HomeWorld NewsMostly Educational: Politics in the classroom – Examiner Enterprise
Mostly Educational: Politics in the classroom – Examiner Enterprise
November 10, 2023
Two great political scandals rocked my first-grade class. The first arose over accusations of glue-eating leveled against Toby Dawn McIntyre. As his desk partner, I had first-hand knowledge of Toby’s sticky problem, but I was no snitch, so we manufactured the second scandal to shift attention. The snooty new girl and her 96-count box of Crayola Crayons with a built-in sharpener was an easy target, so we added two unwanted colors to her collection – red herring and white privilege – but Nicolette expertly flipped the script by sharing her sharpener and crayons with everyone except Toby and me. Public sentiment quickly shifted as our artwork suffered. Our little house of flashcards folded, and Toby’s ugly Elmer’s addiction was exposed.
Once upon a time, that’s what we meant by classroom politics, but lately, political insanity has been pushed into local public and charter schools by faraway state and national activists who do not know your kids, parents, or educators. They consider themselves courageous reformers or advocates, but your local schools just feel bullied. The playbooks are predictable. The radicals generally marginalize parents under the guise of supporting teachers, and the extremists generally vilify educators while claiming to defend parents. They hope to convince us that the sensationalized stories you see in the media happen in your local schools every day. Instead of helping, their proxy wars usually just hurt your relatives, friends, neighbors, and fellow worshippers struggling to make your neighborhood schools work. Such is the sad state of partisan classroom politics.
Educators working in our local schools do not deserve to be villainized; parents do not deserve to be disrespected, and our kids certainly do not deserve the constant disruption. Despite what you see in the media, your local educators honor parental rights, and your parents trust their local educators. There are exceptions, of course, but instead of focusing on the exceptions, let’s start focusing on the exceptional parents and educators who make your schools work. Hopefully, this column can accomplish three goals: First, to recognize and affirm the common ground and common sense that prevails in our local communities. Second, to refocus on the kid-level issues that bring parents and educators together, despite political differences, every day in that school on the corner. And third, to have a little fun, because it’s either laugh or cry lately.
State and national politics are important and the culture wars are real, but they should never define the people inside your local schools, where educators and parents respect each other. Thankfully, few radicals or extremists exist at the local level. They generally live on social media or cable television, not in your local schools. Partisans have pitted local parents and educators against each other, but thankfully, they are usually too smart to take the bait. Besides, they have weightier matters on their minds, like glue-eating and fancy crayons.
Like many first-graders, I eventually tried Elmer’s glue, but I did not inhale, and I never got crayons with a built-in sharpener, either. To make matters worse, Toby quickly tossed me aside when Nicolette asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance, but that’s the reality of kid stuff that cannot be fixed by faraway politicians, even if they have the best of intentions. Your local parents and educators are more concerned with kids than screaming matches between cable news networks, and if you doubt me, consider visiting your local school. You will not find disruptive radicals and extremists roaming the halls, because nothing terrifies them more than real kids. Nope, just your friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow-worshippers dealing with real, kid-level classroom politics.
Tom Deighan is an educator and author of “Restoring Sanity in Public Schools: Common Ground for Local Parents and Educators.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org