I am an educator who has been targeted by the right

I am an educator who has been targeted by the right

As summer approaches, students nervously await their final grades. But it’s in the weeks that follow that teachers brace themselves for their own evaluations, both the institutionally mandated variety and the unofficial ratings on ratemyprofessor.com and ratemyteacher.com, where students — especially the disgruntled ones — get to grade them back.

Students on these sites mostly complain about teachers who give too much work (no such thing!), “play favorites” or never give A’s.

Teachers tend to be the kind of folks who loved school. Most of us were the obnoxious kids who lived to see that beautiful vertical line of As on our report cards. As adult professionals, we pretend to be above such things. But, however much we pretend to scoff at these digital slights, I think they unnerve us.

So do the criticisms implied by political signs that have popped up in Greenwich lately. Likely created by a group calling themselves the Greenwich Patriots, the signs call for a halt to the teaching of “critical race theory,” and urge residents to attend this Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, presumably to express their displeasure with teachers who “undermine western Judeo-Christian values.”

In case you’re worried, I am pretty certain “critical race theory,” or CRT, a very specific academic critique of the role racism plays in law and even mainstream racial justice strategies, isn’t being taught in Greenwich’s K-12 public schools, or any K-12 public schools, anywhere. Your kids are not being taught CRT, any more than they’re learning tort law. You can take it off your list of concerns.

But this hasn’t stopped legislatures in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Idaho from banning the teaching of CRT. At least 20 other states are debating similar measures, though none seem to define CRT very accurately and all the measures I’ve seen have such vague language that it is very likely teachers may be scared into avoiding the discussion of race, gender, class, immigration status or indigenous identity altogether. Which I’m guessing is the goal.

But how does an instructor with integrity teach the framing of that Constitution, for example, and pretend race was not part of the discussion? Any deep dive into the writings left behind by the Founders, those brilliant graphomaniacs most instrumental in its drafting, will attest to this fact.

Or let’s say an English teacher plays it safe and limits his reading list to dead white males. How would he teach, say, “Moby Dick” without contending with the Pequod’s multiracial crew? Should his colleague in the history department simply avoid teaching Jim Crow, the Indian Removal Act, the Civil War? How many topics will he be tempted to avoid that your child needs to know to pass her AP exam?

I admit it threw me the first (and so far only) time I received a negative review on “Rate My Professor.com” that accused of teaching with a political agenda. Not because the no-star review said I was a bad teacher, but because it was incredibly well written.

I thought I had good rapport with all of the strongest writers in my class that semester, that we had formed that kind of student-teacher bond that transforms both parties. Who was this talented student who so despised me? Who must have been sitting in my class seething in their seat all semester just waiting to unleash this well-worded take down?

I can still remember that it accused me of only awarding students who agreed with my extreme left-wing “feminazi” viewpoint. Which was weird, because that semester, out of dozens of short texts on my syllabus, only one, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, could be counted as “feminist” and it was written in 1916.

We’d spent the semester focusing on controversial writing skills such as building sentences into paragraphs, providing attribution for quoted and paraphrased material, and crafting transitions. In fact, some of my chattier students had requested we spend more time talking about our readings’ political implications (I’m really selling myself as a teacher here, huh?).

How had I failed to notice such a talented student? And then my husband said, “Maybe you didn’t.” Instead, he suggested, maybe they’d cribbed it.

Sure enough, when I looked online, the exact wording of the student’s review appeared as suggested language on the now-defunct web site notdoctrinaire.com. I guess someone fell asleep during my unit on plagiarism that semester.

At the end of the day, students need to know as much as we can teach them — about soul-stirring pleasures of literature, and the hefty service that can be provided by a properly leveraged semicolon.

This is especially true when it comes to our democracy. Our kids need to know all of it. The good — and there is so much that is so very good about America — but also the bad and the ugly.

Anything else will doom our experiment in self-rule to the same limited lifespan as other great democratic projects, Athens (about 200 years) and Rome (about 300), when we ought to be striving for a legacy to rival the world’s oldest running representative government, one that inspired Constitutional architects Franklin and Madison. Did you ever learn it for the test? Because despite having wonderful high school history teachers and growing up in Madison’s backyard, I never did.

Answer: The Iroquois Confederacy, still running strong at 879 years and counting!

If the Greenwich Patriots have their way, students at Greenwich High may not be learning it any time soon, either.


Lisa Pierce Flores is a Newtown resident, instructor at Fairfield University, author of “The History of Puerto Rico,” and past editor of The American Mosaic academic database.



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