America is losing faith in its system of free public education. Test scores are down. Violence in schools is up. There’s a growing perception that things are out of control.
What’s odd about it all is how no one, seemingly, is interested in exploring why. State legislators don’t want to do it. Local school boards have other things on their minds. And the press is too busy covering real problems, like Donald Trump’s refusal to return classified documents to the National Archives, to spend any time exploring the reason kids are still being allowed to graduate from public schools without anything close to the mastery they need to get ahead in life.
Occam’s razor, named for its progenitor, 14th-century English philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, suggests the simplest answer is most likely the correct one. This would mean, one can infer, that the plight of our children is the fault of the teachers and administrators who run the schools.
Before continuing it is important to reflect on how teachers, especially, are like Members of Congress. Most voters believe, and have for decades, that while Congress as an institution is corrupt, moribund, and beholden to special interests, their representative is a fine, upstanding individual who is not part of the problem. That is also, the evidence suggests, how parents feel generally about the teachers whose responsibility it is to educate their children.
They too, it is reasonable to suggest, may fall victim to bureaucrats who, in telling them what to teach and how to teach it, end up perverting the process of education until our children’s minds are filled with mush.
Then again, perhaps not. It has been reported – but not as widely as it deserved – that some weeks back the Colorado Education Association, which claims to be the voice of 39,000 public educators in the Centennial State, adopted a resolution condemning capitalism. To wit:
The CEA believes that capitalism inherently exploits children, public schools, land, labor, and resources. Capitalism is in opposition to fully addressing systemic racism (the school-to-prison pipeline), climate change, patriarchy (gender and LGBTQ disparities), education inequality, and income inequality.
It is as alarming as it is illuminating. If most teachers in Colorado or indeed throughout the nation believe this, it becomes quite clear why the education system is failing our children. Those who teach are unable, unwilling, or unprepared to make our children see the world they are being prepared to enter as responsible adults.
Helpfully, and thanks of all things to the unnecessary pandemic-era lockdown of the nation’s schools undertaken at the apparent insistence of teachers’ unions and professional associations, parents have had enough.
There is no way to replace the learning and socialization lost to school closure. Leaders in some states like North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are heeding the cries for help coming from parents by expanding education savings accounts and reforming the system so that education dollars follow the students rather than fund the systems.
To do this, they are showing great courage. They have taken on “Big Education” and in many places are defeating it by giving parents a role in deciding which school their child will attend.
As a practical matter, that means more and more children will be able to attend schools where Marxist doctrine is not presented as scientific fact, where a greater emphasis is placed on the “Three R’s” than the various ways to avoid pregnancy, and no one is going to be fighting over who gets to use what locker-room to shower and change after an athletic event.
Restructuring public education using free market principles like the supremacy of individual choice will break up the “Big Education” monopoly that is wrecking our children’s futures. Finally, after many years, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Peter Roff is a contributor to The Daily Caller News Foundation. A former UPI senior political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, he is a senior fellow at several public policy organizations including the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network. Contact him at RoffColumns@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter and TruthSocial @TheRoffDraft.
Parents can now call a hotline to report inappropriate lessons at their schools, under a new initiative launched by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) on Tuesday.
Superintendent Tom Horne discussed the hotline during a Wednesday interview on “The Mike Broomhead Show.” The superintendent said that teachers suspected of abusing their position may face disciplinary conduct and proposed that violations impact a school’s letter grade per the state’s A-F Accountability System.
“Teachers should be teaching the academic standards to their students and not abusing a captive audience by pushing their own ideology,” said Horne. “If they know that their kids have been taught those things, we want them to let us know so we can investigate it and try to do something about it.”
In a press release, ADE clarified that inappropriate public school lessons included those that focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit; promoting gender ideology; social-emotional learning (SEL); or inappropriate sexual content. The department linked to our report documenting the over 200 educators who signed onto a statement proclaiming that they would teach outlawed materials like Critical Race Theory (CRT) – even if banned.
Anti-school choice activists and critics of Horne encouraged parents to flood the hotline, dubbed the “Empower Hotline.” Save Our Schools Arizona issued a call to action to drown out real reports from parents seeking help.
“[Please] report how amazing it is that teachers are doing so much for our kids despite the lack of resources provided to them,” stated SOSAZ.
The Empower Hotline rollout included a link to a page on the ADE site explaining Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
ADE claimed that CRT is being taught in many public schools, and rejected the claim that it’s a college-level curriculum. ADE published a list of key words and phrases associated with CRT: oppressors or oppressed, whiteness, white privilege, white supremacy, white complicity, white equilibrium, and white fragility.
“The claim that CRT or its principles and elements is not part of any school curriculum in Arizona is false. It is being taught to children,” stated the ADE.
ADE also characterized SEL as a gateway for CRT. The department also claimed that SEL took away precious instructional time by focusing on emotions and feelings.
“Student test scores have been declining since before the pandemic, and resources – especially the non-renewable resource of time – need to be spent to fully educate students in core subjects,” stated ADE. “Teachers are professionals. They know their students and are already trained to be alert for signs of emotional and behavioral problems. This doesn’t require a full-blown curriculum that detracts from teaching academics.”
Horne warned in a statement that CRT can be taught under different titles, such as “power diversity” or “deep equity.”
Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Marisol Garcia called the hotline a “recipe for disaster.”
“Inviting the harassment of educators, without due process at their local level, with the ability of these ‘accusations’ to be FOIA’d?” asked Garcia.
Those seeking to file a report may call the hotline at (602) 771-3500 from 8:30 am to 4:40 pm, or submit an email to email@example.com.
Parents attempting to call the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) helpline for the school choice program are met with an automated voice that rejects their call due to “excessive call volume” and promptly hangs up.
No indication of wait times, and no promise of a call back.
It’s just another day of Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program administration under ADE Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, who hasn’t exactly been shy about her disdain for school choice programs. Hoffman proclaims loudly and often that the ESA Program lacks accountability and remains dysfunctional, even well over three years into her administration.
AZ Free News asked ADE about the ESA Program helpline. They didn’t respond by press time.
Christine Accurso, one of the ESA parents on the frontlines advocating for universal school choice, criticized the ADE for taking in an additional $2.2 million to hire 26 new workers this summer, yet still can’t manage the universal school choice program.
Last month on her reelection campaign trail, Hoffman insisted that universal school choice doesn’t help children with unique learning needs. She declared that it was a “taxpayer-funded coupon for the wealthy.” She then advocated for voters to sign an initiative to refer universal school choice to the 2024 ballot.
Hoffman has fought consistently to eradicate the ESA Program.
Recent legislation mandates that public schools offer Mental Health Instruction and Social and Emotional learning (SEL) programs to their curriculum. But the legislation does not specify what those programs should consist of.
However, companion legislation does offer some guidance on SEL instruction by prohibiting instruction typical of Critical Race Theory (CRT) doctrine from being presented in classrooms.
The legislation gives seven specific prohibitions on social instruction: It prohibits teaching that:
1. One race, ethnic group or sex is inherently morally or intellectually superior to another race, ethnic group or sex.
2. An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
3. An individual should be invidiously discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.
4. An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.
5. An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race, ethnic group or sex.
6. An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.
7. Academic achievement, meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race, ethnic group or sex to oppress members of another race, ethnic group or sex.
Parents are concerned that SEL programs may still be used to usher in controversial political and social ideologies concerning race relations (CRT), child sexuality (CSE) and neo-Marxist political doctrine (“Equity” as Wealth Redistribution), which may be buried in the details of certain programs. Parents would probably be far more comfortable if these ideological considerations were carefully scrubbed from SEL curriculum.
It may be far more effective to base SEL programs on agnostic, apolitical concepts that are generally accepted across cultural boundaries and are not agenda driven by activist special interest groups. Programs that focus on good character and positive behaviors, instead of specific identity group grievances and restitution typical of cultural Marxist doctrine, would most likely find far greater support in the community.
Here are several positive social behaviors that are generally accepted across many cultures that we used to present to students and which generated little controversy. Perhaps we never should have gotten away from these fundamental principles of behavior.
Be honest. Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal.
Have integrity. Do what you say you’ll do.
Keep your promises.
Be loyal. Stand by your values.
Follow the Golden Rule.
Be accepting of differences.
Be courteous to others.
Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements.
Be considerate of others’ feelings.
Do what you are supposed to do. Try your best.
Persevere. Keep on trying.
Think before you act. Consider the consequences.
Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes.
Play by the rules.
Take turns and share.
Be open-minded. Listen to others.
Don’t take advantage of others.
Do your share to make your home, school, and community better.
Stay informed. Vote.
Be a good neighbor.
Make choices that protect the safety and rights of others.
Protect the environment.
“Whole Child” Concept
The newest iteration of SEL appears to be the “Whole Child” initiative, which combines the academic education of children and the management of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The “Whole Child” initiative is driven primarily by the Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in an apparent effort to expand government agency influence into the home life and parenting of children. It is described by the Whole School, Community, and Child (WSCC) model as having 10 components:
Physical education and physical activity
Nutrition environment and services
Social and emotional climate
Counseling, psychological, and social services
Other collaborators are the Priscilla Chan/Mark Zuckerberg Initiative and Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Both these collaborators’ organizations have been criticized recently for surreptitiously weaving controversial Social Justice doctrine into seemingly innocuous education programs.
Whole Child programs can take on a variety of forms. The Chandler Unified School District’s approach includes several specific, and far less controversial, programs such as:
Mandarin Dual Language
Academy and Traditional Schools
Special Needs Programs
Band and Orchestra
Spanish Dual Language
There seems to be no generally accepted guidelines on SEL programs and the proper balance of academic instruction (the realm of teachers) and social instruction (the realm of parents). Both communities appear to be encroaching upon each other’s “turf” with parents recoiling about intrusive social instruction in the classroom and teachers dismayed about alternative school choice options being exercised by parents because of their discomfort.
It is long past time to resolve these conflicts with clear and distinct boundaries with respect to the education of, and raising of, children. Our children will be the ones who benefit most.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.
As we see a steady stream of experienced teachers leave the profession, we should be questioning why they are leaving. Maybe it is not always about money.
If teachers are expected not only to educate our kids, but now to raise them as well, perhaps we should consider that teachers may not realistically be able do all the things they are being asked to do.
Teachers usually come to love their kids, care about them deeply, and want what is best for them. It is part of what being a teacher means. But is there a limit to how much intervention a teacher should have in a child’s life?
We are now seeing an aggressive effort by Progressive Liberals to reshape American society to match their own personal preferences. This has become most evident in school classrooms where there appears to be a deliberate intent to influence children to accept their particular worldview. So, are teachers now expected to step in front of parents to drive these controversial ideologies?
This is leaving parents concerned and dismayed by the social conditioning that is being exposed in the classrooms with regard to sexuality, race relations, and political ideologies. They are also becoming more agitated and outspoken as they perceive their own children being weaponized against them.
So are Progressive Liberals, in the form of “Woke” activists, engaging in a deliberate effort to pit teachers against parents in a rather ruthless bid to gain political power and control?
Are these activists now simply using teachers as tools to accomplish their political goals? This would be deeply disrespectful to the profession. If this realization sets in for teachers, it is quite doubtful that they will appreciate being used in this way. And hopefully, they will start to turn away from this scheme.
But teachers aren’t the only ones affected. Children can also feel caught in the middle between parents and teachers, which could leave them traumatized by this contrived conflict. It’s like children who watch their mother and father argue at the dinner table and, wanting to please both, don’t know which way to turn. This cannot be a healthy and positive situation for children. It is of little wonder that we seem to have more children displaying mental and emotional health issues than before. They are being unnecessarily over stressed.
We have also seen national teachers’ unions trying to bully, intimidate, and discredit parents who dare to question their efforts to control dialogue in the classrooms. They label these parents as “Domestic Terrorists” and threaten that dissenting parents be sanctioned by the Justice Department.
Because of these aggressive activities, there is a concern that the bond of trust between parents and teachers is being frayed almost to a breaking point. This is a great disappointment. Now, more parents want to pull their children out of public schools because of the dissatisfaction with this type of undesirable social conditioning. Many feel that their children are being taken away from them, so they are responding by removing these children from that perceived threat.
There is a responsibility for teaching professionals to develop and maintain healthy and positive relationships with parents, to explain to parents what they are teaching and why, to define the limits of their intervention in the raising of children, and to reassure parents that they are not trying to replace them. They must convince parents that public schools are the best place to send their kids—and that there are well understood boundaries of what will and will not be presented to their kids in the classrooms.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.