Monday, May 3, 2010

How Much Of A Child’s Growth Should Be Left To Teachers?

As a parent, I am confronted with a question that is difficult to answer and hard to define, but easy to ask: how much responsibility for shaping my child's beliefs to I entrust to her school? The easy answer is, "none". Easy but not realistic. My child's outlook on everything from what clothes to wear to which music she listens to her personal morals and politics are being (and will continue to be) shaped by influences other than dear old dad. Teachers play a vital role in shaping how kids view learning, social interactions, and authority figures. And while I may be a fiscal conservative who leans left socially and tries to teach my daughter the vast superiority of The Clash to Demi Lovato, it isn't only my vision of the world she's going to see. I don't subscribe to the book of parenting that stresses controlling every facet of a child's life.

That said, where to draw the line? When has a teacher gone too far, necessitating my stepping in and reasserting my worldview on my daughter? Well in some cases it's easy. Take for example this bit of teacher-as-indoctrinator from Texas. Barbara Geerdes used the following descriptions to impart her definitions of "Liberal" and "Conservative" to her AP government class:
Liberals generally approach human nature with a great deal of optimism. They think people are basically good, and though individuals are born ignorant they are not evil. Most liberals do not believe in original sin and as a consequence they feel people can be improved by education and knowledge. If you give people opportunities to better themselves they will usually take advantage of them and improve. Liberals also favor rapid movement toward constitutional or democratic forms of government because of their great confidence in the ability of the enlightened citizen to make wise and prudent choices at the ballot box.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have a more pessimistic view of human nature. Because they believe people have been tainted by original sin or are otherwise flawed, they expect less of people. They are more reluctant to provide welfare programs such as aid to dependent children or unemployment compensation, because they do not think it will be used properly, and in fact think it will cause additional problems as the weaker tendencies of human nature will be reinforced. Liberals welcome reforms becuase they feel that human history is one of continual progress a people inform and improve themselves. Conservatives are distrustful of average citizen's ability to direct a government, even only indirectly as i na representative democracy such as the United States.
(read the whole handout here and here) Setting aside the poor grammar and lack of understanding in how to use commas, this is an easily identifiable case where I would be the first to contact the teacher and the school to register my belief that a line had been crossed. I'm not sure if the teacher wrote this herself or copied it from Daily Kos, Democratic Underground or some other such place. It clearly goes over the line as far as indoctrination.

More murky however is the subtle indoctrination into the cult of Mother Earth. I've noticed that many activities my daughter's current school hold involve some tie to "Saving the Earth". Recycling drives, plays with an environmental theme. Activities centered around Earth Day. Hey, don't get me wrong. Recycling is great. I do it myself, from the obvious aluminum and paper to the less-clearly-beneficial glass and plastics. I don't mind a teacher telling her students about the benefits of it, or even championing it. But when my daughter is told in school that the Earth is "our Mother" I start to get leery. I haven't said anything to her school or her teacher; I don't think it's at that point yet. My daughter hasn't started telling me to get rid of my pickup or to boycott BP yet.

All of it plays into the general insecurity I think all parents feel; am I teaching my child everything she needs to know? Am I protecting her from bad teachers? Is she going to have my values when she grows up, and, if not, is it because I didn't do enough to instill them in her? It's enough to drive you crazy until you realize that all you can do is all you can do. I have to have faith that she is going to grow up smart and adopt the values that she knows are right while discarding the rest. She's bound to make mistakes along the way; believe propaganda rather than embrace facts on a topic near to her heart. All I can do is hope that she develops the wisdom to recognize those situations and the fortitude to correct them.

(Crossposted from Say Anything)

No comments:

Post a Comment