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Why is professionalism in the classroom so hard to find these days?It has been my experience in some 25 years in education that teachers whose political philosophy might be termed conservative, or even independent, rarely impose their political ideas on their students.  Most often, students aren’t aware of their philosophies, because these teachers simply don’t use precious and ever-dwindling class time to discuss such things.

Unfortunately, I’ve often found the opposite to be true of teachers espousing the philosophies of the political left.  Not only do they often try to indoctrinate their students, they attack kids that might oppose them, or dare to think class time should be used to learn English or math.  Fox News illustrates the issue:

credit: googlemaps

A high school biology teacher is on administrative leave after she allegedly mocked a student for supporting President Trump and calling others ‘a bunch of Trumpies’ in Round Rock, Texas.

The incident occurred on the fifth day back from summer vacation, Aug. 22, at McNeil High School outside of Austin, according to district officials.

The bullied student’s mother claims the public school teacher said: ‘By the way, I hate Donald Trump with a burning passion and he is a complete douchebag.

Let us assume, gentle readers, only for the sake of discussion, these accusations are accurate.  I know if I said anything like that, were I to say “douchebag” in hearing range of my students, I would be in significant trouble, and reasonably so.  Teachers can hardly enforce standards of decorum if they can’t adhere to them.

She told KHOU11 the instructor singled out her son for his conservative views and support for Trump’s tax plan, calling him ‘Trumpy’ instead of his name and saying things including ‘Hey, Trumpy, do you have an answer to this?’ or ‘What do you think, Trumpy?

Under most contemporary definitions this sort of behavior would be classified as bullying, and particularly so because of the power differential between a teacher and a student.  Every media account of this incident suggests the affected student was the only adult in the room:

She said her son didn’t want to talk about politics in science class and felt embarrassed to be targeted.

At the end of the class, the mother said the teacher put one last insult against her son, mocking his beliefs: ‘Now, you’re not going to fight me when we start talking about evolution, are you?”

The incident took place in an advanced placement biology class.  The teacher has been removed and is still employed with the district, though in an unidentified non-teaching role.

Some rational responses…

Should such a teacher be fired?  I’ve no idea whether this is the first such incident involving them, or what their employment history might be.  One would certainly hope they would not be returned to teaching unless the district could be well assured no such future incidents would occur, and that no student’s grade would suffer because of that teacher’s perceptions of their political beliefs.  Sadly, Trump Derangement Syndrome, thus far, seems incurable.

And as I earlier mentioned, progressive derangement is increasingly infesting the mathematics classroom.  In Math Madness, in October of 2017, we learned that math skills perpetuate unearned white privilege:

Ah. Now I absolutely know her problem: a mathematician who doesn’t think mathematics is objective. Of course, this is common for progressives. Fact and logic tend to expose their ideas, policies and narratives as so much bovine excrement, so they must be rejected in favor of ‘alternate ways of knowing.’ In other words, they get to make things up and declare them reality.

And in Math Is Hard–And Racist, in January of 2018, we learned that teaching math is so fraught with racism, math teachers must be taught to be entirely woke, rather than to be entirely math teachers:

Uh, so teachers aren’t supposed to be colorblind anymore because that means dismissing identities and not specifically planning race-based teaching? For math? There’s such a thing as black algebra or Hispanic trigonometry? Perhaps trans geometry? And how do we deal with a black culture that shames and ridicules kids that demonstrate intelligence and ability in academics, calling them ”white?” Where’s the colorblindness in that?

And now we learn that the National Science Foundation is spending more than a million taxpayer dollars to teach math teachers to become “social justice math teachers.”  The Free Beacon reports:

The National Science Foundation is spending over $1 million to train two-dozen ‘social justice’ math teachers in Philadelphia.

The Drexel University project will promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) high school curriculums that are ‘steeped in the context of social justice.’

The project, which began this summer, is recruiting 24 Drexel students earning a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, which they will train to teach in school districts in Philadelphia.

Uh-huh.  And what would be the advantage of teaching students “social justice” science?  Will it produce cures for cancer?  Improved materials for the aerospace industry?  Will it help identify the Grand Unifying Theory?  How would this sort of thing be done?

The project will use recent scientific, mathematical, and educational knowledge to prepare and support the twenty-four pre-service teacher candidates with an emphasis on understanding the culture and life experiences of students in high-need schools,’ according to the grant for the study. [skip]

The project intends to promote social justice teaching, which emphasizes connecting science, mathematics, and engineering instruction to students’ personal experiences and culture,’ the grant explains. ‘This connection can leverage the funds of knowledge that each student brings to learning.

The idea that students have deep and profound reservoirs of innate knowledge, and it is the job of teachers to help them somehow manifest it so they can teach themselves, is a current educational fad.  This damaging fad sees consultants and the public school functionaries who buy their wares and stake their careers on them, telling teachers they must no longer teach–they can’t be “the sage on the stage (catchy, in a dim-witted sort of way)–but must become “facilitators.”  This movement currently demands teachers regularly allow students to critique their teaching, and even tell their teachers what they should be teaching.  In other words, students who don’t read anything more complex than texts, who have never read a complete book, who still struggle to write complete, grammatically correct simple sentences, should tell their teachers the literature they should be learning, and how to interpret it.

Of course, in this context, they’re referring to tribalism, the idea that a student’s race, culture, sexual orientation, or whatever else is politically useful to the Left at the moment, represents unique and invaluable knowledge that should be used to “leverage” their math and science educations. Hispanic algebra, black calculus, lesbian nuclear physics, that sort of thing.

Inquiry-based instruction supports this approach as it opens communication among students by establishing a learning community of shared knowledge and experience,’ the grant states. ‘Seminars related to mindfulness and developing emotional intelligence will augment the Scholars’ coursework. The latter will be scaffolded to develop the following behaviors: professionalism, growth mindset, commitment to serving all students well, and cultural competency.

People who probably haven’t done a day of manual labor in their lives turning  “scaffolds” into verbs is always so precious.  In competent classrooms, “shared knowledge and experience” occurs when a teacher shares knowledge, and the student’s learn from the experience.  I’m about to share Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with my Junior English students.  Until we read and discuss the book in depth, until they begin to understand its profound lessons, and how to apply their newly found knowledge to other works, and to their lives, they have little, or nothing, to contribute.  If the terminology these people is using sounds like nonsense, that’s because it is:

The foundation of the math and science courses will be based on ‘understanding students’ cultural communities as a foundation for classroom culture.

I share with my students a specific body of knowledge, and in the process, help them build bigger, better brains.  I teach them how to think, not what to think.  I expand their experience, show them the bigger world out there, and I don’t limit their vision.  Our classroom culture is simple: we pay attention, are polite, and have fun learning the discipline of English.  They live in their “cultural communities” at home, on their own time.  Our all too brief “community” in the classroom is not at all about tribalism, nor must it ever be.

The overall goal of the study is to prepare science and math teachers to be ‘steeped in the context of social justice.

“Social Justice” has nothing to do with justice, and less to do with education.  Science and math teachers must be “steeped in” science and math and how to teach those disciplines effectively.  There is no time for anything else.