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Once again I’m thinking about John Taylor Gatto


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1 minute ago, square_25 said:

 it’s possible this teacher does valuable work that’s easier if the kids have the expectation of privacy,

This violates child protection advocacy.  If a child who is not your own asks you to keep a secret, your response should always be no.  In the professional teaching evironment even more so.  You can tell them you will be their advocate and seek help for safety and protection.  But, absolutely, no, you cannot keep a child's secret.  Anything going on in a classroom does not have the expectation of privacy.  Period.

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It has been years since I read Hold Onto Your Kids but I don't think the point of the book was to encourage sheltering kids. Holding onto our kids is about remaining a close and significant and releva

WRT the teacher's tweets, it seems like he is trying to do good (or what he believes to be good).  He's wanting to educate in a way that forms moral kids (per his morality).  And despite not agreeing

Too many questions. I can’t answer them all.  From what I’ve read, he sounds like an awesome teacher. He’s thoughtful and deeply passionate. But it’s not just about this one teacher,, it’s about

3 minutes ago, Plum said:

There’s a reason school districts do not allow teachers to contact students and vice versa through social media or other means outside of school email. And now they are being invited into their kid’s bedrooms. Parents have every right to be concerned when a teacher (no matter how noble) ponders parents overhearing their lessons is a potential problem. This is a legitimate issue. 

Absolutely.  No private contacts are allowed.  (I have volunteered with children for decades and have taken more child protection training than I care to remember.  Everything these teachers are posting would be dismissable offenses with cause.)

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1 minute ago, square_25 said:

There's absolutely no way that's legally enforceable. 

It would be a legal cause for termination.  Yes.  Teachers are mandatory reporters.  Anyone who has been trained in mandatory reporting knows that you cannot tell children you will keep their secrets.  Personal opinion is moot.

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2 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Mandatory reporters of what? I would assume that only applies to abuse. They are required to report every single thing that a student tells to them? Please find me a law that says that. (If it exists, I'll be surprised and interested.) 

Obviously they don't have to report everything said to them.  But, equally, they absolutely should not tell students they will keep secrets.  That is the opposite of being a child advocate.  Anything that is going on inside of a classroom should be publically accessible.  This isn't therapy.  It is education.

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1 minute ago, square_25 said:

So you're saying that if a student wants to confide in a teacher, they need to plug their ears and tell them no way? Because for lots of kids, the adults at school ARE the only other adults they have day-to-day contact with. If the teacher doesn't listen, they'll just confide in their much less mature friends. That's a win for no one. 

No.  They need to tell the student that they are willing to listen, but no, they will not keep a secret.  Like I posted previously, they can say they will be their advocates.  I'm guessing you have never gone through child protection training bc this is a fundamental premise and all teachers should be 100% aware of it.  Consider this: a teacher tells a student that they will keep their secret and then they have to report bc it is a mandatory reporting situation.  Now the child is being betrayed by another adult who has violated their trust bc they didn't keep the secret.  There is a reason for the whys.  It protects the child.  An adult who willing accepts the secrets of children can also become a manipulator of children.   

And in an actual classroom setting in a full room of students, no one in that room should expect privacy.

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38 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Obviously they don't have to report everything said to them.  But, equally, they absolutely should not tell students they will keep secrets.  That is the opposite of being a child advocate.  Anything that is going on inside of a classroom should be publicly accessible.  This isn't therapy.  It is education.

I'm only a lowly volunteer Sunday school teacher in a Catholic diocese, but I know better than to allow a child of any age to believe I will keep a secret confidence. And if I said the things the teacher in question said, I'd be let go and red-flagged, never again to have a volunteer position in any diocese. If I heard another catechist say those things and didn't report it immediately, I'd be let go.

41 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Anyway, I'm sure teachers do find the expectation of (limited) privacy in their classroom helpful, and would probably on average not like to be overheard. For better and worse, a teacher is the authority in the classroom, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

I tell the parish parents that they are welcome at any time to come to my classroom and see and hear what's going on. I tell them they ought to ask their child what we did and said in class, because without active parental support, no catechesis does any good. There is no expectation of privacy when I am with other people's children. Why should I not like to be overheard? Christ hears everything I say, and he had terrible words for those who cause little ones to stumble. 

Threads like this make me think that public schools have a lot to learn from the Catholic Church's self-inflicted tragedies. Parents need to learn those lessons, too. I remember in the '00s how well-intentioned Catholic parents came to the defense of clergy and staff, and what they said was just as valid: stories of priests who helped them find spiritual shelter from disastrous home situations; the relative maturity of teenagers and their need for a safe space in church youth groups where they could be frank and open with peers and leaders; the importance of confidentiality in spiritual matters, even outside the Seal of Confession. These were all true and reasonable points. But they were the screens behind which abuse happened.

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Team Gatto. 

Child protection 101 - do not promise to keep secrets, do not have secret communication with children. If you're a teacher worried about being overheard in your classroom - quit. 

Square - you're not the only one with shitty parents. School did nothing to help me, except stack trauma on top of trauma. My buddy buddy English teachers taught me that some people are overgrown children who don't understand professional boundaries.

I'm sorry if institution school folks find it difficult or insulting to read here, but that was a pretty mild Gatto quote 😄

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12 minutes ago, LMD said:

I'm sorry if institution school folks find it difficult or insulting to read here, but that was a pretty mild Gatto quote 😄

 Yeah I’ve been throwing softballs. 🤗🤯

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16 hours ago, square_25 said:

I think this stuff varies. Undermining the parents to convert a kid to a different religion? That seems beyond the pale. But I'm absolutely not convinced that it's never a good idea to go the wishes of a kids' parents. It really depends on the specifics of the parents. 

 

The ends justify the means, eh?

Not all teachers have noble intentions.  What happens when you run into a bigoted teacher who thinks they should be allowed to have private conversations with students to influence their opinions? What if the teacher is really into QAnon?     

Not all kids have terrible parents. Most parents are good-enough parents that aren't abusing their kids. Most kids don't need to be 'saved' from their parents by teachers who may or may not have the interests of the kids at heart.   

 

 

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4 minutes ago, OKBud said:

 

That brings up another thing- people at this moment in time are making the assumption that what qualifies as "bigoted" is straight-forward and simple, therefore only close-minded idiots are The Problem®. But... That is not the case. 

Yep. 

This is something I've seen a ton of. If there was one universally-understood definition of all these things, one objective standard we could all examine and understand, this might be slightly less of an issue.

Yet I've seen some people make some claims that are problematic on their own. Do I want my child's teachers being the ones to share those? Particular if I feel they might be outright harmful to my child? As a parent, I'm supposed to advocate for my child, yet if the teacher who is pushing these problematic views--regardless of the topic, to be sure--and then somehow arguing they should be kept from me, then just how am I supposed to do that?

When I was coming up, teachers were one of those authority figures I was taught to always listen to. Would I have kept that kind of thing from my parent? Me? Probably not, but I've never been good at listening to authority, but others probably would. Even if what was being kept from the parent was something that deeply hurt them as a person.

Which is why I don't care about this teacher's noble intentions. I may sit somewhere on the other end of the political spectrum from him, but I do think his intentions are ultimately good. I simply don't care because good intentions don't make up for the potential harm something like this could cause, especially when everyone seems to have their own definitions and criteria for some things.

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6 minutes ago, OKBud said:

Dumbing Us Down. I'm re-reading it as my next NF book once I finish what I am in now. It's nice and short too. 

+1

My first Gatto book was Weapons of Mass Instruction and I wish I had started with Dumbing Us Down. His books are more of a collection of essays and each book reiterates and dives a little deeper. 

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I haven't read this whole thread but I'll offer an example of when I trusted a teacher over my parents because I saw her as an authority figure. 

I was raised Catholic in a Bible belt town. My 4th grade teacher was an older women and she would lead prayers in her classroom. I can't remember if it was a regular occurrence but it definitely happened a few times. She led the class in the Our Father, the Protestant version. I remember the disconnect between how we said it at home and the way we said it in school. I remember thinking that my parents must have had it wrong. 

I remember this whenever I hear people claim that the problem with our schools is that prayer isn't allowed anymore. 

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17 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I haven't read this whole thread but I'll offer an example of when I trusted a teacher over my parents because I saw her as an authority figure. 

I was raised Catholic in a Bible belt town. My 4th grade teacher was an older women and she would lead prayers in her classroom. I can't remember if it was a regular occurrence but it definitely happened a few times. She led the class in the Our Father, the Protestant version. I remember the disconnect between how we said it at home and the way we said it in school. I remember thinking that my parents must have had it wrong. 

I remember this whenever I hear people claim that the problem with our schools is that prayer isn't allowed anymore. 


Yeah, I can’t relate to this thread. I was NEVER raised to see or think of teachers as infallible authority figures but flawed people with some useful information that could benefit me. It was expected that they would say things to me and make assumptions about me that were the antithesis of my home teaching/experiences. Teachers challenged me to grow and examine what I wanted to believe/stick with and I did the same to the extent I was able. Everywhere you go there are actions and thoughts expressed that differ from your own. I’m not sure why school would be different whether it’s evolution or trans acceptance or anything else. If you believe a thing, you fight for that thing or you ignore the naysayers and walk your path. That expectation preceded any contact with public education. It seems weird to push that parental obligation off on the ‘system’.

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16 hours ago, square_25 said:

I think every kid also knows someone whose parents were abusive. All systems fail sometimes. I refuse to decide that all parents are awful because some parents are, and similarly, I don't feel like saying that what he's doing in the classroom is unreasonable without knowing more about it. He sounds interesting in the book. Is he actually a good teacher? I don't know. He's certainly a passionate one, but it's one thing to sound flexible on the page and another to actually be flexible with real students. For all I know, he's a tiresome dogmatic in the classroom. 

I don't really like the hostility to school that I sometimes sense on this board. I think it's alienating to those boardies who work at schools or wind up sending their kids to public school for high school. All parents are different; all schools are different. I know some kids who seem to be getting good educations in their schools, and I know some that aren't. I don't see any need for the broad strokes, except maybe to reassure ourselves that we're doing the ONLY POSSIBLE RIGHT THING by homeschooling. 

 

I was on this forum when my daughter was still attending school. You're right that there is a lot of hostility on this forum to school. I did not find it alienating when my DD was in school because I shared that hostility. But I think that hostility is sometimes based on false assumptions about schools and parents who send their children to school. 

I have hostility towards school because I had some bad experiences in school. I wrote above about my 4th grade teacher who led prayers in school despite that being prohibited by the Constitution. This teacher had a big problem with me because I was sometimes late to school because I took piano lessons before school. Now I was 9 years old so did not have any control over getting to school but she still resented me for that. The piano teacher was crazy and she kept me late so I would be late for school. (The piano teacher flipped out my older sister over something and that was the end of piano lessons for both of us.) I cringe when I hear teachers saying that they "love" their kids because I think of this teacher who had it in for me from the beginning. 

She would pick on me in class. I would cry and then get sent to the cloakroom. One time, I lost it with her and told her in class that I hated her and she responded that she "loved" me. I never told my parents about any of this and I grew up in a good home with supportive parents. It just never occurred to me that anything was wrong or that I needed to tell my parents. 

Finally towards the end of the year something snapped in me and I went to see her after school. I told her that I thought she was mean to me. She lost her temper and pulled my pigtail and banged me up against the piano. She stormed out and told me to wait because she was getting the principal. I didn't wait and left and rode the bus home. By that time, she panicked because she realized that she had gone too far. She called my mother and told her she was sorry. My mother didn't understand why and thought the conversation was very strange. I got home after she called and was in tears all night. I did not tell my parents what had happened. I didn't tell until I was an adult. The teacher knew she had crossed the line so she left me alone the rest of the year. 

I know my bad experience makes it hard for me to be trusting towards my daughter's teachers. I've wondered if my DD has picked up my hostility towards school and teachers? 

But on the other hand, I think it's incredibly naive to assume that parents always know best. I think most of the people on this forum feel very strongly about parental rights. I remember debating someone about the idea that parents basically own their children. IDK. These are just really hard things to work out. I know that my DH and I care for our daughter more than anyone else. I think that alone means that we should be allowed to make the decisions for her. But on the other hand, caring is not enough to make good decisions. We all know people who love their children but still choose not to vaccinate them for standard childhood diseases. 

Rambling...but my favorite class in law school was a class about the children and the law. It's a fascinating topic. There are no easy answers. If parents were all good and loving and made good choices for their children then there would no need for teachers to step in. But we know that's not the case. And the reverse is true as well. 

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19 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:


Yeah, I can’t relate to this thread. I was NEVER raised to see or think of teachers as infallible authority figures but flawed people with some useful information that could benefit me. It was expected that they would say things to me and make assumptions about me that were the antithesis of my home teaching/experiences. Teachers challenged me to grow and examine what I wanted to believe/stick with and I did the same to the extent I was able. Everywhere you go there are actions and thoughts expressed that differ from your own. I’m not sure why school would be different whether it’s evolution or trans acceptance or anything else. If you believe a thing, you fight for that thing or you ignore the naysayers and walk your path. That expectation preceded any contact with public education. It seems weird to push that parental obligation off on the ‘system’.

I NOT was raised to see teachers as infallible authority figures either. My parents are actually pretty liberal and somewhat anti-authority. I never received the lecture about always obeying my teachers. In fact, we weren't raised to always obey our parents either. My parents were never authoritarian parents. But despite that, I still picked up somewhere the idea that teachers were right. I think it's more the culture of school than anything else. 

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19 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I NOT was raised to see teachers as infallible authority figures either. My parents are actually pretty liberal and somewhat anti-authority. I never received the lecture about always obeying my teachers. In fact, we weren't raised to always obey our parents either. My parents were never authoritarian parents. But despite that, I still picked up somewhere the idea that teachers were right. I think it's more the culture of school than anything else. 


Maybe. My school was very ‘alternative’. My point was that my parents assumed they would have to pre-teach and forewarn/forearm. They didn’t assume school was benign. They had experiences that taught them otherwise.

Edited by Sneezyone
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12 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:


Maybe. My school was very ‘alternative’.

Yeah, schools can vary so much, right? I went to a super rigorous, super academic high school where everyone was trembling in their boots all the time because they didn't want to be graded down. Teachers had a lot of power. In my senior year I got fed up and transferred to the city's alternative public school, where suddenly all we had to do was take internships and have "discussions" about this and that once a week. Editing this because I said the kids called their teachers names but I think that's an exaggeration. There was a very loose atmosphere and it was a shock to me. Somewhere out there I'm sure there's a happy medium between those two cultures! I did learn a lot at both schools, for what it's worth.

Edited by Little Green Leaves
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36 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:


Maybe. My school was very ‘alternative’. My point was that my parents assumed they would have to pre-teach and forewarn/forearm. They didn’t assume school was benign. They had experiences that taught them otherwise.

That is a difference from my parents. My parents never pre-taught or warned about school. It was the 1970s and parents were not very involved in school matters. 

I have another story. When I was in the 1st grade my teacher had MS and missed most of the year. The school never informed the parents. My mother had no idea what was going on until a friend of her mentioned that she was subbing in my class. 

In my childhood, parents in general did not get involved in school other than volunteering and parent/teacher conferences. 

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3 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

That is a difference from my parents. My parents never pre-taught or warned about school. It was the 1970s and parents were not very involved in school matters. 

I have another story. When I was in the 1st grade my teacher had MS and missed most of the year. The school never informed the parents. My mother had no idea what was going on until a friend of her mentioned that she was subbing in my class. 

In my childhood, parents in general did not get involved in school other than volunteering and parent/teacher conferences. 


That’s my point tho. Some parents have always been involved in preteaching b/c they knew the school/society was not set up (nor the people in it inclined) to co-sign their beliefs. The fact that the shoe is kinda on the other foot isn’t something to be up in arms about. Rather it’s an opportunity to consider whether that’s what other people have been doing all along and, maybe (if you chose to avail yourself of the ‘system’) you should too. That thought isn’t consistent with an expectation that any niche view becomes (again) the dominant one, which seems to be what people want.

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36 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:


That’s my point tho. Some parents have always been involved in preteaching b/c they knew the school/society was not set up (nor the people in it inclined) to co-sign their beliefs. The fact that the shoe is kinda on the other foot isn’t something to be up in arms about. Rather it’s an opportunity to consider whether that’s what other people have been doing all along and, maybe (if you chose to avail yourself of the ‘system’) you should too. That thought isn’t consistent with an expectation that any niche view becomes (again) the dominant one, which seems to be what people want.

Yes, I'm aware of that. My parents didn't feel they needed to pre-warn us about school because they would have assumed school was for people like them, white middle class parents. 

I'm not up in arms about the shoe being on the other foot now. Because of my past experience, I am concerned about teachers with too much power but on the other hand, I think school should be a place where a child can question his/her upbringing. 

Generally, I'm disturbed by the idea that parents own their children and should get to censure what is said in school. 

When I was kid there were many debates the kids in families that did not allow their kids to receive standard healthcare. There were kids who died because they were denied blood transfusions because their parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and kids of Christian Scientists would die of preventable illnesses. Now the state intervenes and those children receive treatment. That's a change that came about because society in general decided that we would not allow children to die because of their parents' religious beliefs. But that hasn't been extended beyond medical treatment as far as I know aside from the stories everyone has about how CPS overstepped their bounds in cases they don't know anything about. 

I would say that most of us believe today that we will not allow children to grow up exposed to racist beliefs and other kinds of intolerance. So I would be fine with a teacher undermining the teachings of a racist parent. I know the question here is where does it end. I don't know the answer. I don't think anyone does. 

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15 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Things began to change in the 1980s. That would have been a different generation of parents. The 1970s were the height of the non-helicopter parents. Go out and play and come in when the lights come on. 

 

11 minutes ago, square_25 said:

But it really does vary by the specific culture. They weren’t part of the prevailing culture. They were much more involved than his classmates’ parents.

Both these things are true. I was in school in the 80s and there was a pretty broad spectrum of parent involvement. My parents were on the uninvolved side, but there were definitely some parents who were already helicoptering. 

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I think there's a difference between being the kind of teacher who is a safe person for students to talk to that isn't a parent and being the kind of teacher who assumes the worst about parents from the get go. Parents don't "own" their children, but the default position should be for teachers to subdue their authority underneath the parents' unless and until something happens to make them suspect something is wrong at home. As someone who had their kids in ps for 8 years before hs'ing, I personally saw this attitude changing to the point where suspicion/distrust of parents was becoming more of the default position - until you proved to the school that you were a "good" parents and not one of "those" parents. This is bass-ackwards and one of the reasons we chose to hs.

I had a 13 yo girl experiencing abuse who asked me if she could tell me a secret and I told her I could only promise not to tell anybody who would hurt her. This was when I was a 22 yo lifeguard getting through college who had had no child protection training, to me it was just common sense.

Later on l was asked during the interview process for a position as a teacher/aide what I would do if a kid asked me to keep a secret and in response I told that story. If I had responded in any other way I wouldn't have got the job.

Just because a teacher doesn't tell parents everything that is said in their classroom doesn't mean it's ok to purposefully choose to keep sensitive conversations a secret - especially if that "purpose" is because they think the parents aren't instilling the correct values in their kids. This is public education. Teachers are public servants and their classrooms should be open to scrutiny. Period.

I like to think my teens would tell me about sensitive stuff in the classroom. We have a very close relationship, and I feel confident they would tell me about any concerns they had about their own lives. But teens have a weird code of privacy and they think they can handle adult things that they really can't and I'm not at all sure that they would share if it was a sensitive situation involving someone else - either a peer or a teacher.

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12 hours ago, OKBud said:

 

That brings up another thing- people at this moment in time are making the assumption that what qualifies as "bigoted" is straight-forward and simple, therefore only close-minded idiots are The Problem®. But... That is not the case. 

Who gets to decide whether your opinions are wrong or not? Who do you WANT to get to decide? 

I do understand the man's point that *other people's parents* can potentially make some children clam up in a  class that is suddenly without the veneer of privacy, but he didn't leave it at that valid teaching issue that must be pragmatically worked out, did he? He did not. Not at all. And I don't know if ppl are being willfully naive or what, to move forward assuming that all teachers have perfect intentions, but I'm telling you, it's so extremely easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the thought police. If you think these measures only offer a safe space to troubled teens, you are incredibly off-base.

 

I was a student on the wrong side of the thought police.  It was college, so I had more agency to do something about it, but it was infuriating to be in that situation and know that the instructor was using their position of authority to influence student opinion on a topic that had ZERO to do with the course we were taking (microbiology). It was a required course, too, so you had no choice but to sit through her monologues on politics during an election year.  I ended up going to the Dean about the instructor, after a lot of soul-searching on whether my objection was primarily because I disagreed with her opinions or because I disagreed with her use of the classroom as a political platform.  (It was the latter; I would have been uncomfortable even if she and I were in agreement). 

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8 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I would say that most of us believe today that we will not allow children to grow up exposed to racist beliefs and other kinds of intolerance. So I would be fine with a teacher undermining the teachings of a racist parent.

Can I just tweak this a little? 

I would say that most of us believe today that we will not allow children to grow up exposed to ____________  and ________________. So I would be fine with a teacher undermining the teachings of a __________ parent.

 

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24 minutes ago, square_25 said:

That seems totally inappropriate and would also make me angry. Did you get her to stop? 

 

She did stop. I know she figured out it was me because she was pretty chilly with me after I talked to the Dean. 

I watched the grading carefully and thankfully, my grade was not impacted.  I'm sure it annoyed her that I earned an A, but 🤷‍♀️

 

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13 minutes ago, square_25 said:

You're right. We don't all fill those in in the same way. There aren't any absolutes. 

This thread is making me pretty sad. I always hope that these conversations are about seeing each other's points of view. I can see why this teacher's stance would make you uncomfortable, because depending on what he said in the classroom, I would also be uncomfortable. But I can also absolutely see this from a teacher's point of view, because I'm sure he's had lots of conversations in his class which, while technically not private or secret, wouldn't have worked with the parents listening in. We all know that kids behave differently with their parents around, and depending on the teacher, I think it's possible for that to be a good experience for the kids. 

I'm finding I have to hedge a lot in this thread, because I can't vouch for him being a reasonable person -- I've never met him. But I would guess that a lot of teachers are thinking what he is, if perhaps about less provocative topics -- how is my class going to work with the parents listening in? What do I do if parents intervene? What do I do if I'm teaching biology and a parent intercedes and argues about evolution? What if I'm teaching history and some parents object to the mention of slavery? What if I'm teaching history, and some parents decide that all this history is whitewashed and that I have to immediately start teaching it from the point of view of the oppressed? 

Can you all see this from a reasonable teacher's point of view? Do you think worrying about parental involvement by definition makes someone an unacceptable teacher? Would you expect most teachers not to feel this way? Is the teacher's perspective something that's fundamentally interesting, or not very? 

Too many questions. I can’t answer them all. 

From what I’ve read, he sounds like an awesome teacher. He’s thoughtful and deeply passionate. But it’s not just about this one teacher,, it’s about the thought process behind what he posted and the other teachers that agreed and referred to parents as dangerous. I’m questioning why he thinks parents can’t be trusted to even overhear.

I said before I’m not for censorship. I’m not trying to shut down these conversations. I’m not trying to micromanage teachers. Teachers should be mentors, but they are not confidants, not therapists, not friends, not peers or parents. 

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1 hour ago, Plum said:

Can I just tweak this a little? 

I would say that most of us believe today that we will not allow children to grow up exposed to ____________  and ________________. So I would be fine with a teacher undermining the teachings of a __________ parent.

 

The thing is tho that simply having some conversations in the classroom can undermine parental teaching, not because a teacher is advocating one way or another, but because other students also have opinions that will run counter to any specific child's teaching too. What constitutes exposure? The conversation or the adult advocacy? The act of facilitating/allowing discussions on any controversial topic can bring parental wrath down on a teacher just as fast as advocacy (which is where I draw the line). By far, the biggest complaint I hear from my teacher friends isn't about kids but about parents and their behavior toward other students and school staff. I can see how they'd feel this additional level of exposure to parental hostility would be dangerous or risky. 

Edited by Sneezyone
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I'm actually sympathetic to the idea that having parents observing or interjecting can affect the flow of the class.  Our co-op has observers come in once or twice a year and they definitely affect the class vibe.  The year I had a class that was hard to control, it actually made it better but generally it makes the class more stilted.  Even when I lecture, I like a lot of give-and-take, and it would not be unheard of for one of my more dramatic students to sigh dramatically and then say 'whoa - can you do that again? I got lost somewhere around the first step' but they may not want to say that in front of somebody - knowing the particular kids, it's more that they wouldn't want me perceived as being confusing (even though I expect to need to do some things several times before they understand) than embarrassment about being judged for being confused.  But, I could see concern about how other parents would treat kids if they knew the positions that they held on different topics being an issue.  I'm not sure how much most teachers expect parents to be listening in, though - anecdotally, most families seem relieved to have kiddo occupied for a little while so that the parents can deal with whatever they usually do when the kids aren't around.

But, that wasn't the vibe that I got from the original post.  I teach several controversial topics, and I usually start by saying something like 'I know that beliefs on this topic range from A to Z and include everything in the middle.  I'll do my best to give you the science as its understood by scientists (which may mostly be in agreement or may have different schools of thought).  You will have to decide how to incorporate that.  In my classroom, we will be respectful of people who look at the same information and come to different conclusions'.  I do that in Bio 1, and by the time I get kids in bio 2 I usually can dispense with that and they have fantastic conversations.  But, usually I limit my role to presenting information, playing gentle devils advocate, or asking how they might reconcile conclusion A that we made about X with opposite conclusion B that we made about Y - is there an overarching theory or is everything case-by-case?  I'll sometimes 'pick a side'' with something that doesn't have a lot of emotion wrapped up in it - for instance, I'll say that the high-carb diets that were encouraged in the 80s probably didn't, on average, improve health - but even with something like that I'll say that for any given individual their needs might be different.  Mostly, I want students to see that there are several perspectives, not tell them which one to pick.  

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13 hours ago, Plum said:

Can I just tweak this a little? 

I would say that most of us believe today that we will not allow children to grow up exposed to ____________  and ________________. So I would be fine with a teacher undermining the teachings of a __________ parent.

 

I see what you are saying here but there must be some absolutes that we can agree upon as a society. Everyone has a different perspective, of course. But I think there are some minimums that we should be able to agree upon today. I would say that race and gender can be those minimums today everywhere in this country. What does that mean? I know that it's vague. 

Some basics that should be taught to every child in this country that the Civil War was about slavery and that the Confederate states seceded from the Union because of slavery. I understand that today that is a controversial statement and there are probably people on this forum who disagree. I believe the historical evidence supports this. Children should be taught that slavery was bad and was inconsistent with the ideals behind the founding of the United States. They should be taught that slaves were treated cruelly by their masters and wanted to be freed. All American children should learn about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad so they understand that the slaves wanted to be freed. 

The Civil Rights movement should be taught in every school. Children should be taught that Jim Crow laws were inconsistent with the values of the USA. Discussions about inequality should be limited to the southern states. American children should learn about discrimination in the northern states too. 

WRT to gender. American children should be taught that the women were not allowed to vote until the 19th amendment. This should be taught similarly to the way we should teach the Civil Rights movement; that this was inconsistent with the ideals of the USA. They should be taught about the suffragettes and the modern feminist movement. 

I understand that there are loads of value judgments in everything I've written. But history, as taught to children, always includes value judgments. Why do American children learn that the Revolution was legitimate? That's a value judgment but I think most of agree that's how it should be presented to children. 

14 hours ago, square_25 said:

You're right. We don't all fill those in in the same way. There aren't any absolutes. 

This thread is making me pretty sad. I always hope that these conversations are about seeing each other's points of view. I can see why this teacher's stance would make you uncomfortable, because depending on what he said in the classroom, I would also be uncomfortable. But I can also absolutely see this from a teacher's point of view, because I'm sure he's had lots of conversations in his class which, while technically not private or secret, wouldn't have worked with the parents listening in. We all know that kids behave differently with their parents around, and depending on the teacher, I think it's possible for that to be a good experience for the kids. 

I'm finding I have to hedge a lot in this thread, because I can't vouch for him being a reasonable person -- I've never met him. But I would guess that a lot of teachers are thinking what he is, if perhaps about less provocative topics -- how is my class going to work with the parents listening in? What do I do if parents intervene? What do I do if I'm teaching biology and a parent intercedes and argues about evolution? What if I'm teaching history and some parents object to the mention of slavery? What if I'm teaching history, and some parents decide that all this history is whitewashed and that I have to immediately start teaching it from the point of view of the oppressed? 

Can you all see this from a reasonable teacher's point of view? Do you think worrying about parental involvement by definition makes someone an unacceptable teacher? Would you expect most teachers not to feel this way? Is the teacher's perspective something that's fundamentally interesting, or not very? 

I wasn't taught about evolution in school. It was too controversial so they simply skipped over that chapter in the Biology textbook. That's absolutely absurd. 

We can go around and around about the fact that this is a diverse nation and everything is subjective. But again there are some minimums that we must agree upon to be a society. An old Earth and evolution should be taught in the public schools to every child in this country. There is enough scientific consensus about those subjects to have them taught in every school. 

13 hours ago, Plum said:

Too many questions. I can’t answer them all. 

From what I’ve read, he sounds like an awesome teacher. He’s thoughtful and deeply passionate. But it’s not just about this one teacher,, it’s about the thought process behind what he posted and the other teachers that agreed and referred to parents as dangerous. I’m questioning why he thinks parents can’t be trusted to even overhear.

I said before I’m not for censorship. I’m not trying to shut down these conversations. I’m not trying to micromanage teachers. Teachers should be mentors, but they are not confidants, not therapists, not friends, not peers or parents. 

It has become obvious during this pandemic is that the American public schools serve a role that goes well beyond education. I agree that teachers should not be confidants and therapists but some children need someone to play those roles and who else is going to do it?  We know there is a risk of suicide for gay young people. If a gay teenager lives in a home where it is believed that homosexuality is a sin and can be changed through prayer or therapy, is it a good thing for the child to have a place to discuss this with someone outside of the home? 

 

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30 minutes ago, square_25 said:

@Ordinary Shoes — I think one of the concerns with gender conversations is that they’ll veer too much into sexuality/whether gender is biological. And frankly, having watched this, I don’t love where the culture is going with the gender fluidity stuff for teens and young adults, and I’ve certainly thought about what kind of effect this would have on my kids.

However, at the end of the day, this isn’t something I can control, unless I decide to live in a closed religious community. All of these topics are part of the current culture, and kids learn it from peers and not teachers. I would probably be more comfortable if these conversations were happening supervised rather than not, as long as I actually trusted the teacher in question (again, can’t vouch for this specific guy — I don’t know him.)

The problem in many American families is that there are probably no way to have these conversations supervised unless they happened at school. Many families are not equipped or willing to discuss this with their children. 

These are very hard issues. 

I think what it comes down to is the question of who gets to decide what a child is exposed to. Most parents believe they should be the one who gets to decide. Why is that? Many have a religious belief that gives them authority over their children. There is also the assumption that the parents care more for the child than anyone else so will make better decisions than anyone else. 

Then there's also the idea that society has an interest in the well-being of its children too. I think most of us implicitly believe this. This is the justification for mandatory schooling, for example. Or laws against child abuse or neglect. Like I wrote upthread, parents are no longer allowed to opt out of traditional medical care when there is an emergency or serious illness. 

The assumption that parents will make the best decisions for their children because they care about them more than anyone else is probably largely true but never completely true for any family. 

And we also have to consider that when parents make decisions for the best interests of their own children, they might actually be hurting other children. Every few years, some academic will say that we shouldn't read to our kids because it's not fair to other kids. This always ends up getting made of fun on this forum. It's silly but there's something true at the heart of it. Parents individually make bad choices for society as well when they only think of their children's best interest. 

I'm somewhat troubled by the assumption that parents always know best. I know that most parents believe this about themselves. I think that belief is pretty strong on this forum and any homeschooling forum. But it troubles me. Example - I follow a woman on a twitter who is ex-evangelical. She tweeted that we should not evangelize our children because it was disrespectful to them as people. It was universally mocked by many on twitter. It made me think although I don't know where I fall and I definitely "evangelize" my daughter. But again, underlying all of this is the question about who children belong to; their families, society, or themselves? That tension is at the heart of all of the back and forth about teachers usurping parental rights. 

I don't think there is an easy answer and I could be convinced that because society won't do an adequate job that, and children are incapable, then we must fall back on parents having that authority. 

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I just wanted to add a thought to the idea that schools are a good thing for a kid whose home life is less than ideal. That can of course be true and was, to a certain extent, in my own life. In general, it is good for families to be embedded in some kind of larger community that can step in when the parents fail or when children need more mentors as they approach adulthood.

But let's be honest about whether schools, generally, do or even can play that function well: most kids who need one don't find a refuge at school, either. The kids who find help at school are, let's face it, mostly kids like we were - bright girls probably eager for some adult's affirmation and happy to comply with school stuff if we can get it. I was a borderline case for that last characteristic, lol, and my two most beloved teachers let me know it. A classmate of mine who was just as bright and probably far more in need of a refuge than I was but who was less cooperative was expelled. 

Schools only work when students go along with certain behavioral expectations - students who can't do that for whatever reason very rarely get the help they really need from school. For every story about a poor kid with a troubled home life who was "saved" by a wonderful teacher, there are a hundred who weren't. That's why we have the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Edited by LostCove
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4 minutes ago, square_25 said:

my impression was that some schools in poor neighborhoods would barely be recognized as places of education by middle class white people. 

That is correct. But Gatto sees what most middle class white people don't - there is a essential and necessary connection between those schools and middle class white people's schools because they exist together in a compulsory, age-graded schooling system.

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8 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I... see the fact that they exist together. But I don't think the compulsory, age-graded schooling SYSTEM is the problem, unlike Gatto. I think the problem is our societal lack of investment in those communities.

If you require children's attendance at school from the age of 6-16 but don't also provide a school that actually works for them all (and our schools don't work for many white middle class children either, as I believe has been your own experience), then you haven't created an educational system, you've created a sorting mechanism.

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I think the most disconcerting thing for me is the idea that the school is likely to help more students than would be helped by their families, or than it hurts.  I mean, if I'm a nutty person, I only screw up my kids, which is bad.  But, delegating authority to do nutty things without parents knowing gives teachers a chance to muck up the thinking of 100 students a year (not that any particular teacher is nutty, but indeed some are).  And, part of my concern is not that I think I own or control my kids, it's that I want them to think for themselves and the combination of authority figure plus peer pressure may make it harder for them to come to their own conclusion than 'mom thinks this, but I know that others think that'.  As an unimportant example, in high school we read Tess of the D'Urbervilles (which I hated).  Part of the story is that the girl becomes pregnant, and it is somewhat unclear if it is rape or a consensual encounter.  When we read it in high school, the teacher introduced it in a way that clearly indicated that her answer was that it was rape.  Then she asked us to vote, and in a class of 20 only 3 (me and 2 guys) were willing to say publicly that we thought it was consensual.  But, as everybody voted, they were looking around, half-raised hands lowered, etc - I think that peer pressure played a role.  Of course, it doesn't matter much how we perceived a fictional character but I'd imagine that the same effect could be happening in a classroom.  I mean, that's the concern from the teacher - that parents will influence what kids say, but of course there is also the conformity that the other kids will influence what kids say.  It was pretty clear in my classes in high school that in some classes the best grades went to kids who agreed with the teachers, so it's not like these discussions would necessarily be happening in a system where kids would state their true opinions anyway.  

When I have discussions of controversial topics (and, with science ethics, it really isn't clear in many cases what is right or wrong), I make sure to present both sides and devils advocate for both sides, or throw in frequent 'But what if' or 'So if that was extended to' points.  Due to my grading scheme, my students are VERY clear on the fact that I don't care if they agree with me, and often they don't know where I stand (and I've known some of the families for years), because I don't see it as my job to bring them around to a particular viewpoint.  

I also think that when we talk about kids being helped by individual teachers, of course it happens - I know of several examples in the homeschool community where kids ended up getting advice, or even living with, other families that saw a problem and stepped in.  But, when we're talking about ties to hundreds, maybe thousands, of homeschooling kids, and I know of maybe 3 who were involved in situations where others got involved.  Even as somebody who volunteers with populations where I see a lot of need and disfunction, I wouldn't expect individual teachers to have multiple students every year that necessitate 'no parents overhearing' types of conversations - if that is happening, I'd question whether they were outside the bounds of things that teachers should be getting involved in.  

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1 hour ago, square_25 said:

Yes, but not requiring everyone to participate will also serve some people very badly. Or is the argument that since we've washed our hands of it as a society, we aren't responsible for the kids served badly at that point? 

In any case, homeschooling is legal here, so everyone is not in fact required to participate. 

I was homeschooled in NYC through 8th grade, and I'm quite sure the compulsory education laws applied to me then, as they do to my homeschooled children now. I actually kind of enjoyed going into P.S. 87 to take the ITBS at the end of the year. I am grateful that my parents had the resources to legally educate me some place else, though, because at the time, only a third of the students at P.S. 87 were reading at or above grade level.

The argument is John Taylor Gatto's (here are two good ones essays) and it is: compulsory education laws do not produce a better educated citizenry and in fact damage children and their communities. 

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6 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I would guess this is a school with a high low-income population, right? I also wouldn't send my kid to such a school (we're in NYC ourselves), but I would guess you'd be reading at grade level even if you went there. That's sort of what happens with involved parents. 

I went to PS87! But by the time I went there, the school, and the neighborhood in general, were already on the upswing.

 

It's now seen as one of the best elementary schools in NYC and parents fight to get their kids in there (if we are talking about the same place, that is). Times really change 🙂

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29 minutes ago, LostCove said:

The argument is John Taylor Gatto's (here are two good ones essays) and it is: compulsory education laws do not produce a better educated citizenry and in fact damage children and their communities. 

 

For some people in this country, education and access to public education is the only way afforded to move up the economic ladder.  School isn't perfect and neither is homeschooling.  But just like we wouldn't outlaw homeschooling because of a few bad apples, we shouldn't get rid of public education for the same reason.  

Also, Americans fought and some died just to have access to education and because it isn't perfect, its damaging? I truly disagree with Gatto's argument. 

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Just now, Lb20inblue said:

 

For some people in this country, education and access to public education is the only way afforded to move up the economic ladder.  School isn't perfect and neither is homeschooling.  But just like we wouldn't outlaw homeschooling because of a few bad apples, we shouldn't get rid of public education for the same reason.  

Also, Americans fought and some died just to have access to education and because it isn't perfect, its damaging? I truly disagree with Gatto's argument. 

Public education pre-existed compulsory education laws and can still exist after them! 

6 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I went to PS87! But by the time I went there, the school, and the neighborhood in general, were already on the upswing.

 

It's now seen as one of the best elementary schools in NYC and parents fight to get their kids in there (if we are talking about the same place, that is). Times really change 🙂

It sounds like we are! And now I feel old, thanks! 😂

Anyway, unless someone can explain to me why it is okay to require children to attend schools that have no intention of educating them and will in fact put many of them on the path to prison, I need get out of this thread and go do some read alouds. 

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@LoveCove, I fully believe that we can and should reform the educational system in america,  because as we see with what is going on with the pandemic, what ever we are doing isn't working.  This includes getting rid of the school to prison pipeline and at the same time, removing social services from the schools and placing them in other public institutions, like libraries (I love libraries and I think it have the capacity to take on the some of the roles we place on schools).   

Appreciating Gatto is fine but I believe that homeschooling, as it exist in the U.S, is not feasible or recommendable for the vast majority of children.  As a society, we do not provide the appropriate safety nets and access to foundational needs for caregivers to even take homeschooling as an option.  Even in my life, I've been homeschooling part-time for the past six years and understand that the highly rated public schools do a much better job teaching certain subjects and vice versa.   I think a partnership is what could work for many.   I just wish there were more to speak about reform and partnership, not one option is absolutely the best. 

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4 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Because otherwise we may wind up requiring them to take care of their siblings or go to work with their parents, who cannot afford to stay home with them to teach them. At least in school, they may luck out and get a good teacher. And it's easier to reform schools than it is to fix people's parents. 


BTDT. Pre-child labor laws, we did that too. It didn’t end well. The reforms that brought us compulsory education gave kids something to do other than adult labor on the cheap. Of course, there are those who see exploitative employers as the only worthy entities on earth outside the church so maybe this is, indeed, our future...again. 

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47 minutes ago, LostCove said:

Public education pre-existed compulsory education laws and can still exist after them! 

It sounds like we are! And now I feel old, thanks! 😂

Anyway, unless someone can explain to me why it is okay to require children to attend schools that have no intention of educating them and will in fact put many of them on the path to prison, I need get out of this thread and go do some read alouds. 

New York is like that, right? It changes so fast. I feel old every time I go anywhere : )

If you ever have time, I would love to hear about your experiences of being home schooled here.

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Just now, square_25 said:

I don't think 16 year olds are precisely children, and I don't think a classroom counts as being in private. 

I feel like a broken record. Yes, that is exactly the sort of thing Catholic parents said. The boys weren't children, they were teenagers. It was just talk. Father / deacon / the teacher was just having a conversation. 

You know, sometimes I think, If only I could step in a time machine and show Catholic parents the findings of police departments across the US and other countries after thorough investigations of Catholic dioceses. But it wouldn't do any good, would it? Did you read the same words that I did, about parents interfering with conversations about sexuality? About "what happens here, stays here"? Do you understand how that's worse when said in front of peers: so the child, sorry teenager, thinks "If I say anything, the whole class will come down on me"?

Square, I knew one of the priests who showed up in the Pennsylvania report. He was great with teenagers. He was super-conservative, talked to the kids on their own level, but taught only orthodox Catholic teachings when he had those frank discussions about sexuality. Oh and he showed porn to a teenage girl -- but she was seventeen, so that was okay, wasn't it? -- even though she apparently had a bad home situation and was vulnerable -- and while the classroom wasn't private, his hotel room on the class trip where they eventually had sex was private. 

You're complaining that you're not going to convince anyone. Damn right. But it kills me that everyone is ready to heap insult on the Catholic Church for sexual abuse of minors, yet keep on doing the things that led to that abuse.

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42 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

Public education pre-compulsory education laws and funding looked like it does in most of the third world, pay to play and primarily for boys. I don’t aspire to that.

This is not accurate. The 19th century saw the feminization of the teaching profession in the U.S, and public education was no more "pay to play" than it is today, when you have to live in a "good" neighborhood to have access to a "good" public school.

24 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Here, a quote from Middlemarch to demonstrate how this can go for the less educated amongst us: 

This is a novel, and also it's about England? Have you read any scholarship about the history of American education?

26 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Because otherwise we may wind up requiring them to take care of their siblings or go to work with their parents, who cannot afford to stay home with them to teach them. At least in school, they may luck out and get a good teacher. And it's easier to reform schools than it is to fix people's parents. 

But I thought uninvolved, unsupportive parents were the reason those schools were so bad? Can you "fix" the schools without "fixing" the parents?  This kid is probably going to want to "luck out" a few times, since he will be in school for 13 years.

Things I have not said in this thread and do not believe: Homeschooling is the best educational option. There should be no public education. 

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