Yesterday, I bit off more than I could chew. I tried to write an essay about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth anniversary and got weighed down in awkward description. My anger got the better of me in a way that Dr. King would not have accepted. There is too much to respond to and too much need to speak out.
Today, I’ll try to clarify my writing in discussing the radicalization of attacks on educational freedom. Contrary to the conservative argument, educational freedom is not achieved by banning teachings or books. How could outlawing thoughts be any form of freedom? Rather, it is in allowing open thought and discussion to foster, even when those avenues may not be comfortable or glorious.
There are a few facts that are glossed over by the proponents of strict governmental control on teaching. The first is that education is not a comfortable experience. By definition, it is a step into the unknown and that may make a student leery. But facing the unknown and learning to accommodate one’s expanding knowledge is an integral part of growing. I was exceedingly uncomfortable learning calculus. It made me feel foolish to struggle through many of the mathematical ideas and to get low grades. But I would never have expected or wanted my parents to try to ban it from the school curriculum.
Another fact is that Critical Race Theory is NOT being taught in grade school curricula. It is true that History and Social Studies are now being taught through a broader framework than the “Glory of Our National Heritage,” but that should not shame or discomfort anyone who is interested in learning more than a superficial truth. What IS being taught in a graduated fashion is the formation of critical thinking skills pertaining to American and World history – context, nuance, perspective. Parents should welcome this since it will make their children better prepared for the subtleties of real life beyond the safe harbors of the schoolroom and home.
Finally, there is no scenario where the umbrage of a single parent or even a group of them should influence the curriculum for all children. A parent or even a collective organization must not have control over what is offered in education to all students. I guarantee that what I want my child taught is not the same as what you want your child taught. There already is a mechanism to control the interaction between curriculum and student. It is called parental involvement. If a child is uncomfortable with a facet of learning, it is the parent’s place to discuss it with them, not the school’s or other parents’ responsibility to compensate.