What are your kids really learning at school? How will you find out?

When my family used to homeschool, I used to interrogate myself about which was be worse: The horrible knowledge that I was in charge of everything they would learn that day? Or (if we switched to someone else teaching) the horrible knowledge I wasn’t in charge of anything they would learn that day?

It was very hard to get used to sending my kids off for six or seven hours a day, and not really know what they were learning. Now that I’m used to it, I can see that some of it is great, some of it is fine, some of it is terrible, and some of it is just baffling. The thing is, I never really know how much I know. All I know is what the kids choose to tell me, or what I can figure out.

This is true for every parent who is not physically sitting on top of their child twenty-four hours a day. All you know about what your kids are learning is what you are allowed to know, by the people your kids come into contact with, and by your kids. That is the nature of kids growing up.

Right now, there is a case working its way through the courts about whether or not parents should be able to get their kids to opt out of learning with books with LGBTQ+ themes. The problem with stories like this is that, reading it, I don’t really know what these books are. The article says the parents who are suing object to “LGBTQ+ inclusive books.”

It mentions, “Some of the books at the center of the clash include Pride Puppy, geared toward preschoolers and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, geared toward students in kindergarten through 5th grade.”

You get the general impression from reporting on such stories that the parents are opposed to these books solely because they include LGBT people. This may be the case, but I have read numerous stories phrased identically to this one that, when you drill down into the facts, are revealed to deliberately mention one title but not another, or excerpt one page but not another. It’s hard not to conclude that the goal is to make the parents appear foolish and bigoted. It’s hard not to conclude that the article is complicit in hiding something from the general public.

Slate magazine—hardly a mouthpiece for conservative, reactionary parents—recently published a story about this very phenomenon, in which the author admitted that he thought it was overblown hysteria when people objected to the popular sex ed book It’s Perfectly Normal. But when he saw the actual copious and explicit drawings of intercourse, masturbation, and genitalia designed for ten-year-olds to pore over, he was taken aback.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly. 

Image by USAG-Humphreys via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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9 thoughts on “What are your kids really learning at school? How will you find out?”

  1. I don’t disagree as to what best practice for a teacher is, but even having the 20/20 hindsight that this particular teacher was a real stinker, I still wouldn’t have done anything as a parent. I would consider it reasonable to send an email, but I personally wouldn’t have done that and I definitely would not have gone in.

    As I’ve been reflecting on Simcha’s essay, I’d say I agree that it’s important that kids feel they can come to their parents (obviously), but I think it’s at least equally as important that kids understand that authority figures don’t always have their best interests at heart. We taught our kids to follow the school rules so to avoid getting in trouble, not because any particular rule was necessarily right. From the time our kids were toddlers, they’ve had very few hard and fast rules inside our home and so when someone imposed a rule on them, they automatically questioned it in their minds.

    I was raised somewhat that way. My husband was raised to be much more respectful of authority – many of his siblings are knee jerk rule followers and in turn raised their kids that way. So if a teacher says abortion is a woman’s right, their kids dutifully write it down in their notebooks, get an A on the test, and take to heart every woke teaching spewing forth from their teachers’ mouths. Virtually none of the second generation knee jerk rule followers are today practicing Catholics.

    The world is a very fallen place. The Devil is vying for our kids’ souls at every turn. My husband and I are by no means perfect parents, but we do think the best chance we have of getting our children into Heaven is to teach them is to follow the Golden Rule and that just because someone in authority says something, it doesn’t mean it’s so.

  2. My husband is a public school administrator. I homeschool my kids, but I do so because of some really stupid district level politics that filtered down to how my (special needs, related to a man the superintendent really dislikes) son was treated his last year at our local public school (in a district other than the one my husband works in. It’s a long story).

    All of what you said. All of it. My husband has had to be the guy who deals with the deeply suspicious parents who want to assume he and everyone he works with is trying to brainwash their children, and he’s had to be the guy to reign in teachers and tell them, no, you can’t go on a rant about abortion and how all women are now doomed in your chemistry class. He’s also in charge of discipline for about 500 kids at his high school campus, and he will absolutely, 100%, tell you how important it is to have parents who care about what their kids are doing at school.

    So .. .yes. Talk to your kids and be someone they can talk to. 100% (and for heaven’s sake, keep your kids away from vapes and smart phones. The amount of nicotine, THC, and porn addicts he works with is unreal).

    As an aside, there’s a right way to do what that one teacher tried to do in having a current event discussion. You work up to it after the kids have been together for awhile and know each other, you have iron clad rules about respecting each other, and you don’t share your opinion until AFTER students in your class who want to share have, and then only if they ask. He successfully had a discussion about abortion in his government class (pre admin days) where the students respectfully disagreed with one another and actually learned something (and a good chunk of the class was surprised he’s pro-life after they asked his opinion, including students who’d known him for years, so he was good at staying impartial to moderate).

  3. I’m not sure what there is to complain about when a teacher, in a forum dedicated to controversial topics, says she donates to Planned Parenthood to save women and believes that all religion is bunk. If the content is age appropriate, I think a teacher has a right to an opinion, even if it’s vastly different from my own. Now if she graded students on their beliefs or disrespected students with opposing views, that would be objectionable to me.

    Our sons go to a Jesuit high school, which is filled with lots of diehard, leftwing (in my mind, whackadoodle) teachers, pontificating on their secular humanistic beliefs and proselytizing with a zeal unmatched by St. Paul himself. In addition to the obsequious pronouns in their signature lines, today’s true believers have begun including a land acknowledgement for the land which they live on and pay for but apparently feel still rightfully belongs to the Lenape Tribe. [Insert shoulder shrug here.]

    Personally, I’d rather my teens confront different belief systems while they’re still living at home than after they go away to college and feel lonely and insecure, making them susceptible prey to some friendly-faced demon who offers them the warm embrace of fitting in. Having said that, I consider placing graphic, sexually explicit content in school libraries (esp. grade school and middle school) a form of grooming and I think we as a society need to start jailing the perpetrators.

    1. If said teacher had said that AFTER letting the kids discuss, I think you might have a case. Saying all that before just invites kids to paint a bullseye on their back for discrimination. She was pressuring the kids to agree with her, and making it clear she’d see them as religious bigots if they didn’t.

      1. I don’t know. Some teachers put themselves out there all the time. It depends upon her teaching style and if she actually welcomes debate. I agree with your particular approach of perhaps giving an opinion later, although with most teachers (particularly the liberals who often can’t seem to help themselves), the kids already know what the teacher thinks.

        If a teacher welcomes debate, kids who are passionate about a subject will not be afraid to engage.
        For instance, at our parish school in 7th and 8th grade, the kids have to do a current event each week. I remember when the players kneeling at football games was a big deal. The kids’ social studies teacher at the time was a nice guy but a raging liberal. Everybody knew where he stood on every issue (he was a devout Catholic and very much pro-life, but a loudmouth socialist nonetheless) and he made no bones about his biases. The thing was, so many kids in our parish school have dads who are Philadelphia cops that many of the kids believed they were fighting for their family’s honor and thoughtfully took him on. He even (remarkably) ceded to the kids that protesting at work was not a first amendment issue. I think he was a good and fair teacher even though he typically let his own thoughts be known prior to whatever debates the class was having.

        1. I guess the question is if this particular teacher was actually wanting thoughtful debate, or whether she was just looking for a fight/ to unduly influence some kids. The fact that she was later dismissed (which is a BFD in the education world, you have to document the crud out of a teacher’s misdeeds and show you tried to correct them before you can do it unless they do something REALLY bad) seems to indicate the latter.

          I wasn’t at your school, so I don’t know the full context with that teacher you cited as an example. I’m inclined to think he was out of line too though. A kid shouldn’t feel like he has to specifically defend his family honor in a classroom to a teacher. They ought to be challenged in a classroom, yes, but it should be by being presented with new information and viewpoints not, “my teacher thinks my cop dad is a bad guy because he’s a cop.” The teacher sounds like he has his heart in the right place and cared about the kids, but there’s a right and wrong way to respectfully challenge a viewpoint.

        2. Not sure what having cops in your family has to do with players kneeling to protest the many injustices faced by African Americans. It’s sad if anyone wants to turn this into a problem. Hopefully you’re not raising future bigots.

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