It’s difficult for non-teachers to understand the many pitfalls of being a teacher these days. Any public servant has a rather large and obvious target on their backs, but few larger than teachers. One of the lasting lessons police work taught me is few things make people madder faster than anyone missing with their pets or children. I’m not sure which is worse.
It usually goes something like this: “Yuh burned down my house and murdered muh wife. But yuh kicked muh dog. Now Ah’m MAD!”
So I am very careful. I do not touch my students, male or female. I am extraordinarily careful about giving compliments, to my female colleagues and my female students, and on the rare occasions when I do, they are in the mode of “you look nice today,” or “that’s a good color for you.” And I avoid virtually any talk of politics or religion.
Fortunately, I am an English teacher, so such things are not a daily necessity, but one would be surprised how often explanations of political concepts, and Biblical references are necessary. As I teach Junior English, not only do we cover early American literature and the literature and documents of the founding, but such literature is rife with biblical references and allusions.
Some still imagine it is somehow unlawful to so much as mention faith in public schools, or that prayer has somehow been judicially removed from schools. Not so. One may speak of such things that are integral to the curriculum, but one may not ask or in any way coerce students to make religious expressions, which includes prayer, nor may one proselytize–try to convince them my faith, or any faith, is the one true faith. I have no idea where one would find the time for that sort of thing anyway, time being in very short supply in teaching. And students are free to pray, read the Bible, etc. so long as they are not doing it in a disruptive manner, or interfering with the conduct of school. As I’ve often said, as long as there is algebra, there will always be prayer in school.
Of course, some school administrators are overly careful about such things, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings.
Politics is another contentious issue, as Fox News reports:
I received a rather disturbing report of yet another case of Trump Derangement Syndrome — this time from a high school in Camarillo, California.
Jane Germaine said her son’s English teacher at Campana High School told the class that she lost a $100 bet because President Trump had not been shot on Inauguration Day.
‘A public school teacher using classroom time to share with students how she lost a bet because the president was not shot on Inauguration Day is beyond reprehensible to me and I do not see how the school district does not find this troubling as well,’ she told me.
And it turned out not to be the first time she’s heard about teachers at the high school making politically-charged statements in the classroom.
‘Teachers telling students that Trump hates women, Fox News is ‘fake’ news, it’s raining so much in Southern California these days because Trump is president, a teacher telling students she is estranged from certain family members because they are conservative — I could go on and on,’ she said.
‘How is a 15 or 16-year-old supposed to process what this means, especially if their family is conservative, approves of Trump and watches Fox News,’ she wondered.
Please keep in mind, gentle readers, I have only the Fox account by which to judge this situation. However, assuming their account is accurate, the teacher’s conduct is unmistakably over the line. Mrs. Germaine filed a complaint with school officials.
My husband and I feel that our concerns have been completely dismissed by the school and the school district and they are just hoping that we forget about this and go away,’ she said.
Fox contacted the school as well, but at the time the article was posted, received no reply.
If my son were to say such comments, even remotely similar in nature, he most likely would have been escorted out of class, I would have received a phone call, law enforcement notified and my son would have been suspended or expelled,’ she said.
Mrs. Germaine is right to be upset. Her son is being forced to sit in a classroom and be indoctrinated by anti-Trump school teachers.
‘We do our best to teach our boys to just ignore such comments but it is deeply frustrating for them, and us as well, because they have no choice but to sit there and listen to it,’ she said.
One strains to imagine how comments like that are part of any English curriculum. They sound very much like what they probably are: a progressive deranged by Mr. Trump’s election victory, venting to kids that don’t need to hear that sort of thing from any teacher. Nor do they need to hear anyone praising Mr. Trump or any other contemporary politician.
On the other hand, one would very much hope any English teacher would praise Thomas Jefferson for his masterful Declaration of Independence, James Madison for the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin for his voluminous writings, Abraham Lincoln for his Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address, among many others.
What sort of political commentary would be appropriate? Explanations of political philosophies, the history of political/religious movements, explanations of the beliefs of the Puritans and their Biblical basis, and other matters of that kind. The difference should be obvious to all thinking people. One does not support the curriculum or enlighten students, the other does, and without indoctrination.
As close as I come is a once yearly political primer that compares and contrasts the basic political believes of progressives and conservatives, essentially Democrats and Republicans. I normally do this before the brief media unit I present, which is required under state standards. Why would I do this? Because few, if any, of my students, 17-year olds, have any idea what a Democrat or a Republican believes, and why they support the policies they support. I suspect relatively few adults have a firm grasp of such things.
During that lesson, I do not tell them which philosophy to follow, and make it clear the beliefs of many fall somewhere between the extremes of both philosophies. They are, for example, surprised to discover that conservatives give far more, personally, to charity, than progressives. After all, progressives make a great show of being the champions of the poor. However, it makes complete sense. Progressives believe it the job of government to take care of everyone, therefore, they need not be personally involved. Their taxes take care of such things. Conservatives tend to believe the opposite. Progressives believe in equality of outcome, Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity.
This helps to explain not only contemporary political behavior, but the literature of the past. It also helps them understand why adults are sometimes too hot to trot about such things.
What percent of my class time is devoted to such things? Perhaps 1%, maybe 2%. We go weeks, even months at a time without discussing such things at all. It all depends on the needs of what we’re studying.
My political views are little secret to regular readers of this scruffy little blog. They are to my students, which is the way it should remain for the students of any teacher, in California, or otherwise. I never forget that target on my back.
Of course, California is special…