March 6, 2022

Dallas Koehn: In Loco Parentis

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Teacher Dallas Koehn blogs at Blue Cereal Education, letting parents know he does not want to replace them.

Let’s start by addressing the gaslighting elephant in the room:

I have no interest in parenting your children. 

I have a legal and ethical obligation to teach them, and to some degree train them, for an hour or so each day. I’m responsible for their safety and all that good stuff while they’re here. And yes, I end up caring about many of them and occasionally listening when they have something on their minds.

But subverting you or replacing you? Yeah, not so much.

First off, that’s way too much work for what I get paid. I’ve raised my kids, and while they’ve both turned out pretty well, that’s largely in spite of my parenting rather than because of it. Secondly, there’s too much else I’m supposed to accomplish during the limited time I have them. Honestly, even if I wanted to shatter their faith, change their gender, or make them feel horrible about being straight, white, and privileged, I’m having enough trouble getting them to check Google Classroom when they miss class or bring their books on silent reading days.

If we get those things under control, maybe then I’ll spend some time demonizing America or persuading them they might be way gayer than they think.

There are two things about which many of you are apparently all worked up which I suppose I should take partial “blame” for (three if you count my terrible abuse of prepositions just now). The first is that I do, in fact, sometimes use texts in class which disagree with your personal, heartfelt beliefs. The second is that despite my determination to avoid it, I periodically listen to your kids when they’re upset without immediately calling you or state authorities every time.

I’ll wait while you email Tucker Carlson.

The first issue has been well-covered in other blogs you don’t read and news stories from organizations you don’t trust. The short version is that I have way more faith in your kids than you apparently do, and hope they’ll one day be able to function in a complicated, diverse world. I have no interest in making them feel “guilty” for being white (that’s not really a thing, by the way), but I do believe they’ll be more successful personally and professionally if they have some understanding of why many people of color still seem so annoyed by so many things. I wouldn’t even know how to convert them to Islam or any other religion, but I am convinced they’ll be better able to navigate the world around them if they’ve been exposed to some of the basics of other cultures and faiths. (If I were a religious person, I’d also argue they’ll be better able to defend their own faith when they’ve gained insights into the beliefs of others.) I’m pretty sure I lack the ability to turn them gay or spark some previously-buried interest in gender transformation, but personally I’d rather they not self-harm, turn to drugs, or commit suicide based on a misplaced sense of guilt or shame over being whoever they are.

There’s a whole related argument to be had about whether or not it’s sometimes in the best interest of the child to undercut their parents’ extreme ideologies. (“Is it OK to teach the child of a misogynist that women have the same inherent value in the eyes of the law as men?” That sort of thing.) That’s a bigger, even more emotionally loaded question, and not relevant at the moment BECAUSE SCHOOLS ALREADY BEND OVER BACKWARDS (and sometimes forwards) TO AVOID DOING THIS. Having that discussion would require mutual respect and an acknowledgement of complexity that I don’t think we’ve established just yet – so we’ll set that aside for now and instead address the second issue I mentioned above – teachers who “counsel” kids in various ways.

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