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CSotD: Hickory Stick Politics

Mike Luckovich takes only a small bit of artistic liberty in depicting one of the battlefields of the New Civil War.

We haven’t put on uniforms and I knock wood in saying that we haven’t had anyone shot at a school board meeting. Yet.

But there has been gunplay in this New Civil War, and that hasn’t stopped anyone from encouraging rightwing parents to be confrontational with their public schools.

A bit of stage-setting:

First of all, schools have always caught a little extra flak from rightwingers, because, outside of the New England towns that still have Town Meeting, it’s the only place where voters have leverage over taxation. Not only do they get to vote on the school budget, but the numbers of people who turn out for these votes are small enough that they can feel that their vote really can swing the question.

Another is that conservative groups have encouraged their adherents to run for school board, and liberal groups have not. Given the thanklessness of the position and the few candidates, it’s not difficult for hardliners to get elected.

Over the past quarter century or so, this push to take over school boards has been an ongoing factor in school governance, often to the distress of administrators, teachers and a good number of parents.

But given that those distressed parents should have turned out for the election, it’s hard to feel sorry for them.

 

But what has been happening at board meetings lately is out of hand, and while Dana Summers (Tribune) feels that disrupting meetings and screaming death threats at board members is a sign of caring, I feel otherwise and believe boards are justified in asking the authorities to put a lid on terroristic strategies to overturn fair and democratic processes.

Maybe that’s just me.

 

Al Goodwyn doesn’t specifically defend screaming threats and disrupting meetings, but he does take sides in the Virginia governor’s race, standing up against what the National Review has branded “Terry McAulliffe’s war on parents.”

This isn’t specifically about the mask mandates that have touched off problems at board meetings, but, rather, questions about directing curricula and determining what books are available in the school library.

Which seems sensible: If you don’t elect your state school board, you at least elect the people who appoint them, while you do elect your own local board, and then you trust them to listen to people who know what they’re talking about and to make good decisions.

It’s not lockstep. I often disagreed with the NYS Board of Education when I was working with schools there. But, as in any functioning democracy, you explain your objection and hope voters are listening. You don’t go to board meetings and scream “We know where you live!”

 

Clay Jones weighs in with a poke at McAuliffe’s Republican rival, Glenn Youngkin, who has said that “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

The accompanying column on his website goes into detail, including this gem of logic and common sense:

If a football coach can ignore a parent when they try to tell him how to run an offense or they should let their kid play quarterback, then teachers shouldn’t have to listen to dumbass parents.

Not only does the coach probably know more about football than you do, but he also has an interest in being fair to all the kids on the team, not just yours.

And two points here:

First, teachers need to be qualified, which seems obvious but isn’t universal. My experience, as a parent, as an educational consultant and as someone who has taken graduate courses in education, is that nobody should major in education. You should major in what you’re going to teach and get a masters in how to teach it, possibly in a combined five-year program.

But that’s problematic in elementary schools where teachers may end up teaching everything, though some schools have students from each homeroom go to different teachers for particular subjects in which those teachers are specifically qualified.

The other is that cobblers should stick to their lasts. We’ve had a few cases in the news where teachers were fired for making political statements to students. Taking sides is problematic in social studies and literature, but it is completely inappropriate in other courses.

You have a captive audience, and one that should trust your judgement. Don’t become an automaton, but don’t overstep the ethical boundaries, either.

Still, good teachers are the overwhelming majority. And this isn’t about good teaching. It’s about — if I may borrow a phrase — politically correct teaching.

 

It’s certainly not just happening in Virginia, either: Here, John Cole comments on a situation in North Carolina, where a school earned its funding only after accepting the America First restrictions of the county board.

A recently adopted Johnston County school board policy says teachers can be disciplined or fired if they teach that American historical figures weren’t heroes, undermine the U.S. Constitution in lessons or say that racism is a permanent part of American life.

They’re also, of course, specifically forbidden to teach Critical Race Theory, which — on this planet — is only offered as an option in graduate history studies but has been transmogrified by the propagandists into scary, scary librul elementary school curriculum.

 

And Joel Pett levels the charge from Kentucky. This is not just happening in one state and it’s certainly not just happening in one school.

 

 

At this point, even a Pyrrhic victory counts as a win. Be Lazlo. Or at least vote.

Community Comments

#1 Fred King
October/7/2021
@ 7:42 am

There’s this concept called “deference to expertise,” which is basically that if I want help in solving a problem, I need to ask someone who knows more about the topic than I do. For example, if I’m sick, I’ll want to go to someone who has actual training in medicine, because that person will provide evidence-based treatment. I’m not going to go online and find someone who recommends a horse de-wormer for my pneumonia.

Oh, wait a minute.

Never mind.

#2 Mary McNeil
October/7/2021
@ 5:22 pm

Ah Fred, you are correct, BUT…Not everyone has practiced surgery. However everyone has gone to school (up to a point) so everyone knows exactly how to run a classroom.

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