Anya Lutz Fernandez: America’s school teachers aren’t the Marxist cabal Fox News keeps depicting
Anya Lutz Fernandez is a high school English teacher in Connecticut and author of the book Schooled: Ordinary, Extraordinary Teaching in an Age of Change. In this op-ed for NBC, she addresses the charge that teachers are scary Marxist indoctrinators.
Strangers on social media occasionally accuse me of indoctrinating my students, and I sadly laugh. I’m a terrible indoctrinator. People who presume I wield my liberal politics in the classroom like a medieval weapon might be surprised by how barely they could detect its influence there. I rant on Twitter with like-minded adults, but put me in front of teenagers, and I will both-sides an issue to its end. In trying not to be controversial when addressing controversies, I am more rule than exception.
Evidence abounds that educators tend to avoid rather than dive into politically hot topics. Such hesitancy has consequences. For example, this reticence, coupled with the politicized micromanaging of curriculum at state and local levels, has had a clear and negative impact on the sciences. The National Center for Science Education found a third “of high school biology teachers fail to unequivocally acknowledge the scientific consensus on evolution” and while 70 percent of secondary science teachers agree climate change is human-made, only 30 percent highlight this scientific consensus to students. Indeed, teachers have lagged rather than led public opinion on progressive issues. An NPR/Ipsos survey, for example, showed parents are more eager for their children to learn about climate change than teachers are to teach it.
Today’s “divisive concepts” legislation focuses on history, though it will affect other subjects, especially literature and language. Here, accusations of liberal indoctrination rely on anecdotes. The legislator responsible for Ohio’s bill, when pressed, could not even come up with one. Instead, he essentially admitted the bill was responding not to the reality in schools but to “concerns,” that is, the unsubstantiated fears the bill both gives credence to and stokes.