School Transparency Wars

The least we can do is keep parents informed about what their kids are learning.

Bologna. The FDA insists that every last ingredient of the heavily processed food is listed on the package label. No one has an issue with that because it’s important to know what we put into our bodies. You might think the same mentality would be in place for what goes into our minds, especially those of children, but unfortunately that has become a very contentious issue.

With the revelation that too many of government-run k-12 schools have turned into indoctrination mills, there is now pushback from parents. As reported by Christopher Rufo, lawmakers in 19 states have introduced bills that require curriculum transparency.

So, who could possibly be against transparency? First and foremost, the teachers unions. In 2021, a mother was sued by the Rhode Island state affiliate of the National Education Association after she made a public records request to find out exactly what her daughter was going to be taught in kindergarten. In the Hoosier State, the Indiana State Teachers Association is currently battling against House Bill 1134, which would require teachers to post school curricula online. In Utah, the state teachers union is trying to fend off HB 234, a bill that would require educators to disclose what they are teaching. Unions in other states are fighting similar battles.

Additionally, a teacher union official recently wrote a sarcastic post on Facebook, mocking parents’ calls for transparency, suggesting that they butt out of school affairs. Owen Jackman, a California Teachers Association state council delegate and teacher in the Sacramento City Unified School District, equated parents who advocate for their kids at school board meetings to “storm troopers.” Jackman joked that he has “a reason to be concerned about the appropriateness of what your child is learning outside of school.” He went on to request that parents “provide a play-by-play of the television shows their kids watch, the social media they use, swear words and racial epithets their kids hear each day, the books being read to them, and activities they will participate in for the remainder of the year.” Jackman seems to think he shares parenting responsibilities with mom and dad.

New York Magazine writer Sarah Jones is certainly on the anti-transparency bandwagon. In a recent piece, she referred to parents as “household tyrants,” and insists that the call for parental transparency is a wacko Christian Republican plot. She states that since schools don’t interfere with a child’s life at home, parents should butt out at school.

At the same time, NBC News alerts us that “conservative activists want schools to post lesson plans online, but free speech advocates warn such policies could lead to more censorship in K-12 schools.” NBC national reporter Tyler Kingkade adds, “Some of the proposals under consideration in state legislatures, including a bill in Missouri, would require schools to post all teacher training materials online, in addition to descriptions of what is taught.” The bill has drawn criticism from Democrats, including state Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, who called the proposal “an attempt to undermine public education.”

Undermine public education? Hardly. Parents who send their children to public schools are not trying to undermine them. In reality, they are seriously concerned about the political indoctrination and sexual grooming that too many schools are partaking in. Also, the ongoing conflation of transparency and censorship is a redder-than-red herring.

Even civil rights organizations have boarded the anti-transparency train. The American Civil Liberties Union, once a supporter of legislation in favor of government transparency, recently did a 180. ACLU staff attorney Emerson Sykes sums up the organization’s position, opining that “some of these so-called ‘curriculum transparency bills’ are thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning and talking about race and gender in schools.” Jeffrey Sachs, a spokesperson for PEN America, a group whose mission is to “protect free expression,” says that school transparency “is essentially this Big Brother-type regime that, you know, sounds good on paper…But it's very easy to see how school transparency or curricular transparency could be abused in order to intimidate and punish instructors.”

Despite the fearmongering from teacher unionistas, the mainstream media and groups purporting to be in favor of civil rights, our government-run schools are practically begging to be scrutinized. For example:

  • Washington state teachers are told to hide student gender transitions from parents. These guidelines apply to all K-12 public schools, so it includes children as young as five years old.
  • The parents of a Florida teenager have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after their daughter’s middle school directed their child to pursue a gender transition without notifying them.
  • A teacher at the Santa Barbara Unified School District in California, has revealed that teachers have access to a password-protected portal for teaching “culturally responsive material.” She notes that the content is far-left, and that parents and the community cannot access the curriculum.
  • Also in California, a black now ex-teacher in Salinas reports that while “public education officials are doing their best to convince concerned parents that an ideology that falsely insists America was founded on systemic racism and that our institutions still discriminate against black Americans like me is not being taught to children” – they are lying. She explains, “Children were learning about the so-called four I’s of oppression (institutional, internalized, ideological, and interpersonal). The course syllabus said students would use colored strings to ‘rank’ their different identities to create ‘intersectional rainbows.’ And the class even included a ‘privilege quiz’ instructing students to determine how marginalized—or privileged—they were.”

As battles in various statehouses rage on over what kids should be taught in school, whatever is decided, parents have a right to know. And since taxpayers fork over billions of dollars every year to the government education complex, they, too, need to be in the loop. Transparency is paramount. You wouldn’t think this would be a contentious issue. The government makes sure we are aware of every ingredient that goes into the bologna we buy. Similarly, we should also know the contents of the curricular bologna kids are being fed in school.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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