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Thursday, February 2, 2023

“It Isn’t Fair!” Why Can’t We Say So?

When I was young, that was every kid’s natural objection, almost an automatic response, when given an unpleasant task or punishment. Clearing the ground of rotten apples that had fallen from the trees was a particularly loathsome seasonal chore in our household. Why should the kids have to perform that disgusting job? Not fair! As for punishment, rarely were we “grounded” (though our friends were, often), because our father and mother, knowing what a pack of little readers they were raising (those apples didn’t fall far from the trees, either!) knew that the loss of library privileges would be a far greater punishment than having to stay home (with books to read!). Forbid us the library? So unfair!


As we got older, we learned to distinguish the difference between being unhappy and being treated unfairly. More than that, we learned to recognize when other people were being treated unfairly. That was a huge step.


I’ve been looking into the question of values teaching in public education, apparently a battleground in the present-day United States. Those opposed to the teaching of values usually point to “liberal” values and call such teaching “indoctrination.” One site I looked at, under the heading “Public Schools Shouldn’t Be Teaching ‘Values,’” objected to students being taught “tolerance, egalitarianism, diversity, and globalism.” The author of the piece thinks this teaching has no place in American public school classrooms. 


I understand keeping values specific to a particular religion out of the classroom. There are Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Amish schools, etc. for parents who want their children taught only within the strictures of the family’s religion. As for “moral values” in general, though? I admit I am confused. 


What does even mean to teach “globalism”? I have no idea. As for tolerance, egalitarianism, and diversity, those look to me like bedrock American values – honored more in the breach than in practice, perhaps, but certainly part of our country’s ideals. At least, so I was taught by my conservative, Republican, Lutheran parents.


Another site I looked at, “Education on moral values a must for school children,” cites the following as values needing to be taught in school: “truthfulness, honesty, charity, hospitality, tolerance, love, kindness and sympathy.” Kindergartners learn to share. They are taught to take turns. They are told that it is wrong and against the rules to hit each other. These are moral values, and a classroom without such values would be absolute chaos. It is impossible to teach if students have tacit permission to cheat, lie, bully, steal, etc. “Neutrality” on these questions has no place in a classroom.


(Some people say schools only have to teach values because parents have not done so. That’s bullshit. Parents and schools have an obligation to children to teach them right from wrong. It is the job of adults to be responsible for children in their care, and that means teaching right from wrong. Some parents will fall down on the job, as will some teachers. All the more reason for building redundancy into education.)


Now in more than one state there are moves to require, by law,“neutrality” when teaching historical subjects such as slavery in America and the WWII holocaust of Jews in Europe. Neutrality???Opposing views??? We are supposed to tell students that bullying is wrong but then cannot tell them that human trafficking and genocide are wrong? Refrain from judgment??? Neutrality on the buying and selling and robbing and killing of other human beings, treating them worse than we treat livestock??? 


That one state governor calling himself “conservative” can deny college credit for an AP class carefully put together and implemented across the nation is appalling. 

If this is what American “conservatism” has come to, it deserves to wither away.


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