Remember Peter Meijer (pronounced MY-er, national news jockeys)?
He was the freshman Congressman from Western Michigan with the golden name and the conscience—the one who voted to impeach Trump, post-January 6, as a freshman in the House of Representatives. I say he was a congressman, because he was primaried in August.
The guy who’s running on the Republican ticket in Meijer’s former western Michigan district, John Gibbs, recently said this:
Folks, did you ever think that one day in America, we’d have to worry about schools putting obscene books in their libraries? This is simply insane–we must stop the madness. Voters overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in public school libraries.
Well—folks. I’m not worried about obscene or sexually explicit books in public school libraries. Because there is no madness, no insanity, no pornography in school libraries.
Teachers and school leaders also overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in school libraries. The word we use is ‘inappropriate’—materials are selected by trained school media specialists, who know inappropriate when they see it.
The entire slate of MI Republicans running for statewide or national office, not just Gibbs, is hell-bent on insisting that schools have become (in the past two years) hotbeds of sexual orientation and gender identity transformation, not to mention racial tension and guilt-inducement. They are led in this effort by the Republican candidate for Governor, Tudor Dixon.
What Tudor wants to accomplish is very simple and common sense. She wants to get radical sex and gender theory out of our schools, remove classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity for grades K-3, make sure gender specific sports remain gender specific given biological differences in boys vs. girls and post all curriculum online for parents to see and be involved in their child’s education. Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it.
So let’s break this down.
Radical sex and gender theory? (Not a part of the curriculum in any school I’ve been in.)
Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for the littles? (Likewise—nope, nope.)
Gender specific sports? (The Michigan High School Athletic Association has a policy adopted in 2012 that determines post-season tournament eligibility for transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis. The group received and approved 10 applications in the past five years—so this is hardly a burning statewide issue.)
Post all curriculum online? (Sure. Most districts post their standards framework—what gets taught, when– and public high schools in Michigan have adapted the Michigan Merit Curriculum.)
Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it. (Right out of the Glenn Youngkin playbook, a statement like this, which is mostly true, really resonates.)
But here’s the truth (from 32 years of classroom experience): What bubbles up in classroom discussions and playgrounds is what’s on the minds of the kids in that classroom. This starts early, in Tudor Dixon’s forbidden zone, grades K-3—like this story about the boy who chose a ‘Frozen’ backpack.
Kids are curious and they’re paying attention to what their parents and their screens (and their friends, and their older siblings) are telling them. I taught music and math, two subjects you’d think were pretty straightforward and controversy-free, but can testify that anytime you get a cluster of kids together, provocative issues emerge.
When politicians say ‘post curriculum online’ and ‘parents should be in charge’ they’re missing the reality of classroom instruction: It’s universally messy and unpredictable, even when it’s highly effective and led by expert teachers. You just don’t know what ideas kids will bring to the classroom.
I think what Dixon wants is to catch teachers talking about Forbidden Subjects raised by students, encouraging parents to be alarmed and dissatisfied. Her campaign is unable to flesh out her policies, however—this article is well worth the read, for examples.
Parents absolutely have the right to have input into their child’s public education—but not the education of all children in that school. As a music teacher, parent control over curriculum is particularly challenging during the December holidays. But all teachers, school leaders and school board members have dealt with decision-making around curriculum, instruction and assessment. It’s our job.
To suggest that parents are shut out, or have no say, is just not true. To construct legislation designed to thwart ‘forbidden’ subjects and practices is 100% political, and often funded by outsider groups. Because the reality, in poll after poll after poll, is that public school parents are generally satisfied with their children’s schools.
Personally, I have observed parents protest any number of school policies at local school board meetings. Perennially dicey topics? Sex education. ‘New’ math (defined, roughly, as a math program that parents find different from the math program they had in school). Pay-to-play sports (anything about sports will draw a crowd, actually). Your district may vary.
So what do parents really want? Here’s my unscientific, no-data-just-observation take:
- A basic education—reading, writing, math, science, civics—that pushes children to learn essential skills for living and working in a democracy.
- Teachers and school employees who understand and care about their child.
- Childcare—a nurturing place for their kids to be while parents have other responsibilities.
- A decrease in the emphasis on data and competition engendered by annual standardized testing.
- Safety—healthy practices, secure premises.
- A measure of happiness—all parents want their kids to be happy, and all of them have to learn that happiness cannot be mandated or arranged by schools, although classroom practices can help.
- Programming that addresses their child’s unique needs—take your pick: Art, physical education, a library, music, learning about technology, extra-curriculars like sports, drama, leadership opportunities, and so on.
Peter Meijer (whose name is universally known across Michigan) used a different spelling of his name while in high school to protect his identity. I am guessing his parents, who could afford any kind of education, wanted the same things for him—a good education, a measure of happiness, programming that helped him realize his goals and dreams. Friends.
Watch out for craven candidates who want to trash public education. They’re not ‘concerned’ or ‘for Liberty’—they’re vandals.