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Opinion | Schools aren’t ‘indoctrinating’ kids and teachers aren’t a threat

By now you’ve surely heard about the ongoing war between families and educators for the future of our children and our nation. You’ve heard national media personalities promote this war and encourage parents to stand up for their rapidly eroding rights. You have seen state level political figures imply that educators are a threat to the well-being of their kids and teachers are working to indoctrinate students as we take away the rights of parents to parent. Without question you have seen posts on social media urging parents to stand up for their rights.

Greg Talberg
Greg Talberg is a social studies teacher at Howell High School. He also serves on the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council, is the parent of an eighth grade student, and has formerly served as a school board member. (Courtesy photo)

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. There is consensus within the educational community that schools benefit from strong relationships with parents and families. We know that for kids to be their very best, they need support at home. In fact, most educators credit parents with the success of their students and are grateful that parents are supportive of their children. Schools want involved parents. 

Moreover, there aren't any secrets in a classroom. Teaching and learning couldn’t be more public and open. If parents want to know what is happening in classrooms, they may simply ask their kids. Additionally, access to curriculum and lessons has never been greater than it is right now. Grades are online and teachers are available via the click of the “send” button. Curriculum at the state and district level is published online. 

We’re not hiding anything. There is no conspiracy.

Schools are working now to address the issues that were exposed during the COVID pandemic. We are more aware of the barriers to student learning than ever before. To build relationships and teach effectively we must address these barriers. That’s not indoctrination. It’s problem-solving. 

We’re not teaching kids to feel guilty or to hate the United States. We’re empowering them with the tools to do their best and make the world a better place.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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