Monday, June 13, 2011

Conservatives angry at superintendent who defends teacher who asked students to protest education cutbacks

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Rep. Mike Stone (R-NC)
Rep. Mike Stone (R-NC)

Showing more of that conservative concern for education and free speech:

A group influential with conservatives is calling on school board members in [North Carolina’s] Lee County to fire Superintendent Jeffery Moss after he backed a teacher who asked her third-grade class to send letters to lawmakers opposing steep cuts to education.

One of the students in the class was the daughter of freshman Republican Rep. Mike Stone, who got a hand-written letter imploring him to "put the budget higher Dad" so her school wouldn't have to lay off teachers and forgo field trips.

After Stone complained, Moss backed the teacher. Letters were also sent to other elected officials, including Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

"If you're not interested in receiving letters from people in your district, don't run for public office," the superintendent said, according to WRAL.

It’s clear to anyone who knows the law that merely asking students (as opposed to forcing them) to do something that’s relevant to politics does not actually constitute a promotion of a political agenda, and is therefore not an offense that merits termination. It’s only too typical (and fairly amusing) that Rep. Stone would see a pleading letter from his own daughter asking him not to slash her school’s funding and then react only with outrage at the idea that kids could be asked to take part in a political process that directly affects them and their futures.

Is what the teacher did, in asking her students to engage in what’s nowadays considered to be leftist politics (as ridiculous as that is), an unethical act? Perhaps … though I would strongly debate what constitutes “unethical” in such a context. The way I see it, a teacher is a person who devotes their professional life to giving youths the best chance they can get to expand their minds and succeed in life. What kind of such a caretaker would then just step back and let kids’ futures be compromised by self-serving, money-grubbing politicians without informing them about what’s happening, and what they can do to fight for their own futures? Anyone who claims to have kids’ best interests at heart, and then just stands back when they see their efforts being undermined without any interest or effort in doing anything about it, is either a coward, a hypocrite, or simply incompetent.

Yes, teachers should be prohibited from tainting their coursework with any ideological viewpoints. That much is self-evident. But I don’t believe that asking lawmakers not to slash funding that’s directly relevant to the interests of schoolchildren – even if by asking those same kids to write the letters, themselves, on their own time outside the classroom – is really a politically biased act. It’s simply trying to defend an institution that they rely upon, regardless of whatever political leanings may be involved either way. All in all, I just think it’s a remarkably sad state of affairs when defending schools against political maneuvering, from either side, is seen as a leftist tactic.

That’s my understanding of it, anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

(via @todayspolitics)