Maybe Pink Floyd should have sung “we don’t need no public education, we don’t need no thought control…” in order to be more accurate. Attacking public education (and make no mistake that’s just what I’m doing) brings immediate backlash from people.
“Do you want our kids to be stupid?!”
“Sure, let the Chinese just pass us up!”
“How can our kids compete?”
“Teachers are underpaid!”
They think that being against publicly funded education is the same as being against education. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Education is vital and important. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit. But I think it’s hard to argue that the quality of the education our children receive is very high. Or better phrased it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t gotten worse, year after year. What’s wrong with it is simple, it’s not about education anymore, it’s politically driven and that means it’s indoctrination or as the song puts it, thought control. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic have given way to Diversity, Environmentalism, and Social Welfare. A teacher, no matter how well-meaning, can teach a child what they really need to know in that environment. I’ve heard it said many times, “there are a lot of good teachers out there.” I agree. And that may actually be the worst thing about all this. They ARE good, very good. Whatever they teach, the children are going to learn because that’s how good at teaching they are.
I understand that may be generous. Some teachers may want to teach diversity and the rest and feel they are doing the moral thing by doing so. However, I do think that most teachers want to teach “real” subjects in a real and objective way.
The article linked below is what sparked this conversation. My interest in this story isn’t about slavery or race but rather how politics enters into education as highlighted by the story. It takes place in Connecticut. A text-book was chosen to for the fourth-graders. The article reads, “The fourth-grade social studies book, The Connecticut Adventure by John W Ifkovic, was flagged with public school officials in the state after a parent complained last month.” Certainly a parent has a right to complain. But I do note that the story does not indicate that it was ever more than “A” parent rather than several.
The article goes on to explain what the objection was. In a part of the history book discussing slavery it reads, “Compared to other colonies, Connecticut did not have many slaves…Some people owned one or two slaves. They often cared for them and protected them like members of the family. they taught them to be Christian, and sometimes to read and write.”
That some slavers were kind is factually accurate. We know from letters and journals and first hand accounts that this is true. Not accounts from slavers only but from observers and slaves. This is worth noting in the text because it was unusual. There is nothing about this that makes it seem like slavery was wonderful. If you look there is a page from the book shown in the article; on that page we can still read enough to see the text-book paints a horrible picture of kidnapping, force, and pain.
My big objection is in the use of the term “owner”. I would not acknowledge that there was ever ownership, but that term is used commonly and seems not to raise hackles. They seem to admit that a person can own another person but not that they could show kindness to them. I would use the word “held” rather than owned if it were me. Remember, this is a fourth-grade text. Those children are generally around 9 years old. They are not likely emotional and cognitively able to process much more about slavery than this. Certainly such a text cannot be expected to discuss rape, beatings, hangings, and the more grotesque aspects of slavery. They could, however, be taught that no person can own another person. That is a concept they are old enough to understand even if they don’t understand exactly why.
Michael Conner, Chief Academic Officer of Norwalk Public Schools, is quoted in the article as saying, “The portion of the textbook minimizes the impact and implications of slavery from the perspective of many constituents in the Norwalk community…” There is just one word in that line that really grabbed my attention when I read this story. That word is “constituents”. Not parents, students, educators, but constituents defined as, “being a voting member of a community or organization and having the power to appoint or elect.” In other words, it was a political choice. Rather than actually educate they chose to remove the book. The parent who complained could have been told that this one paragraph of the book was accurate and that the rest of the book made it clear slavery was bad. But instead they tossed the entire book because it said something that made them uncomfortable even though it was factually correct.
Education is teaching and learning facts, objective reality, and teaching how to properly deal with and process that information. Indoctrination is teaching beliefs and teaching that they should be accepted uncritically. When education is paid for by public money, the purse strings of which are controlled by the government, then what gets taught is up to the whims of the politicians. Teachers cannot complain without risking funding to the school or their own pocketbook. So they teach what they are asked to teach and they do the usual good job teaching it and so our kids learn it.
A textbook that claimed slaves were ‘cared for like members of the family’ by their owners has been pulled from classrooms across Connecticut for being ‘racist’.