A lot of heat has been generated as of late over what is or what is not being taught in public schools. At school board meetings everywhere, people are suddenly turning out at regularly scheduled meetings where, historically, public participation has been low. Year in and year out districts have wrestled with issues that routinely range from budgets to basketball, with not much more public participation than Saturday detention.
So, what’s changed that has suddenly motivated people to turn out in record numbers?
I, for one, think the answer resides squarely in the soft political target of opportunity that school board elections represented… until now anyway.
Not that such elections are yawners, they can be, and often are, contentious because after all, we are talking about the education of our students in a very competitive and dynamic era of education in the “Information Age,” where all collective knowledge resides at our students’ fingertips like an Issac Asimov science fiction tome. While many school board elections are traditionally non-partisan races, it seems that, in this politically stratified environment – in which we find education a pawn of the floatsam and jetsam of political tides – that there are those who seek to exploit education for political advantage, rather than excellence in education.
Already, there are news reports of groups who are raiding public and school libraries to ferret out what they deem to be objectionable books. This leads to censorship. While the sensibilities of some communities find some books obscene, other communities are more accepting of divergent knowledge in the name of academic discussion. In the examples of historical events being taught at school, such diversity in historical perspective is being vigorously challenged.
The age-old question remains as to who decides what is or is not to be taught in schools – schools paid for by taxpayers whose political spectrums and prerogative ranges far and wide. Decisions now being challenged in some instances by hyper-reactive individuals, who have suddenly decided that their school board’s non-partisan status must be wrong. And so, the neophytes see an opportunity to rush to the podium to launch their candidacy as agents of change because of the outrage they feel, having discovered that education takes into account a 360-degree perspective of a particular subject, and not any official party line du jour.
While the thrust and parry of the debate plays out, professional educators remain focused on their life’s calling to education, and somehow that seems to me to be exactly where the line between ignorance and knowledge comes into stark focus.