March 18, 2023

Steve Nuzum: The Gaslighting of Teachers Continues

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Steve Nuzum is a teacher in South Carolina. In this recent post, he asks legislators to be honest with teachers.

For me, the most wearying thing in life is listening to lies and being asked or required to pretend that they aren’t lies. Maybe it’s a personal flaw, maybe it’s a teacher superpower, but probably it’s something in between, like a curse in a Greek myth.

It’s what makes dealing with students difficult sometimes, even if the students are otherwise delightful. When I taught sixth grade, children would regularly slap or punch one another in class, sitting right in front of me, and then insist that it didn’t happen. “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything!” they would exclaim, and sometimes they seemed to actually believe it.

They at least had the valid excuse of being children.

Current efforts to censor history through legislation, while also using parallel legislation to fund private schools which are free to teach whatever they want, are powered almost completely by this kind of BS. They have to be, because the different kinds of rhetoric in support of each push come out of the same mouths, while being in overt contradiction. The tried-and-true solution when valid arguments against censorship bills and/ or school vouchers arise: tell teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers at large that they simply don’t understand because it’s all so complicated.

And this naked, arrogant contradiction is baked into many other parts of the public school system, as well: Don’t believe your lying eyes. Don’t use your lived experiences, expertise, and history of being abused by the system to inform your belief that, once again, you are being abused by the system.

That the censorship legislation making its way across the country is a backlash to increased interest in dealing with structural racism and inequalities, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, looks to me like an obvious truth. I’ve written a lot about it before, so if anyone wants to argue this point, I’d suggest reading those previous pieces or, better yet, countless explanations by academics and experts (like this one).

To pretend, now, that the “Freedom Caucus” and similar political groups want to protect children from “indoctrination,” and that the only way to do so is by adopting canned language and ideas from highly partisan political organizations like the Heritage Foundation, National Association of Scholars, and self-professed culture warriors like Christopher Rufo, is either deliberate falsehood or embarrassing ignorance. Actually, this being the great state of South Carolina, it could be both.

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