When the new year started, we stated we would be keeping an eye on what was happening in our schools as that was an area that has increasingly become ground zero for some of the most polarizing issues in the U.S.
In New Jersey over the last year and a half that really started with Jack Citarelli’s unsuccessful campaign for governor, the issue of parental rights and school curriculum. The issues that have emerged as a dividing line in many communities—most notably sex education and diversity—started during the pandemic with the murder of George Floyd, moved to school mask mandates and exploded with protests against new sex education standards.
Republicans, both locally and nationally, have made parental rights a central tenet of their campaigns. Just look at BettyLou DeCroce’s formal statement joining the race to be the GOP nominee in the 26th Legislative District to win back her seat she lost two years ago.
DeCroce, who most would consider a moderate Republican in her party’s current state, listed parental rights in children’s education as one of her top priorities and said “our children should graduate school with marketable skills in a competitive global environment, not with mastery of the woke agenda.”
We are always puzzled about the definition of a woke agenda and the use of words such as indoctrination that quickly follow it. Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL), a lawmaker with Presidential aspirations who has driven the conversation on the subject nationally, defined woke in his Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act as actions stemming from critical race theory that he says has created a hostile work environment in large corporations that forces employees to “endure” diversity training as well as alleged critical race theory teachings in schools.
As a result, Florida teachers are no longer allowed to teach a new Advanced Placement course on African American Studies because it included the study of “queer theory” and political movements that advocated for “abolishing prisons.”
“That’s a political agenda,” DeSantis said. “That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them when you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory…you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”
For those who say that this type of pressure on schools can not happen in North Jersey, we bring you the case in Sparta where three faculty members who worked on student initiatives that advocated for race, sexuality and gender equality have left the district, in no short order due to school board members who were recently elected on a platform of being anti-woke.
What we want is for everyone to take a step back and really think about what they want from a public education, what is actually happening at schools and for those elected to oversee it.
We stress that asking questions and demanding answers of what is being taught to our daughters and sons is healthy in our democracy. Everyone has a favorite teacher or coach that shaped their life in making them the adult they are today; some are confidants and mentors that we lean on to this day. But we are reaching a point where we are driving out these same good people out who have an enormous impact on our children in an industry that is short handed to begin with.
School administrators do have a burden of proof that must be reached and a responsibility that is two fold—giving the best education to our children and explaining to parents why these education choices are made.
Our public educational system needs to go past the simplistic three R’s. Critical thinking is now more crucial than ever as information is everywhere—and increasingly biased and sometimes just flat a lie. Students have more access to information with the phone in the palm of their hand then the libraries of a generation ago, giving them much deeper and broader research opportunities that give greater context to such issues as slavery, sexual identity, and how America was discovered then encyclopedias of years gone by.
Times have changed and the way and what children are taught should change as well.
But there is truly a middle ground for those who want to get there—and make no mistake, there are those who do not. We do not have to ban books but parents should know what is available to their children and ask why they are reading about subjects such as sexual identity.
Teachers should be given the latitude to go past the basics to take a broader look at all members of our society. We as a nation should want our educational system to push past just memorization and more toward the ability to think and question what we have learned, especially in increasingly complex personal subjects.
What we should not be afraid of and attempt to stop is where those teachings take our sons and daughters. Parents should shepherd them and impart their own family morals while respecting those that run counter to that.
What we are missing most in these debates is one of the early lessons that we all learned in school: listening. Because without listening to the other side, we will never find a middle ground.
Reading, writing and arithmetic…literature, composition mathematics and science are the basics for our children to succeed in the world-wide economy. Woke social “skills” will have our nation falling behind totalitarian and Marxist nations, that will swallow up our woke country.
American students perform very poorly overall. Whether compared to foreign students or to American students of generations ago. The situation has become very bad. The evidence of this decline includes not only results on a variety of tests but also first-hand observations.
Parents to send their children to school with instructions to respect and obey their teachers may be surprised to discover how often these children are sent back home conditioned to disrespect and disobey the parents.
While psychological conditioning programs may not succeed, they may confuse children who receive very different moral and social messages from school and home.
Too many Americans schools are turning out students who are not only intellectually incompetent but also morally confused emotionally alienated and socially maladjusted.
The solution of course is to get government out of education completely. Or to pair back the role of the school to simply teaching basic skills. There is no role for government taxpayer funded education in teaching sexual education, health or any other of these soft topics.
As an Indigenous person I cannot understand what people mean by “woke” I have heard a plethora of “definitions” from anything making white children feel bad to nothing that makes America look bad to excluding large parts of history on America just because it’s ugly or not “perfect”. I would explain that American History starts with the myth that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America was a falsehood as there were close to 500+ tribes already existing in what became renamed America and people would get very upset but in time Truth bore out my premise and fact. The history of this most unexpected experiment into creating a Republic founded on Democracy is a marvel and quite a feat, but yes there is a BUT, Americans can never ignore the stain of genocide of the Indigenous people the shadow and effects of slavery denial of rights to women and many more faltering steps that still trip us up in the larger conversation of, how, is America defined? Who defines America and more importantly What defines an American? Can people really think that there is no reason to explore these and other fundamental questions of the American identity? If “politicians” actually considered why they are and where they are other than their lust for control/power maybe they could be leaders rather than the sheep following the Piep Pipers of Ignorance. As Jimi Hendrix once said, ““When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
The word “Woke” is terribly overused in today’s culture wars. When Giuliani ran for President in 2008, the joke was that every campaign speech was a Noun, a verb and 9/11. What we are going to see among many politicians is a Noun, a Verb and “Woke”.
The best solution is to get government (all levels) out of the business of providing education since, by definition, ALL government actions and decisions are based on politics. In addition, government doesn’t have any special skill or expertise in providing education, unlike with respect to military or police activity, so we does government need to be involved?
What government does best is raise lots of money through its monopoly power to raise taxes but it doesn’t usually spend it well. So, government should raise all the money needed to provide children with a good basic education, starting with the Three Rs and subjects that teach thinking. And then give the money to parents in the form a voucher that can be “spent” at any accredited school (accredited meaning a safe physical plant, a good level or equipment and facilities, accredited teachers and teaching to a basic curriculum). The school could be the existing “public” school which has been “privatized” or any other accredited school. If enough parents want a “woke” curriculum, there will be a school that teaches it. If parents want a “traditional” education fro their children, there will be a school that teaches it. Simple.
I think the biggest falsehood and shame on articles like this for perpetrating it, is that this is a Republican thing. It’s not, it’s bi-partisan. The majority of parents I encounter, from both main political parties, do not want gender diversity taught to grade school children. Nobody is saying to alienate the few kids that fall in that spectrum. Everybody should be accepting regardless of beliefs or feelings. However, it should not be a crux of the curriculum. I have a middle schooler who doesn’t have to read any of the books we read by the time we were his age (Catcher in the Rye, Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, The Pearl, etc.). They don’t encourage reading. They’d rather focus on diversity audits than making sure every child can read a novel on their own.
Where in the U.S. Constitution does it empower the Federal Government to meddle in education? The federal Dept. of “Education” should be immediately abolished, its funding returned to the States, and the States can decide how to run their educational systems. “Woke” states can have their woke programs; sane states can return to a classical educational program (which is what built Western Civilization and the technological advancements that we enjoy today).
We should ALL be viewing The 1619 Project on Hulu. What an eye opener.
I see no issue’s here, if’n Parent’s are given their Inalienable Rites & have such authorities to make Changes in those school’s in their community’s!! Especially when that school’s interest’s conflict with that of the Parent’s belief’s!! After all; It’s those Parent’s whom PAY for’n their School’s, the Teacher’s & those Un-needed usurper’s on the Board of Ed.’s!! The Parent’s have Rites Too!! AND; They just mite withhold their Taxes, leaving school’s strapped to teach empty class rooms.. This is More of having the Freedom’s of Choice & not have unwanted criteria’s shoveled & forced on the Student’s & their Parent’s; Amen!!//
I can’t debate the value of what’s called “the Woke agenda” because it’s unclear to me what that phrase refers to except in a very general way.
I certainly approve of parental involvement in what is taught in public schools, but primarily in their identity as citizens rather than as parents. One of the functions of schooling, in addition to the acquisition of basic skills and habits that are necessary for successful and fulfilling lives as workers and adult human beings, is to prepare our young for citizenship. This is a fundamental requirement of schooling in a democratic republic is how we achieve and maintain a government with “the just consent of the governed.”
If young people are teased or bullied because their personal identity is outside the norm, it is incumbent upon the supervising adults to intervene and to help all students to treat all people with respect and dignity. If the problem of disrespect is widespread, then strong measures are required.