The Face of Low-Trust Education

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s great to see parents taking back their authority and responsibility for their children. Florida’s new anti child-grooming law is the most high-profile of these attempts at the moment. And though that step is miniscule, the rancor from the pedophile side of the political aisle is a testament to how important those first small steps really are.

But it’s hardly the only little step being proposed. And like many first steps, some of the proposals I’ve seen are somewhat awkward. For example, my own state has considered legislation to put classrooms on constant video/audio surveillance for parents to access and to make teachers post all curriculum and assignments 6 months in advance for parental review. These kinds of policing measures demonstrate a core problem in America’s public education–a complete breakdown of trust between parents and educators. The problem is that measures like these do nothing to resolve that problem–at least, not the way people expect.

Whether justified or not (and considering what goes on in public schools, I do think such policing is completely justified), are policies like these actually going to rebuild trust? From the parental perspective, if you have to be able to surveil people to this extent to know whether your children are safe with them, why on earth are you entrusting your offspring to them in the first place? The same can really be said of Florida’s law. Yes, K-3 educators are forbidden from teaching about anal sex and genital mutilation now, which is great. But your children are still being educated by people who want to teach them about¬† it whenever they have a chance. Constant surveillance doesn’t build trust; it only deepens the mistrust which birthed it.

And from the teachers’ perspective, this is an awful way to work. Parents become a gaggle of disorganized supervisors. All of them have different preferences and agendas–many of which are legitimately outside the teacher’s wheelhouse. There was a time when educators acted in loco parentis, but American diversity killed that possibility. There is no perceivable standard of what a generic parent would reasonably want. And if you doubt that, consider that there are parents who want to mutilate their children’s genitals for woke points. All these measures do is ratchet up the pressure in an already volatile relationship.

Now here’s why these awkward and unhelpful baby steps are still good and helpful: These measures don’t solve the distrust at the heart of the problem, but they do bring it out into the open. Parents have absolutely excellent reasons to distrust public educators. I daresay no group of people has ever had such good reasons for distrust as American parents today. And I daresay that no group of people are as oblivious to this fact as educators.

The only way trust can be restored is a long process that starts when teachers admit they have a problem. But I’ve generally found teachers to be extremely tribal with powerful in-group preferences. I know of no profession that engages in such a degree of constant self-praise and circling the wagons whenever someone in their tribe comes under fire. The closest I can think of are police officers, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that both groups are dominated by public-sector unions. The incestuous political relationship that develops when you vote for the people you negotiate with produces nothing but poison.

When parents raise concerns about things like CRT and LGBTP indoctrination/grooming, it seems that half the teachers just call us bigots and go about their filthy business. Meanwhile, the rest assure us that “Not all teachers are like that!” before going on and on about the good work they do, how hard their jobs are, how underappreciated they are, and so forth. And I’ll admit, these latter teachers aren’t exactly wrong. There are many good teachers out there. Teaching well is a very difficult job, and a good teacher is providing something absolutely priceless.

But here’s the problem: when the children are the ones under such a severe threat from educators, who exactly are these teachers defending? It seems like even the teachers that aren’t actively involved in corrupting children are only interested in protecting the reputation of educators. Are parents the only half of the relationship interested in protecting children from the predators?

So yes, these policies do nothing be ratchet up the pressure in the increasingly antagonistic relationship between parents and teachers. I even think it’s fair to say that they’re fundamentally destructive to public education. But there’s no other course of action when half of the relationship thinks nothing is wrong. Either teachers are going to admit they have a problem and repent of their relentless push of “the message,” of the public education system is going to completely collapse. Either of these would be preferable to the current state of affairs.

So parents, keep up the pressure. If you can, get out of this toxic relationship altogether by homeschooling or private schooling. That’s why school choice policies will do more to solve the real problem than cameras. But if you can’t, that only means you have to fight harder. You have been obligated by God to both educate and protect your children. And if teachers start striking and quitting en masse and the schools shut down… well, you already went through that during the pandemic. You know you can handle it.

Parents cannot back down without abandoning our God-given responsibilities, so teachers need to. If they do not, then burning the whole enterprise down so we can build something better is the appropriate course of action.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
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