Make sure what they want to do is being done with best interest of the kids always at the very front. Finally, call your politicians and let them know your views.