How Should Schools Advise Parents?

This morning, I’m stepping into the realm of education (and possibly politics, although that’s not my goal). You see, the state of Texas, much like other states around the nation, is wrestling with the issue of teaching (or not) critical race theories in our schools. Whether you support teaching CRT or not, the issue currently facing Texas legislators is not only whether parents should be informed that CRT is being taught to their children but what resources are being used. The State House’s Public Education Committee took up the issue earlier this week and to say the proposals and comments are interesting is putting it mildly.

Rep. Steve Toth has filed a bill that would require districts with more than 300 students to do the following:

  • post a list of all teaching materials online
  • this list is to be broken down by subject as well as by grade level
  • create a program (civics) to help “prepare” teachers when it comes to guiding classroom discussion about current events
  • help students “develop media literacy in identifying propaganda”.

From this morning’s Dallas Morning News, Rep. Dan Huberty protested that the bill would not only increase demands on teachers and schools but increase the political spotlight our schools are often under. Then he asked Toth this, “You’re saying that you want the ability for anybody and everybody to be able to look up whatever is being taught within the classroom?” To which Toth basically replied not only “yes” but pointed out it would bring transparency to the process.

On the surface of it, I have absolutely no problem with a district posting teaching materials online. In fact, when I first read the article in the DMN, my brain–okay, I am still only on my first mug of coffee–read the “teaching materials” as only text books and reference materials, including supplemental materials like videos, etc. I didn’t read it as including lesson plans, handouts, homework assignments, that sort of thing. The problem is the article itself doesn’t say how far and how detailed this “all teaching materials” would be and I haven’t yet read the proposed bill.

But what caught my eye even more was how Huberty said doing so would put the teacher and/or the school district in danger of being attacked on social media by anyone who didn’t approve or agree with what was being taught. Toth’s answer that this is the world we live in was rather flip and didn’t help his cause, in my opinion. However, neither did Huberty help his position by suggesting we leave it to giving the parent the option of communicating with the teacher to find out what is going on in the classroom.

I can see positives and negatives to posting the material online where anyone can access it. Huberty is right. There will be those who will take to social media to object, and not necessarily in a nice way, to what is being taught. The danger of having the material open to everyone and his dog is that those objecting will be outside agitators and not someone with direct ties to the district.

However, the flip side of the coin is “what do they have to hide?”. If the teaching materials are not weighed heavily to one side or the other of the CRT (or any other subject) debate, why not post it online? The school district as well as the communities that comprise the district could use it to promote the district and bring in new families/homeowners as well as new businesses. It could show a trust and openness between schools and families.

Of course, I can also see where Huberty is coming from. But simply leaving it up to parents and teachers to communicate about curriculum isn’t enough. Going from personal experience when my son was still in public school, it isn’t enough. In my case, I was an involved parent. Even so, it took me close to two months one year to figure out something was very wrong in one of his classes. In fact, it took a progress report that showed he hadn’t been turning in assignments–which he had and I knew he had because we had the graded papers–to clue me in to just how bad the situation was.

In this case, the teacher was not paying attention to which student’s name he was entering grades under. Worse, I discovered, he was trying to teach first year Spanish students curricula meant for much more advanced students–something he was neither authorized to do by his department, his principal, or the district–and he was using material the district wasn’t authorized to use. When I tried discussing the matter with his (the advanced properties of the subject matter, nothing else), he informed me I didn’t know how to teach, I certainly didn’t know how to teach a foreign language, and how dare I question him.

You can bet your ass I not only let him know I did know how to teach and was, in fact, a certified teacher in the state and had taught in the classroom setting but that I also was a Russian minor (only 8 hours or so away from a major in the subject) so I had a pretty damned good idea how to teach a foreign language since I had subbed for a couple of my professors on occasion, and we would see who would be leaving. Yes, I was that mad and I would have taken it all the way to the school board if necessary.

This is all a long way around saying I was the only parent in a class of over 20 who realized something was going on that shouldn’t have been in that classroom and I know other parents had been talking with the teacher. But they did not realize there was a problem because they did not understand the teaching buzz words, etc. They trusted the teacher to do what was best for their kids and they believed him when he said the materials were approved by the powers-that-be.

So, no, just leaving it to conversations between parents and teachers isn’t enough. Parents need to be able to see the materials being used. They need to be able to have enough information about the materials to research them–and the person or persons responsible for putting them together–to see if there might be bias, misinformation, etc., included.

Then the questions becomes how do we do this?

One simple way would be to put the information online but behind a password protect wall. To get a password, you child has to be enrolled not only in the district but in that particular class. It won’t prevent someone from taking screen shots and posting them online but then making meetings face-to-face doesn’t prevent that meeting from being recorded and then posted or from pictures of the material from being taken and posted.

Parents have a right to see what their child is being taught. I would have thought educators–and legislators–learned that lesson during the pandemic when certain schools/teachers tried to prevent parents from sitting in on virtual classes because they didn’t want the parent seeing what was being taught.

When a teacher/district takes that stand, I have to ask myself why? Why don’t you want me to know what you are teaching my kid? Why don’t you want me sitting in and being involved?

There has to be a level of trust between a parent and the child’s teacher as well as between the parent and the administration. It is a two-way street, but if you lose the parent’s trust, you will lose the kid in one fashion or another. Either the kid will lose trust with the teacher or the parent will pull the kid out of the school. That is a no-win situation for the school and the district.

Colleges post text book lists and other required materials for a course. Professors post their syllabus online. Some are more detailed than others, but at least the basic outline of the course is there. Why can’t our public schools do the same? Why is it taking a bill from the state to get us to that level of openness?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

4 Comments

  1. When I was in school, in the 90s, we had teachers who would tell us not to discuss what we were learning with our parents.

    Invariably, this was a grooming situation. They were deliberately tryin to isolate and control the students. Looking back, several of them were very sketchy, although it was probably only emotional or financial abuse they were interested in. My dad was, ahem, very interested to find out that as a Vietnam era draftee, he was supposedly mentally ill, since he didn’t hate the US government…. (No, it was not a one-off. The Soviet documents released in the 90s really screwed up the whole “it was a witch-hunt that only caught innocents” thing. That was actually one of the less bad teachers, and they adjusted it by merging the classes that did current events into a huge shared room, with politically polar opposite teachers.)

    There is a reason that one of the basic warning signs of “This adult cannot be trusted” that a child is taught is that they do things and tell you to not tell your parents. You don’t have a secret in a classroom with 30 kids. You have someone that knows that if the proper authorities over those kids know what is going on, they will be in trouble.

    Such as, in the reason that people are upset about CRT, resources that actively attack children based on their appearance, and actively attacks the religious beliefs of students. It doesn’t matter what the appearance or religion is, that’s a full stop NO of the school deliberately undermining parental authority, IE, an abuse of their granted authority.

    If they want to avoid social media mess without a web portal– and they’re going to have to do this anyways, for families without computers– they’ll need to provide hardcopies. Let parents come in and look at the books, too, without a time limit or someone standing over their shoulder.

    Cheapest and easiest way would be to have a pack or two of the print-outs on hand to be provided to parents on request. Note the est at the end of that, NOT cheap OR easy, even if they limit it to resources on hand, and it would miss new resources that become available mid-year.

    Or, a school could offer teleworking for absent students– and if parents want to see what was covered in class that day, they log in as if their student was absent and can see each day’s assignments, posted the day they’re assigned. In this day and age, with a lot more unplanned absences, that would likely be best.

    That would avoid the problem that a good class doesn’t go exactly as planned over a day, much less a whole year….

  2. First, what do they want hide? It is simple: the educational unions and colleges are very pro-leftist if not outright communist. Their agenda is to destroy these United States by indoctrinating the youth. Remember the so-called “progessive” party hasdone the following: 1789-1865 was pro-slavery; 1865-mid 20th Cenutry was pro-segregation; from then on it created the Welfare State aimed at destroying the Black middle class and Black families so they could retain control over the Black population. Now they are moving to forment civil war based on race.

    As to the suggestion to restrict access to only those who have children in a particular school/class, I say go further and restrict taxes for schools to only those who have children attending school. Why should those who don’t have children in the school be required to pay for materials they are not allowed to see.

  3. To my thinking, item four is not something that you can force a bureaucracy to implement competently.

    It is easy for the state legislature to make a bunch of noise, appear to have tried to address the problem, while leaving the bureaucracies free to merrily continue on doing what they want.

    With a particular university in a particular state, the Republicans have been so lacking in addressing issues that I might suspect them of failure theater.

    So, I’m a moody jerk without any useful to add, much less any actionable ideas.

    My sentiment is towards “why try to reform a corrupt organization” and “Are you Texans suddenly out of fire ants for some reason?”

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