This is not an easy time to be a teacher. Practically every day there are news stories about what’s going on in classrooms nationwide, accounts that are rather ridiculous.
As a teacher of 20 years, the idea that my peers are pedophiles “grooming” children, that they are spreading their “radical agendas”, and that they’re teaching students to hate themselves for who they are is not only insulting but hurtful.
Once upon a time, teachers were respected, as was the occupation itself. The job was considered a calling, like nursing or religious ministry. Today we live in a world where many believe that horrid, old saying: Those who can’t do teach. (It pains me to even write those words.)
I had many jobs prior to becoming a teacher at 45, which included being a sportscaster and reporter, as well as an amateur sports official for 40 years. My world was chronically stressful. I was in the public eye daily and when I made mistakes, I was frequently called out. The attacks were sometimes personal. On occasion, I was accompanied to my car by police officers concerned for my safety.
And still, teaching was the toughest job I’ve ever had. I spent 20 years in a Title I school where the vast majority of my students lived in poverty, a place where drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, hunger, hopelessness, and gangs ruled. My job was to give them hope in a future they couldn’t see. Some didn’t believe they’d live to be 20.
For our students to become healthy world citizens, we teachers had to help them acquire important skills beyond the basic core subjects of math, science, history, and English. Communication skills especially are paramount to building strong relationships and making good empathetic decisions. But there’s a problem. Getting along with others, assertivenessis, and problem solving-skills are part of what’s referred to as Social Emotional Learning. For reasons I can’t fathom, SEL is now a dirty phrase. How can teaching a child to be resilient and self-assured be a bad thing?
When I researched the subject what came up was baffling. Somehow SEL became linked to another educational acronym, CRT, which stands for Critical Race Theory. Before I go any further, understand that there are no elementary or secondary schools in the country teaching CRT. Zero! Zilch! None! That’s because the class was designed for college students, primarily those in law schools. CRT studies involve using “sociology to explain social, political, and legal structures and power distribution…focusing on the concept of race, and experiences of racism.”
This idea has been so twisted that parents believe educators are teaching children to hate who they are because of past history. If you’re a White child, you must carry the sins of 19th century slave owners on your back. If you’re family hails from Germany, you are responsible for the evils of the Holocaust. (While I’d like to think those who oppose CRT care equally about the feelings of Black and Brown children, I doubt that’s the case.)
Since I taught history for a brief spell, I can tell you I never saw or sensed any student who seemed to feel uncomfortable learning about bleak eras in our past. So you can imagine that recent legislation has me confused. At least eight states now have laws about how any subject involving race can be taught, laws that say students can never be made to feel guilt or discomfort because of who they are. I believe these laws are completely unnecessary, because the last thing teachers want is make children uncomfortable.
I’m not saying here that all educators are perfect. Like every vocation, some get it wrong. But I’d stake all I have on the idea that the vast majority of teachers only want their students to become happy, healthy, productive citizens. To reach that lofty goal, we must teach kids to understand both themselves and the past. To do that they need empathy, understanding, and a feeling of self-worth.
Someone please tell me how these lessons can be anything but positive.
Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.