Teachers are under attack

There is a double-edged sword in place. It is set neatly on a desk between a laptop and a curriculum planner, and it is sharply piercing the person sitting on a rolling chair, preparing for a lesson curated for students to learn and engage.  The sword’s two sides are distinct: one blade is pure plastic—a child’s toy that swings with no weight, yet the other is metal and sharp. Do words hold merit? And if so, is it keenly sharp? Or is it a plastic reality that is only for one’s amusement while creating comments behind the silver screen of Facebook?  

Teachers are enduring the penetrating force of politics and the snide remarks about simply being educators of the new generation in the classroom. There is a fear-mongering, apocalyptic group plaguing every corner, distressing educator after educator, causing some, unfortunately, to quit their passion for sharing valuable information with a group of children one step away from entering a new world.  The blade, in this case, is piercing, dangerous, and never-ending. Politicians and angry parents state that teachers cannot be trusted and are on a cryptic ploy to “indoctrinate” students. Yet, the question is quite plain and straightforward: why is this the new cause for concern?  One of the most overworked, underpaid vocations in the United States is susceptible to the most malicious attacks, and the respect is simply depleting ever since COVID-19 shut down the classroom. 

Ms. Scott, a teacher, shares her experiences with parents in the district and her recent years of teaching that shaped her viewpoints.

“Yes, parents have affected my teaching. The past two years have been the hardest years of my career, and at times, there were parents and community members who definitely did not make it easier.  Honestly, the criticism and outrage of a small group of our community who constantly spoke out about curriculum with untrue claims and little knowledge of what is being taught in the classroom were one of the reasons I left my profession after last year. There were many reasons, but I have to be honest and say that the anxiety and anger that I brought home after seeing these protesters or having to defend what I teach time and time again made my job immensely harder.  Granted, I had an abundance of parents who were, and continue to be, extremely supportive,” Scott said.

In 2021, the Oklahoma State Department of Education reviewed and adopted the controversial CRT law passed under Governor Stitt’s administration. The law permanently bans discussions of critical race theory in the classroom and disallows the consideration of one race or sex being superior to the other.  The implemented law is seemingly understandable; it remarks that racial or sexual prejudice is rejected in the classroom, allowing students to feel equal. Yet, the law is becoming a breeding ground for misinterpretation and shockvertising on what educators teach their students. Is learning about civil rights and slavery considered CRT? Or are the Stonewall Riots too radical to be taught in history class?  

Saying there are no extreme teachers enforcing their ideology down students’ throats is untrue.  Rarely, certain teachers are unsuitable for unbiased teaching; however, not every teacher is regurgitating political statements to children and teenagers—one story of an incident does not mean all educators are in that pursuit. Mostly, teachers follow a curriculum and hope students pay attention to their lectures; conversely, teaching is becoming increasingly difficult. 

Ryan Walters, the newly-elected Oklahoma State Superintendent, is vocal about his ideologies while speaking directly to his camera in his car.  These videos are on Instagram or TikTok for his followers to see.  Walters’ stance is clear: he is highly partisan in the role of education and says, “Our biggest issue is getting left-wing indoctrination out of the classroom, empowering parents to have more school choice, and ensuring that the best and the brightest teachers are rewarded and empowered to be successful.

With public schools seemingly implementing “left-wing indoctrination,” noted by various news sources which lean heavily conservative, parents and politicians are allying into removing or banning books; educational novels are now (after years of teaching these books) seemingly problematic and promote “agendas” because they graze over poverty, sexual assault, or racism.  However, what is ironic about this topic is that teachers give syllabi that outline the novels students will be reading throughout the year; there is even a choice for parents to opt their children out of reading an assigned book. Therefore, why are these protesting parents trying to align their strict beliefs when there are copious ways to solve the problem? 

Now, with parents becoming petrified over their children’s education, school board meetings across the country are used as a vocal uproar to alert other parents or as a political breeding ground for issues that do not directly pertain to education.  

“Obviously, any parent is entitled to attend and speak at a board meeting.  However, the school board has many issues to consider and do quite a lot of work outside those meetings.  If parents choose a meeting as a platform to interfere with that, it takes time and attention away from more important matters.  Also, as we have seen across the country, school board meetings are growing more and more contentious with many parents and community members using these meetings as rallies to voice concerns, which ultimately leads to fear-mongering,” Scott said.

Teachers throughout the district, as well as the country, are working under precarious conditions each and every day. Therefore, respect for educators needs solidification, or fear-mongering and hate will continuously grow.  Creating an accepting, warm environment within a classroom is not a political agenda, nor should that ever be the case to voice outrage over people shaping a generation for the future.  

For comments, questions, or concerns contact Anneliese Hilst at [email protected]