Blame the ignorance not the teachers.
Public and independent schoolteachers in America are leaving the profession. Some cite “burnout,” long hours, filling in for colleagues, crowded classrooms, lack of support. (1) Others are leaving the profession — a few but growing in number — who understand that their calling, to instruct, to share wisdom, to elucidate issues and history, has become politicized, which is to say, has become marginalized.
They are being told that trying to make sense of injustice and inequality, to expose iniquity, is “not to be discussed.” (2)
They are being told that an opinion one might harbor is refutable because, though based on one’s experience and witnessing, behind the “opinion” lurks its antithesis. This a third grader knows. The “opposing opinion” is drummed up, demanding equal discernment, equal time.
On Feb. 3, the school system issued a letter of reprimand to Hawn for “neglect of duty and insubordination.” He had violated the Tennessee teacher code of ethics, which states that an educator shall “not unreasonably deny the students access to varying points of view,” Ingrid Deloach, the assistant director of Sullivan County Schools, told him.
“Your job is not to teach one perspective,” Deloach wrote. “Your job is also not to ensure students simply adopt your own personal perspective.” (3)
You would leave the profession, too. Teaching as transaction is not teaching, it’s repression.
Consider that teachers are being suspended for ‘teaching,’ not for endorsing ignorance.
There is a difference.
Consider the joke:
Parent asks child, “what did you learn in school today?”
Child pauses, thinks carefully and answers, “my teacher asked me the same question, you’d better ask her.”
The point of the joke is that learning is not harvesting but planting. It’s like the discussion that couldn’t end, that shouldn’t end. Some folks remember the sleepless nights, the tossing and turnings that come with authentic learning.
A close friend who teaches Sunday School to first and second graders provides a good example. Her “itch” to guide six and seven year-olds prompted her to volunteer and a confession to her superior: “I don’t know the Bible. I don’t really know religion. And I haven’t taught Sunday School before.” Wisely, sensing an opportunity, the superior shot back, “That’s okay just let the children express themselves. Let them speak what’s on their mind. You’ll do fine.”
And she did. An artist and former acting student, she gathered up her basket of talents and soon six and seven year-olds were streaming out of the classroom with Bible story constructions and drawings and coloring pages and smiles.
The paradigm of learning begins with the actor, so learning research confirms. Be it mimicry, trial and error, or association/substitution, authentic learning resides with the ‘actor-in -the-world.’ So we witness the uptick in concern, after a catastrophic event, such as the murder of George Floyd or the Buffalo Supermarket shooting, enter the classroom. Students hear about the event and bring questions to school. Teacher fields a discussion on violence, on racism.
Today in 11 states ‘teacher’ can be suspended or fired. (4)
The stories percolating up from a repressive consciousness are few but memorable. These are not stories told by malcontents or provocateurs. One individual had never heard ‘critical race theory’ mentioned in the thirty odd years he has been teaching until last week.
One woke one morning to leaflets defaming him.
One teacher is a man who hails from Tennessee, a man who despite his imposed isolation for what he believes and feels politically, tolerates his status because he loves his surrounds. (5)
A lifelong resident of Kingsport, Hawn was well aware his liberal views made him an outlier in his overwhelmingly White, mostly conservative community. But that had never mattered before. He had taught in the Sullivan County school system for 16 years without any trouble. And he had taught the class that got him fired, “Contemporary Issues,” for nearly a decade without a single parent complaint.
Then at the start of last school year, he made a pronouncement during a discussion about police shootings that would derail his career. White privilege, he told his nearly all-White class, is “a fact.”
One, a school administrator, inspired to bring order and organization to a principal’s post, is saddened by the reflexive bigotry, and senses that he can’t make a difference because he is perceived as different. (6)
Another, a teacher, who arrives in class post Buffalo shooting to explain why due to a recent Texas law, she is under a gag rule and is forbidden to discuss the shooting. That today she is announcing to her class that this is her last week. She’s packing up and leaving Texas, seeking a similar position in another state.
These are not Maoist resisters.
These are internally displaced refugees, living the diaspora.
‘On the socio-political level, what matters is the de facto part of repression: teaching ignorance. America may be waking up to this ancient and enduring malfeasance. It’s home grown.
“Critical thinking” which is to say, reflecting on the whys of ignorance has left the show. And teachers and school administrators, accused of perpetrating ‘critical thinking,’ are leaving the show because they are forbidden to use the tools they have spent countless hours preparing.
We know ‘critical race theory’ saves lives and professions. (7) We know ‘Critical Election Theory’ saves democracy. (8) But if it’s not lives or professions or the ‘democracy’ one wants, in America, one gets rid of them.
This is not ‘free expression,’ this is free repression.
4–11 states have passed K-12 teaching-repressive legislation. More are following. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-anti-critical-race-theory-bills-are-taking-aim-at-teachers/