Greg Talberg: Schools aren’t ‘indoctrinating’ kids and teachers aren’t a threat
Greg Talberg is a social studies teacher in Michigan, and a member of the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council. This op-ed addresses the charges that teachers are somehow a threat to parents.
It is imperative that parents understand that the battle you’ve heard about is not happening. The framing of this issue is simply an attempt to promote fear and division in order to get clicks, votes, and viewers. At best, it’s a mischaracterization of the effort by many educators and school districts to serve our students better now than we have in the past.
As an educator, I want to emphasize three things about this campaign of misinformation that is designed to promote fear and division. The first is that this made-up conflict is bad for our kids. The second is that it’s damaging to the already low morale of educators. Finally, there is no war happening between parents and schools.
In fact, just the opposite is true. Educators don’t want to replace parents. We want to partner with families and communities.
It is ironic that after educators and students have worked through many months of unprecedented challenges that attempts by schools to build on these struggles are being met with so much resistance. School districts made sure kids got lunch while buildings were closed. Elementary teachers found ways to connect with students in Zoom meetings. High School educators made sure that students progressed toward graduation despite COVID-related disruptions.
But now we are the enemy?
COVID has taught many difficult lessons and laid bare some uncomfortable truths and much of the misinformation being spread targets efforts by educators to do better. For example, we have learned to prioritize the mental health and wellness of our kids. We have become more aware of how issues like poverty and prejudice create barriers to student learning. Yet somehow many districts who propose an emphasis on social-emotional learning in order to apply the lessons we’ve learned and more effectively serve our students are being characterized as “radical” and of attempts to “indoctrinate”.
That’s simply not what is happening.
Many districts are also making efforts to make their curriculum more accurate and more inclusive. Taking the position that Black history is more than slavery and “I Have a Dream” is not designed to be subversive. It’s simply an attempt to be inclusive and enable students to understand history in its entirety. Our history is complex and students should learn to process that complexity in our classrooms.
The entire notion that schools want to alienate and exclude parents so that we can indoctrinate kids is completely opposite what educators want.