Parents ‘Don’t Get How Teaching Works’

Christina Wyman is a writer and teacher, and most recently has become an inadvertent promoter of parental wrath. In an inflammatory piece for NBC News, Wyman insists that when it comes to the classroom, parents should know their place—just shut up and leave teaching to the trained experts. She explains, “Part of the problem is that parents think they have the right to control teaching and learning because their children are the ones being educated. But it actually (gasp!) doesn’t work that way. It’s sort of like entering a surgical unit thinking you can interfere with an operation simply because the patient is your child. Teaching, too, is a science. Unless they’re licensed and certified, parents aren’t qualified to make decisions about curricula.”

But of course, the surgery analogy holds as much water as a thin slice of Swiss cheese. With surgery, the parent must sign off on the procedure that is being administered to her child. If your child has been depressed and you learn the surgeon is about to do a lobotomy, thus severing parts of your child’s brain, you bail and find a doctor who isn’t a quack. But in Wyman-world, you are told to shut up, go away and let the doctors who are licensed and certified—and know much more than you—proceed with the lobotomy.

Wyman also tries to drive her point home by arguing that not only are teachers licensed by the state, but that 36 states require a master’s degree to be able to teach, and states typically require administrators and supervisors to have earned advanced degrees in addition to at least one license in administration.

But Wyman omits any mention of what actually is taught in our schools of education. My turn at ed school in the late 1980s was a joke, and my experience was not at all unusual. I aced all my classes, never broke a sweat, and didn’t learn much either. Teachers-to-be spent much of their time learning about this ethnic group, that impoverished group, this sexually anomalous group, that under-represented group, etc.—all under the rubric of “Culturally Responsive Education.” And pedagogically speaking, those were the good old days. What goes on now is beyond insane. But, still, Wyman is impressed by all the credentialing bells and whistles.

One example of curriculum that licensed and certificated teachers use was cooked up by Lucy Calkins, who herself is well-credentialed. She has a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Williams College, an M.A. and Certification in the Teaching of Reading from the University of Hartford, and a Ph.D. in English Education from New York University. Her Units of Study, a language arts educational program, dominates classrooms across the country. In fact, according to Daniel Buck and James Furey writing in City Journal, “The curriculum’s publisher claims that it is used in ‘tens of thousands of schools around the world,’ and a poll from EducationWeek estimates that 16 percent of U.S. elementary school teachers use it, including, one education journalist estimates, at least 55 districts in Massachusetts. It isn’t a stretch to say that thousands of teachers rely on its lesson plans, assessments, and other materials.”

Many of Calkin’s lessons are of the radical variety. A unit for 7th-9th graders explains that students will engage with “the politics of race, class, and gender.” Students are also asked “to break down ‘hegemonic masculinity’ in the books they’re reading. Another builds ‘identity lenses’ through which students can analyze various texts, including ‘critical race theories’ and ‘gender theories.’”

In Wyman’s world, parents should just shut up, sit back and appreciate all this radical claptrap, because Calkins has a Ph.D. and is therefore much more knowledgeable than they are.

Another group of “licensed and certified teachers” was recently outed by Abigail Shrier. In a meticulous piece, Shrier details a California Teachers Association conference where teachers were advised on “best practices for subverting parents, conservative communities and school principals on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” Shrier reports on the intimate details of how two teachers “tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents.”

When a parent objected strenuously to the (licensed and certified) principal, he “invited them to take their child to a private school that more aligns with them.” Lori Caldeira, one of the offending teachers can be heard to say, “So that was a win, right? We count that as a win.” Then, she added: “Plus, I hate to say this, but thank you CTA—but I have tenure! You can’t fire me for running a GSA. And so, you can be mad, but you can’t fire me for it. CTA has made it very clear that they are devoted to human rights and equity. They provide us with these sources, these resources and tools.”

Yes, these teachers are licensed, certified and unionized. A disastrous combination for children.

Wyman’s article has been something of a media sensation. In a tweet, she excitedly wrote, “I’m trending! Cool! First time for everything.”

What Wyman doesn’t realize is that pieces like hers invigorate parents to mobilize and fight the indoctrination that all too often passes for education in our schools. Now, that is really cool!

Editor’s Note:  A version of this article was originally published at For Kids and Country.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, 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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