By Laurie Higgins | Illinois Family Institute
Parents and other taxpayers shouldn't have to worry about the content of resources, activities, classroom comments, or all-school emails. Unfortunately, because of the disproportionate number of teachers who hold liberal or radical socio-political views and who believe it is their right and duty to reform the views of other people's children using public money, parents and other taxpayers do need to worry and be vigilant about the ideas that teachers are expressing in myriad ways to students.
Previously, I wrote about a Stevenson High School teacher who inappropriately used all-school email to express her unproven, inflammatory opinions of both conservative views on homosexuality and on Illinois Family Institute. Even more troubling, however, is that teachers are seeking to use public time and resources not just to influence colleagues but to manipulate impressionable students.
Far too many teachers arrogantly assume that they should have absolute autonomy over what they teach and how they teach it. The abuse of public trust, the use of public money to subsidize personal political goals and moral convictions, and the manipulation of students by ideologues masking as educators happens in many public schools. High school students share much less information about their classroom experiences than do elementary school students, and consequently, parents often have little knowledge of the efforts at inculcating students' with particular moral or political views that many teachers engage in.
For example, the teacher who taught the egregiously obscene, profane, pro-gay screed Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes for the second year in a row, sent a permission letter to parents prior to teaching the play-something neither he nor the other teachers who had taught it in the District had done the previous years it had been taught. Apparently, he was compelled to send the parental permission letters only when the community became aware of and angry about the curricular inclusion of such a deeply offensive text.
What was truly troubling, however, was that quite deliberately in advance of sending their parents a letter, he sent the letter I will be posting tomorrow to his students offering them three reading options, two of which included Angels in America. This letter was brought to me by a community member who was disturbed by its content.
I was a member of this English Department for eight years. The common practice when offering students reading options was to give them a brief handout that simply listed the reading options. There would be little to no description of the texts. I have never seen a teacher offer students literary options through a document as self-evidently designed to prejudice them in favor of one text. This teacher's letter constituted the most stunning rhetorical attempt at manipulation that I have encountered in my eight years of working in the writing center.
The content of this letter reveals the kind of boundary violations, emotional manipulation, and unprofessional conduct that takes place in too many classrooms. It was a deliberate and inappropriate attempt to sway his students in favor of choosing to read Angels in America, in advance of discussions with their parents, thereby undermining any potential opposition parents may have had. The letter was awash in cunningly manipulative language that would make the decision to reject Angels very difficult for students and hence unlikely. This exercise in rhetorical manipulation represented nothing less than an unconscionable abuse of power of which, in light of the community controversy, taxpayers were entitled to know. That this kind of manipulation took place behind closed schoolroom doors is deeply troubling. The parents of his students are owed an apology, whether or not they approved of Angels in America.
Parents and other taxpayers must demand that policy be written requiring that when resources are presented to students that explore controversial topics, equivalent time and resources be allotted to all sides of the topic. Parents and other taxpayers should also demand that text selection criteria include the nature and extent of profanity, obscenity, depictions of graphic sex, and religious denigration. Without such policy, teachers are free to use public time and resources for indoctrination rather than education.
Far too many teachers condescendingly dismiss these issues as the concerns of ignorant, provincial, book-banners. These same teachers never admit to the pervasive censorship in which they engage. They huff and puff in high dudgeon about and often ridicule "book-banners," while steadfastly refusing to present any resources that articulate the erudite, intelligent, articulate views of conservative scholars, essayists, or journalists. In addition, many of these same teachers use foul language in their personal lives and classrooms with careless abandon-something else of which many parents remain largely ignorant-which partly explains why extraordinarily vulgar language is inoffensive to them. And many of these teachers don't think deeply about what their ethical obligations to the entire community are.
Taking into account the nature and extent of profanity, obscenity, depictions of graphic sex, and religious denigration, as well as requiring balanced presentations on controversial topics will make the process of selecting resources much messier, but in such a vulgar, depraved culture, and with so many teachers invested in political indoctrination, such policies are necessary.
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