Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Squelched Controversy

There's a teacher who is leaving Nick's school. He's not one of Nick's teachers, but I heard a little about his story. His crime?  He talked in class about something controversial. He's been quietly reprimanded and has decided to leave rather than teach in the proscribed environment.

Wait? What subjects are not tolerated in high school? When Mike got home and settled himself onto the couch to relax, I asked him, "Which controversial subjects would you want teachers not to discuss in school?"

"None. They should talk about everything." Then he went back reading to his magazine. He likes to keep abreast of what's happening in the world. To him, the answer was as simple as that.

When has it become worthy of a reprimand for a teacher to speak, to encourage discourse, to even allow respectful disagreements? Why can't school be a place where kids learn that the world is full of people with varied opinions? Why can't school be a place where kids learn, with respect, to debate their opinions without others losing the right to believe in their own? When did schools become a place in which a narrow view is taught and nothing outside of that is allowed? Are they going to start banning books next? Are our rights to free speech going down? Is it propaganda that's being taught in lieu of open discourse?

I want my son to be educated by people brave enough to talk through controversies, who encourage kids to tolerate people with other viewpoints, who teach enthusiastic debate, to talk about and write about details and possibilities in our universe and in our cultures. I want my son to be free to discuss everything. This is his time to discover the complexities and nuances of the world, its sciences, religions, political climates, and its cultures. More discussion rather than less is in order at his age. When I was in high school, we talked about transcendental meditation, Buddhism, astral projection, LSD as an experience, and psychokinesis. It didn't mean that I believed all of it, but we discussed these things thoroughly. How much further out there can you get? It did me no harm to try to promote my studied opinions. In fact, it made me stronger and smarter to learn how to talk about varied controversial subjects, and to hone my opinions in healthy debate.

So what is happening here?

For every vociferous parent who squelches open discourse, there are fifty, a hundred, maybe a thousand who quietly hope for the continued right to free speech in schools and the ways it can educate our children to becoming open-minded, creative, and thoughtful adults. Apparently, we're going to have to make some noise.

This teacher is funny. He's creative. I wish he'd been my son's teacher. I hope he continues to teach wherever he goes. I hope he continues to discuss anything and everything, especially that which is controversial.

Thank you for listening, jules

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