Trust schools to follow state's curriculum
In the past few months parents have been parading to school board meetings to complain about the materials being taught in their children's schools.
Parental concern about what is being taught to their children is as old as public education. Of course parents have a vested interest in the quality and content of classroom instruction.
They should be rightly concerned, for example, if their high school registers consistently poor SAT scores, fails to offer electives such as foreign language instruction, or lacks sufficient support personnel, such as guidance counselors.
But these latest complaints do not seem to relate to the quality of education so much as some phantom sense that their children's teachers are propagandists.
These parents don't like the way history is being taught, for example, fearing it does not sufficiently tout American exceptionalism. Or they find books on class lists that address slavery, transgender rights or abortion.
In their quest to root out suspected brainwashing, they file public records requests or demand the release of curriculum plans. Words like "Black Lives Matter" or references to the New York Times' 1619 project on slavery in America become red flags to parents who have been told that schools are pushing critical race theory.
They think if they just dig deep enough, the secret evidence will emerge.
A request played out at a recent Norwich Board of Education meeting, when board member Heather Fowler inquired about curriculum, saying, "There's things being taught that we're not aware of, or feel that shouldn't be taught."
Fowler offered no evidence to support this claim, but if she hoped that resistance to her request would prove her point, she must have been disappointed. Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow pointed out that the district does have a curriculum committee to hear parental complaints, and the school curriculum can be found online.
In fact, never before in the history of this country has school curriculum been this transparent. The state Common Core standards that schools abide by are also online, as are individual grade plans.
Thirty years ago, parents indeed would have had to request paper copies of such materials, if they were available at all.
So why do parents think schools are hiding something?
Simply because that's a line they are being fed by think tanks and pundits. The Federalist posted an article in 2020 titled "Why Public Schools Are So Likely To Teach Leftist Propaganda."
Among its assertions: that "most public schools in both red and blue states routinely use left-leaning or 'woke' materials while quietly doing away with older materials that encourage American patriotism, Western civilization, and Judeo-Christian values."
If schools are "quietly doing away with older materials," good for them. Schools should not be using old textbooks that have not kept up with current scholarship, whether it be for math instruction or the history of the Civil War.
What's really at issue here is the purpose of education. Is it the schools' job to turn out patriots, or graduates with the critical skills to participate in a democracy?
Should schools renounce nearly two centuries of scientific thought regarding evolution because some people don't believe it?
If parents do object to any material that is being taught, they have options. They can request that their child not be allowed to take a book out of the library or be excused from a lesson or class that the parents find objectionable.
In extreme cases, parents sometimes opt for home-schooling as the best option to ensure that their religious and political values are being honored.
What they shouldn't be able to do, however, is dictate the resources and lessons available to all students because of their personal objections. That smacks of the communist witch hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, not the educational reforms of John Dewey.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.