It’s not a secret that teaching today is much harder than it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Not only have the students and what it takes to spark and maintain interest and attention completely changed, but so has the political climate. And that means what was once a given when it came to teaching material has suddenly morphed into hot-button topics.
It’s why I took a leave from the teaching profession. In addition to being overwhelmed by the increasing responsibilities and expectations placed on teachers, I could no longer bear the emotional load while remaining healthy. My family could no longer suffer the never-ending preoccupation that focusing on my students and my lessons took.
No longer was “treat fellow citizens of the nation and the world with humanity” a given. It was now political. If you said anything other than “treat only these certain people with respect and humanity,” you were in for it from students and parents alike.
Ever try teaching McCarthyism through The Crucible or discussing the merits and failings of capitalism through The Great Gatsby or exploring systemic racism through A Raisin in the Sun? It was once an engaging exploration of critical thought and the role of the arts in both shaping and reflecting on our culture. Now it had become akin to shooting somebody in the middle if 5th Avenue — only the President was allowed to get away with that.
It was the plot line to every dystopian novel in the curriculum coming to life before our very eyes and the refusal of a certain segment of the population to understand what education actually means and its function in a developed, democratic society.
Unfortunately, lots of teachers know what I mean first-hand, as one Reddit user pointed out in the r/Teachers channel:
Dragged out of classrooms for their own safety, just for acknowledging what happened at the Capitol. Harassed for presenting media bias charts which teach students how to decipher credible sources from those that are not, an extremely important part of any school curriculum. Attacked for talking about climate change in biology and discussing the plot of a novel.
And these teachers are not alone. Many commenters shared their own experiences with our ever-changing (and deteriorating), fact-averse society:
I had a parent come in yelling at me for teaching a portion of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech. She said I didn’t know how much better things were in the south before desegregation.
I got yelled at by a parent for indoctrinating their kids by talking about propaganda. I included commercials as examples as well as local campaign ads from both Democrats and Republicans. We were just identifying propaganda techniques in order to work on understanding Animal Farm! Ridiculous. I have been walking on egg shells lately, and it sucks. Like, I constantly hear from the politically left that schools don’t teach critical thinking or about horrible events in US history… but we try so hard to! Parents and communities just make it so difficult.
I once had a student tell me that if I even taught her about the existence of Islam her mom would call the school.
We had a student last year who’s father continuously harassed myself and school because I taught Social Studies. He was sure I was teaching her communism.
We used to call evolution – “change over time” instead. Also had parents angry about Hubble’s law determining the age of the universe based on the speed of light.
I got hate mail because we talked about racism with OTHELLO. One of our teachers got called out and social media and harassed by local talk radio because she had “liberal propaganda” in her classroom – a RBG bobblehead and a Woodstock poster. I had kids read an article from the NY Times and 10 kids wrote in their responses that NY Times is biased fake news.
One of my colleagues was showing a clip of Trump giving a speech. The clip was from CNN and even tho it was just Trump himself, a parent unmuted her kid to say CNN was fake news and the teacher should be showing clips from OANN instead.
While we don’t have a location or confirmation of this account, many teachers will confirm that something similar occurs every day in schools across America.
And when it comes to indoctrination, it’s not the teachers doing it. It’s the conspiracy theorists and the politicians who support and perpetuate this dangerous rhetoric — rhetoric that takes zero stock in actual fact, science, and reality and is turning a nation of citizens into anti-intellectual extremists.
As George Orwell famously wrote, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
This is America indeed. And we’re in trouble.