I try to keep up with our local school board meetings for a variety of reasons, foremost being that I truly believe education is the pathway to a better life. Last month's meeting, once again, left me in disbelief. Why would two of our local school board members vote against our district's partnership with Communities in Schools? Why would they reject the support of a nonprofit that works to promote the mental health of students and families who are struggling with behavior issues, attendance issues, poverty, and other factors interfering with their child's education?
Fortunately, the majority of the board voted to continue the partnership, but the so-called "concerns" these two seemed to have over SEL and DEI seemed ludicrous, given the overall benefits rendered by this organization. School counselors are overwhelmed right now with high caseloads and demands outside the realm of one-on-one counseling with students. Who would NOT want the assistance of a licensed social worker, given the fact, verified by statistics, that depression and anxiety among our youth is at an all-time high? I began to think about all these trigger words and acronyms being thrown about today, especially in far-right politics, and I wonder if many of those who shout from the rooftops that these buzzwords are destroying our younger generation even understand what they are?
woke - I have asked my conservative friends repeatedly what this word means, and most cannot give me a definitive answer. The closest answer I have gotten is "politically correct at all cost." But here's my question - what cost? I think of life very simplistically - how does this global issue affect me and the people I love? What is the cost to me if someone loves another of the same sex? How does it harm me if someone prefers to be called they or them? How is my overall wellbeing affected by someone's conviction that they were born with the wrong genetalia? To me, these are highly personal issues, not legislative issues, though I will defend to the death every human being's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Why aren't lawmakers focused on education, inflation, lack of healthcare, and weather extremes instead of abolishing "woke" ideology?
CRT - Critical Race Theory is a term that has been misused and misplaced. What began as a research-based concept taught only in higher education has been misappropriated, applied to all levels of instruction. "CRT" and the teaching of systemic racial inequity have been banned in many states throughout the country, with Texas leading the pack. Now, teachers are terrified to mention or discuss any aspect of history or current events that might show what can be proven, unrefuted - that we live in a country dominated by powerful white (mostly male) people who have subjugated people of color throughout our history. I can close the door to a dirty kitchen, but eventually it will start to smell.
SEL - In an effort to help children thrive in school, after years of research showed that to grow academically, children must feel safe and accepted, the concept of Social and Emotional Learning evolved. According to CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL supports childrens' growth in "five key areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making." This concept, though, is nothing new. Every good teacher knows that a bullied child can't focus, that a neglected child is thinking about her next meal, not Algebra, that an angry child is planning his revenge, not concentrating on phonics. A good teacher has always addressed these issues with the child and parents. A good teacher wants a child to learn.
DEI - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is simply an organized attempt to assure that traditionally underrepresented people are given a fair shake. Recently, Governor Abbott abolished the offices of DEI at public universities, saying they "failed to make progress advancing or increasing diversity." But the argument from most conservatives is that DEI promotes race over merit, and perhaps they have a point. It is probably true that, everything else being equal, the wealthy white male is less likely to get the scholarship than the impoverished brown female. However, the abolition of DEI because everyone deserves a fair shake fails to take into consideration that the world's playing field is absolutely not level - that race, poverty, disability, religion, and even gender automatically forces some into the margins of society from birth. Isn't this exactly what our forefathers fought against when they asserted that "all men are created equal," the foundation of our republic?
It's my personal belief that these buzzwords create fear in the extreme right. Fear that their children will be "indoctrinated" into a lifestyle that contradicts what their faith and personal credo embraces. Fear of their freedoms being taken away. Fear of a cultural shift that robs them of their comfort and safety. In short, fear of a collapse of their cherished way of life. They often tout the way things "used to be," ignoring the fact that the-way-things-used-to-be were pretty awful for the above-mentioned marginalized in society. The push for so-called parental rights discards the fact that, if you protect your children, communicate with them, and raise them with purpose, you are doing the best you can. But today there is no way you can completely protect your child from the influence of the "outside" world unless you live in an electronics-free bubble in the middle of nowhere. Most importantly, your parental rights don't give you the right to parent my children.
Like the two on the school board who voted against a program that does infinite good for the children in our local schools, many of our leaders here in Texas and across the country push for only what they deem beneficial for their small faction - at the expense of everyone else. They cloak their demands in verses from the Bible, ignoring the fact that Jesus accepted and valued EVERYONE and asked each of us to do the same. He preached against those who valued money, power, and exclusion. If he had been sitting in that same school board meeting, how would he have voted? I'm pretty sure I know.