During the pandemic, First Responders and Educators were touted by the public as heroic “public servants.” Parents all over America came to some startling revelations regarding teachers and teaching because of the online classroom and “virtual learning” modality we were all forced to adopt for almost 2.5 years. America’s teachers are overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and under supported by the school systems they serve. Teachers are on the frontlines of the educational system and every single teacher does so much more for our children than merely teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic.
All over the country, state, county, and municipal governments, schoolboards, and conservative parent groups are attempting to restrict what teachers are “allowed” to teach and how they are allowed to teach it. In some states, like the state of Florida, the politics of education have legislated a complete overhaul of the curriculum taught creating policies like the “Don’t Say Gay” law that restricts teachers from talking about LGBTQI identities in the classroom. Additionally, the “Stop Woke Act” that legislates resistance to teaching anything having to do with race and America’s racial history in the classroom. According to the proponents, these laws are intended to stop the indoctrination of our students. DeSantis, the governor claims, “In Florida, we will not let the far left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination in Florida.” Critics push back claiming the laws are an attempt to impede education about racism and systemic oppression throughout American history and culture. They also claim that the new laws restrict training and information that could help address issues of bias and prejudice in both the workplace and the school community.
Not only do these new laws and policies significantly impede educational freedom, but they are also poised to require that teachers make their classroom spaces less inclusive while “revising” history, social studies, and civics rather than teaching the truth. This is true throughout the academy in Florida including primary, secondary, college and university education. Many other conservative state legislatures and local municipalities around the country are using Florida as an example as they begin to make the same type of changes throughout their own curricula and educational systems. This is also true in Virginia.
Educators throughout the nation argue that these new laws infringe upon their right to “academic freedom, freedom of expression, and access to information under the First Amendment. Book banning has become very popular around the country as a strategy used by the supporters of these extreme laws and policies. Many parents who support these new laws claim that schools are teaching CRT (Critical Race Theory) in elementary and secondary schools. This is patently untrue. These parents vehemently oppose their children being taught anything about racism, white privilege, or systemic oppression in the classroom. They also don’t want to acknowledge the LBGTQI+ parents and families that are tax paying citizens and a part of schools, communities, and workplaces throughout the nation.
The fact is that most of these new laws are extreme and regressive taking us back to a time when the educational system was immersed in a Eurocentric model that excluded any people or perspectives not anchored in a Judeo-Christian aesthetic and taught through a lens that embraces white culture and perspective monolithically. Educators have had to take on an adversarial posture as they attempt to maintain
educational integrity and academic freedom within their classrooms and profession. The lack of respect for educators as the experts of their discipline combined with the lack of financial compensation and support has created a mass exodus of teachers from public education. Without competent and passionate teachers in our schools, colleges, and universities the United States will never reach its potential as a beacon of freedom and justice. Without educators, how will we survive? Our schools and our nation will remain in peril until we find a way out of “the political” and address “the practical education” of our children and young people.