On January 10, 2023, a school board in Pennsylvania adopted a "controversial policy" that will "prohibit employees of the district from advocating for or displaying items that reflect partisan, political or social policy agendas."
This is a paraphrase of the lede from the story below.
The story links to the actual text of the three-page policy. So will I.
It's rare in our litigious times to find any policy written and passed by any taxpayer-funded entity to be succinct and concise... and common sense.
And yet, this policy is "controversial." (All quotes below are from the post above by David Kostival at WMFZ.)
Prior to the vote, the board spent two hours listening to more than 30 students, teachers and community members, who represented an already divided community.
Good. Their voices should have been heard. This is how democracy should work. Discuss then vote.
The Central Bucks School District has been a center of controversy over the past year because of direction from the administration to ban pride flags in the classroom.
Many who spoke against the policy on Tuesday were representing LGBTQ students, and suggested the policy marginalizes students who identify as such.
So this is why the policy is "controversial."
Representatives of LGBTQ students "suggest" the policy will "marginalize" students who identify as such.
And yet, the purpose of the policy, as stated in the purpose of the policy is to create an "atmosphere of inclusiveness."
Neutrality and balance in classroom instruction are desired in order to create an optimal learning environment and atmosphere of inclusiveness, where all students are welcome. Because views and beliefs about partisan, political, or social policy matters are often deeply personal, employees should not, during assigned work hours, advocate to students concerning their views or beliefs on these matters. Such advocacy does not contribute to a positive learning climate and may be disruptive, divisive, and distracting. Rather, classroom instruction should relate to approved curriculum.
To be clear, the policy is prohibiting employees of the school district from advocating to students their personal views or beliefs about policy matters that are "partisan, political, or social."
The school board does list a series of minor exemptions from the prohibition.
Of course, instruction on controversial issues can still take place. However, the instructor cannot inject their personal position on the issue.
Also, displaying the American flag, the Pennsylvania state flag or flags of the various branches of the military are allowed. As well, displaying foreign flags is acceptable when social studies or foreign languages are taught and are relevant.
The crux of the policy's argument is found in the final sentence of the "Purpose" section.
The district’s role is to teach students how to think, not what to think, thereby keeping classrooms as places of education, not indoctrination.
The policy is one of those strange outcomes where one group advocates against it and yet benefits in its passing.
No teacher, principal or superintendent in their right mind would advocate against the LGBTQ community as it would be a violation of the policy. Furthermore, it's doubtful an instructor will be marching into a classroom wearing a certain red baseball cap with a certain phrase embroidered across the front. Or waving the flag of a political party or movement.
Because if that did occur, one would certainly hear about it within minutes via social media and then other media outlets. And then there would be the subsequent discussion of the "micro-aggression" and the harm caused. This would lead to disciplinary action of the instructor or a lawsuit against the school district.
77% of the property tax I pay goes toward funding local public education. Based on what I have seen, that allocation is worth every penny.
The Central Bucks School District isn't banning anything except advocacy in a taxpayer-funded educational entity.
Put simply, I don't want my taxes to fund any political, social, or partisan position... whether it be from "The Left," "The Right," "The Center" or Mars.
Still, questions linger regarding The Central Bucks School District's "Partisan, Political, or Social Policy Advocacy Activities" policy.
If violated, who will determine if the act was, in fact, a violation? Yes, there are criteria contained in the policy. But we all know there could be those who come very close to the line... and even touch it... and then claim no violation occurred. What is due process for a matter like this?
If a violation is determined to have happened, what are the consequences? Because the policy does not mention any. Perhaps that is outlined elsewhere. If so, there are no references to that document. After all, if one violates a law, shouldn't the consequences of such act be clearly defined?
This isn't a "Left" or "Right" issue. It's an issue of role and responsibility. Teachers, principals, superintendents and other school system employees are in positions of influence and power over their students. To allow them to advocate on partisan, political or social issues instead of teaching facts is inappropriate and unconscionable.
Let students take their time to develop and form their own opinions based on an education founded on teaching them to think instead of coercing them into drowning in the tsunami of propagandist swill crashing into them on a daily basis.
The kids will be all right.
If we teach them to think.