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Schools Need to Define Clear Boundaries for Presenting Social and Political Ideologies in Classrooms

November 15, 2022

By Kurt Rohrs |

Recently, Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) released an initiative entitled “Portrait of a Learner.” Not only does it seem to be focused primarily on social values that the district wants to promote to its students, but it’s similar to ones adopted by several other local school districts.

Through “Portrait of a Learner,” CUSD appears to be moving beyond the more traditional and universally accepted “Character Counts,”  which emphasized the social values of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. While this new initiative contains some overlap with what has been promoted in the past, it seeks to advance more progressive values of adaptability, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, empathy, and global citizenship.

Clearly these are social values, but did you notice something? There is little reference to academic achievement or job skills training. In addition, there is no significant emphasis on practical hard skills for students to obtain, which would be far more useful for them in their careers after they leave school.

Most of all, “Portrait of a Learner” does not appear to recognize or acknowledge that the upbringing of children is reserved to parents in the home and is protected by Arizona state law (ARS 1-601 and ARS 1-602). Let’s look at one of the values from this new initiative as an example.

Globalism as a Political Ideology

The concept of “Global Citizenship” or “Globalism” has more far-reaching implications than what has been advanced in the CUSD initiative. It typically stands opposed to “American Idealism,” “American Exceptionalism,” or similar more nation-centered ideologies.

American Idealism is the belief that American ideals are inherently superior to those of other societies and states. It is sometimes referred to as “America First” policy in response to challenges from other global competitors in their efforts to dominate the world.

Globalism denies this and fosters an “open borders” policy that allows people, information, and goods to cross national borders unrestricted. It also promotes international organizations such as the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be the primary ruling bodies for policy instead of our own government.

Is this really what we should be teaching in American schools?

Controversial political issues like this should not be presented in classrooms as established doctrine, especially without clearly defined boundaries. But CUSD moved forward with it anyway.

When “Education” Becomes “Dogma”

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true and not to be denied or disputed. When schools teach ideas like “Globalism” as dogma, it very easily leads to “indoctrination” where students are taught to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. This should be of great concern to parents and the rest of the community.

That’s why several questions about “Portrait of a Learner” and similar programs need to be examined more closely.

  • If controversial ideologies are being presented in schools, is it done so in a fair and balanced way that examines multiple sides of a particular issue? Is equal weight given to differing positions?
  • How does the “critical thinking” part of the “Portrait of a Learner” initiative get applied?
  • Are any dissenting or opposing positions encouraged or even allowed?
  • What is age appropriate for younger students?
  • Do parents get to review and approve the social and political lessons presented to their children?
  • What happens when parents object to controversial social and political positions being advanced in classrooms?

District policy needs to be more cognizant of the ideological controversies being presented in curriculum and seek to avoid taking positions on particular issues. There also needs to well-defined boundaries as to what is presented and how it is presented in classrooms. Finally, all lessons should be objective and unbiased. That’s the only way to ensure that students get a proper education founded on critical analysis and a better understanding of the sources, factual history, and future implications of certain social and political ideologies.

Kurt Rohrs is currently the leading the race for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

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