For several years I worked with a tenured high school English colleague in a conservative California district who constantly pushed the limits of academic freedom by bringing in novels for his students to read and discuss in place of the adopted curriculum. Even though utilizing non-adopted texts was against school board policy and community standards, he nevertheless specifically chose to use them in his classroom in order to further his own personal agenda of getting the students to openly discuss such personal and moral issues such as gender identification, homosexuality, transgenderism, and every other -ism du jour you can think of. More often than not there would be backlash which continually confused him as to why. Even when he came to me to get my opinion as the school counselor/lead teacher/special education teacher, he still wouldn’t “get it” when I advised him that public school curriculum is not supposed to be a free-for-all to push our own agendas just because popular thought says we can. I repeatedly advised him if he was so determined to buck the system, he needed to leave public education if he wanted to teach his own thing. Parents were up in arms when their kids went home talking about what he was making them read, and they in turn came to me to complain. I always told them if they didn’t like what was going on in their kids’ classrooms, show up at the board meetings to voice their concerns and protest. They rarely if ever did. They wanted ME to “do something.” I told them it wasn’t in my power to do so. And so the controversy continued.
I share this because once again there are state curriculum adoptions on the table that want parents to allow their children to be taught about sexual identity themes in the classrooms. As a public school educator for 25 years, I can assure you that not every teacher is in agreement with these adoption proposals nor do they all wish to teach such liberal themes to their students as energetically as my colleague does. However, teachers who oppose adopting such curriculum are often afraid of speaking up against these adoptions for fear of losing their jobs, while parents are afraid that their children will be negatively targeted by school staff for speaking out against the proposals. Such fear should not be allowed to continue in a country where freedom of speech is constitutionally protected, and where protecting our children from exposure to questionable morals of thinking is part and parcel of every responsible parent’s rights.
In every district, the propose-to-adopt curriculum is always made available for staff, parents, and community members to peruse AND ADDRESS before it’s actually adopted. In my experience, rarely if ever does anybody take advantage of this eye-opening opportunity, and so we fume about our opposition to such curriculum either in silence or openly on social media while our children suffer in public school classrooms where others’ freewheeling opinions are liberally loaded up on the plates of their education. So here I say, if educators, parents and/or community members don’t like what is being taught, then SPEAK UP! Complaining over the back fence or at the local coffee shop or on social media won’t change anything to protect our children. Public education is just that — “public” — and when the voice of one radical or even several radicals is all that is being heard then God help our babies who are exposed to them! Remember, the only way evil prevails is when good people sit back and do nothing.
Sara Gaston, M.Ed., EdS, M.Ed.