How the Left Invited School Reform
An alternate view about the roots of our public education disaster. This post is sure to ruffle some feathers. -PW
The Uncomfortable Truth
I have always been an ardent supporter of public education. I will readily admit that my perspective is largely the product of my own circumstance. I am a public school teacher. I am also a product of public schools.
While I am confident that I will be labeled all sorts of words ending in -ist or -phobic after posting this piece, I can only humbly offer that I am not a racist, or a sexist, or any of the other things I will surely be called. I believe in the fundamental equality of all human beings.
The Leftward Slide of American Public Education
I have, over the course of my career in public education, witnessed the undeniable leftward slide of public schools, in curriculum, administrative policy, and, perhaps most worrisome of all, the delivery of instruction by fellow teachers.
It is only natural that any teacher’s instructional approach, particularly in the social sciences, is influenced to varying degrees by his or her own political and social views and values. Unfortunately, the longstanding code of instructional neutrality with respect to debatable social issues encountered in public school classrooms has been steadily eroded by the decades-long, often imperceptible leftward slide of public education in America.
Political Correctness and Groupthink Suffocate Discussion
Political Correctness, as defined by the extreme left, runs rampant like a troop of cavalrymen over any hope of free expression or socio political debate. So-termed “progressive” views are encouraged, and conservative views are ridiculed. The result has been that both honesty and reality itself have been cast aside in the pursuit of an elusive equality of everything. According to progressives, ideas and people must be acceptable in order to be equal, and in order to be acceptable, they must fit neatly into the “progressive” mentality. Progressives have worked hard and long (for decades) to infiltrate American public schools. We now live in a situation wherein progressives exercise virtual hegemony over the course and content of public school administration and curriculum. At present, public schools have become leftist strongholds where students are bombarded by so-called “progressive” dogma throughout the course of their K12 education careers.
If an idea, position, person, or organization does not conform to the groupthink-rendered canon of acceptability constructed by leftist progressives over the last several decades, the idea, position, person, or organization becomes an appropriate target for public humiliation. The left has made the stultification of its political opponents a primary weapon in its arsenal, and uses it not only reactively, but proactively with regards to many issues, people, and organizations. Through the use of a peculiar marriage of victim mongering and identity politics, the left has succeeded in convincing many that it alone possesses the key to true morality, and that therefore, anyone who opposes its many shamefully one-sided initiatives is unworthy of being treated with the respect due an equal. This attitude has wormed its way into public education, and has all but ended any true discourse on many issues of grave social import.
Unions as Their Own Worst Enemy
In concentrating on identity politics and victim mongering, teachers unions at the national, state and local levels have lost many members who just couldn’t stomach so much leftist tripe in order to belong. Bitten by the progressive bug, teachers unions strayed way off course from their singular mission to protect the interests of public school teachers and ballooned into all-encompassing social advocacy organizations, squandering vast sums of money on initiatives and campaigns that have very little to do with that mission.
For example, unions often take political positions that contradict those of many of their own members. Many members have tired of being perennially bombarded with leftist social messaging and choose to quit the union altogether. Additionally, unions in so-called “right-to-work” states have largely already lost what should have been their primary fight: to protect teachers. Through a combination of poorly considered decisions and monstrous miscalculations, the teachers unions put resources in areas where they needn’t have, and found themselves without sufficient resources to fight the big battle against corporatization of public schools. Without any true ability to protect teachers’ livelihoods, unions in right-to-work states now place heavy emphasis on benefits of membership such as saving money on your next automobile purchase, or tickets to Disney World, or other similar discounts that can be found with membership in many other organizations at far cheaper prices than the cost of union dues. The position of those unions is regrettable, and was largely avoidable, but for its mindless slide to the far left and the expenses incurred while sliding.
The Left Eats Itself.
Ironically, the left’s insistence on being the absolute arbiters of what is acceptable in public school curriculum and administration is now resulting in the gradual dismantling of the institution of public education altogether. The progressive strategy of using identity politics to aggregate the numerous fringe subcultures into a majority at the expense of the traditional mainstream culture has now backfired. On this issue, the right is right. No one school of thought should be able to exercise dominion over so many contentious issues that are still open to debate.
It is but a curiosity that the left, now largely in control of public education, refuses to allow the same level of free expression and academic discourse that it demanded when it was first making inroads into the institution.
Parents Have Rights.
Countless parents object to the incessant leftist dogma raining down on their children day after day for the duration of their childhoods, and they want options. They want choice. They want to be able to have a say in what values their children are taught, and they certainly don’t want the culture from which their own children spring to be vilified as a matter of education policy. In 2016, that is all too often the case.
Thus the advent of charter schools and corporatization. Those on the right are well aware of the left’s proclivity and prowess at the use of name calling and marginalization in dealing with opponents, so they have largely left the administration of, and curriculum in, public schools alone. Instead, they have sought to draw resources away from public education in an effort to establish a parallel education system that more closely reflects their own values and social sentiments. It is entirely reasonable that parents would want to have a degree of control over what is taught to their children, particularly in the social sciences.
The social sciences seem to always be in some form or another of revision. The left has succeeded in revising history to make not only our nation, but Western Culture itself, look like a some sort of perverse caricature of itself. Many contemporary American and world history texts are laden with a common thread of self-deprecating and apologist themes. Many of the suppositions and conclusions offered in revisionist social science texts lack firm foundations, but merely reflect the bias of the authors. Parents cannot be blamed for desiring a different message to be taught to their children.
Literature books, as well as remedial reading texts, are also infused with leftist dogma. Having seen, with my own eyes, the dearth of classic English and American literature now contained in these new modern texts, and the often substandard fare that has supplanted the Western canon in general, I am, in fact, a parent who would prefer for my child to be educated elsewhere.
Maybe Charters Are a Good Thing.
Perhaps the rise of charters in America is a good thing. Perhaps it will force the left to allow everyone, including heterosexual white males, equal status in all affairs. Perhaps it will force the left to stop deriding all those who don’t fit its image of what is acceptable, like gun owners, rural residents, Christians and Jews, and social conservatives. Perhaps it will force the leftist demagogues who brought us all to this condition to start debating the issues from solid, logical positions rather than to rely on the divisive strategy of identity politics that needlessly sows anger throughout our society.
The steep, slippery slope of cultural relativism and multiculturalism that the left led American schools to now threatens to be its very undoing.
Perhaps the rise of charters will be the salvation of public schools.