Teachers are typically caring people who are deeply concerned about the intellectual, emotional, and educational needs of their students. Over the years, many teachers have found protecting students’ rights more challenging as the educational system and the school curricula become more political. A teacher’s commitment to recognize the needs and protect the rights of each student becomes most important at that time.
During my 36 years as a conservative teacher in the classroom, it was difficult to witness the removal of conservative current-events materials from library magazine racks, to witness the removal of conservative ideologies from the text books, and to read the demeaning representations of the few traditional American values that remained in school textbooks. Nothing was more upsetting than hearing from students who supported conservative ideologies that they were bullied by classmates and teachers for their political stands and for expressing their intention to choose abstinence during discussions in health class.
I volunteered to donate two conservative magazines and one conservative newspaper to my school library so conservative children would feel comfortable discussing that side of political issues during current-events classes. The librarian told me, “NO.” She had to present only those items recommended by curriculum guides.* While conservative teachers were upset by this, few were willing to take a stand. It is time we all take a stand. We now must protect political diversity just as we support other diversity issues.
State governments have wasted millions of dollars creating and implementing anti-bullying curriculums which have been destined to failure because of the often unintentional but institutionally accepted bullying practiced by most political and social institutions, including the educational system. If there is any chance of limiting bullying within the educational system, legislation and district policies must include anti-bullying standards for the role models and leadership of the very institutions required to implement the anti-bullying curriculums.
Educators recognize that school libraries set the intellectual and social tone of the school. Librarians have been diligent about including literature that recognizes the contributions made to America by every race and nationality. The current-events materials may include everything from Mother Jones, Monthly Review, Mother Earth News, to Time, and Newsweek; but one typically will not see a copy of a conservative magazine such asThe Weekly Standard or National Review. Censorship is one of the most aggressive forms of bullying.
A Wisconsin teacher brought his fourth graders to the state capitol for a field trip and encouraged those children to participate in the anti-Governor Walker protests that are a well-known daily occurrence. When this instructor used his influence to encourage students to ignore the political views of their parents and to protest a Governor whom their parents support, intimidation was being used to bully young children. Fortunately, most teachers use better judgment.
This teacher, like so many others, was simply following curricula recommendations which encourage student activism. Unless teachers encourage students to become active on both sides of the issue, critical thinking and effective debate are lost.
When a student is met with derision when he responds to discussion questions presented by stating that the he or she intends to practice abstinence, that is bullying. When the instructor does not stop the mocking and/or if he participates, the instructor not only condones these behaviors but becomes a bully. Peer pressure is often used to push children into abandoning their goals and values. A common peer pressure tactic is represented by the false statement that “everybody does it”.
If bullying in schools is going to subside, teachers must support anti-bullying policies which include well-defined examples of bullying, well-defined consequences for any acts of bullying, and standards which must be applicable to adults as well as to students in the educational setting. Once that has been accomplished, legislators must take a careful look at curriculum core standards for every subject area and assure that those standards are fact-based and scientifically sound, that the data is replicable, and that the content encourages respect for the traditions and customs that have served the American people so well for over 200 years.
This is a piece written by Karen Schroeder. Ms. Schroeder is a member of Conservative Teachers of America and President of Advocates for Academic Freedom. She can be reached at 715-234-5072.