“Let’s throw our schools, our teachers and our schoolchildren further down into the current cultural morass – and let’s do it by mandate!”
That is how I would characterize a recent report from the National Council of Teachers of English that “wants states to discard literacy standards and incorporate teachings of ‘race, antiracism, anti-Blackness, and LGBTQIA+’ in K-12 classrooms.”
As a Texas high school English teacher, I choose to be a critical thinker and not a lemming. Therefore, I say “No!” to this attempt to drive an unhelpful agenda into our already difficult task.
Racism is evil and it has no place in the classroom. Period.
Neither does Critical Race Theory in any form (including this one by the NCTE), nor LGBTQIA+. Both serve as distractions when invited into the classroom. They may provide good fodder for debate, but neither side of these divisive issues is typically willing to cede much ground in terms of morality and ethics. Even debate is rarely civil and is often silenced in favor of one side.
Why not, instead, listen to the commonsense voices of so many, like the flood of parents who have been showing up at school board meetings across the nation? Many are pleading for us to get away from indoctrination efforts and return to the solid educational foundation from which we have fallen, and strengthen the old-fashioned “reading, writing and arithmetic” that seems embarrassingly and obviously to be faltering in many of today’s American public schools.
This approach always rewards the hard work of students, regardless of their skin color or socioeconomic status. It attempts to accommodate whatever learning differences or challenges any student may have, in order to help them reach the standards the best they can, without diluting the standards themselves.
I read the report from the NCTE. It relies heavily upon unproven, ideologically-driven assumptions, like this one found on page 6: “We must consider policy changes knowing that we are working within an educational system that has been created to dishonor the same group of people that CHRE (“Culturally and Historically Responsive Education,” the report’s author’s coined term, and her solution for education) comes from.” That is a huge, leaping accusation, and one which most teachers would find foreign to our experience as we seek to teach the students we love! While it is imperative that we provide resources from differing perspectives, reading is reading; writing is writing; math is math. Our educational system was created with the goal of teaching students core academic disciplines and good character, and that is still a noble goal. It is a goal that is colorblind, and a goal that I believe most teachers see as achievable by all of their students.
Since when did ideological zeal get to replace academics with a cultural revolution in the classroom? Haven’t public school teachers been warned for decades against seeking to advance personal belief systems in the classroom? But that is what this push from the NCTE seems to actually be. Instead of being the solution, I believe these kinds of agendas are a problem, effectively moving us away from the basic educational skills that our children need to succeed in the real world.
Teaching is a tough job. It has in recent years been made tougher by the negative effects of the pandemic upon both student learning and behavior. This has produced a significant uptick in the number of teachers departing the profession. Now is no time to add ideological baggage to the teaching burden. And now is no time to soften the curriculum, either, as the NCTE wants us to do with their call for discarding literacy standards in exchange for an enforcement of their belief system. Instead of a step up for education, this would be another nail in its coffin.
This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to firstname.lastname@example.org.