In the culture wars, teachers are treated like “enemies.”
Teachers are caught in the crossfire of a political and cultural conflict that threatens their ability to do their jobs, a new statement warns from five national groups representing tens of thousands of educators.
In their first-ever joint statement, the four professional associations for specialty teachers, along with an anti-censorship group, condemned widespread efforts to limit classroom discussion of so-called “divisive issues”.
“Unfortunately, in their zeal, activists in the current culture wars treat teachers like enemies,” read the statement from the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teaching Association, and the National Coalition Against Censorship. “Teachers need our support; they need our trust; They must have the freedom to exercise their professional judgment.”
In the past year, 15 states have enacted bans or restrictions how to teach the issues of racism and sexism in K-12 schools. Anti-censorship groups are also decrying what they say is an unprecedented set of challenges for books in schools, especially those focused on it race, gender and sexuality. Issues such as evolution and climate change were also threatened in science classesand the way students understand and critique the world in math classes has been called into question, the statement said.
The professional organizations for each discipline “are unanimous in our concern about the limitations and cracks being placed on teachers,” said Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE’s executive director, in an interview.
Concerns about a deterrent effect are increasing
Teachers in all subjects have said they have been accused of “indoctrination” or questioned about their choice of curriculum, while conservative politicians vow to root them out Examples of the so-called Critical Race Theory in schools. (Critical Race Theory is an academic framework that holds that racism is a systemic, societal problem. It has become a catch-all term for discussions of race, with some critics arguing that white children are taught to feel guilty or themselves to hate.)
Earlier this month, the College Board, which runs the Advanced Placement program, released a statement emphasizing it the importance of the expertise of the AP teachers. “AP is guided by a deep respect for the intellectual freedom of teachers and students alike,” the College Board said, adding that classes are censoredthe AP designation would be removed from these courses and students would lose potential college credit.
And the statement from the five national organizations argues that teacher screening has a deterrent effect in the classroom. Teachers fear assigning books that could be challenged and “as a result, teachers’ ability to do their jobs is at risk,” the statement said.
However, the work of teachers has never been more important as they work to catch up with students after the pandemic has stalled academic progress, Kirkpatrick said: “Now is the time to give teachers as much agency as possible give.”
The cultural conflicts and the increase in censorship challenges are contributing to many teachers’ desire to leave the profession, she said. Teacher dissatisfaction rates are at record highs and it has yet to be determined if teachers will actually leave the classroommany say they want to quit.
“The stakes are too high,” concludes the joint statement. “We cannot let good teachers leave the field because they no longer have the freedom to do their job. We must not allow the education of our children and young people to become the collateral damage of party political machinations.”