Teachers are being attacked! And it’s not just the physical assaults roughly ten percent have experienced. They are being attacked simply for doing their jobs, and for things that they do, or do not teach. They are being attacked for political theater to create issues where none exist.
Republicans have taken a new approach to distract from their incompetence. They have decided that the real enemies are those who are entrusted to care for the youngest among us. They have declared its time to attack teachers based upon nothing more than rumor, innuendo and sheer paranoia.
As the cry for more people to become teachers becomes a dire situation, teachers are being faced with a dangerous decision. They are being forced to weather increased threats of violence as they become political footballs for right-wing conspiracy theorists who have infiltrated our government.
Teachers and the Radical Left
Make no mistake, there is no “radical left”. It is a boogeyman created by conspiracy theorists, who saw government being ruled by a “Deep State” that maneuvered behind the scenes to take away individual liberties and promote their own godless interests. Those farthest to the left are the Progressives, who espouse such “radical” ideas as the Green New Deal, which is aimed at protecting the environment, getting the rich to pay their “fair share” in taxes, thereby alleviating the burden on the poor and middle class, and preserving democracy through free and fair elections.
These goals are indefensible, so the right has to create a demon in the “Radical Left”. They were those who wanted to take away your guns, promote a Socialist agenda such as healthcare for all and free community college, to flood the country with immigrants as part of a White supremacist Replacement Theory that would overwhelm the White population and install Democrats into permanent positions of power and to destroy democracy from within through the Deep State.
Teachers have been unfairly associated with the radical left. They have been called tools of the Deep State who are seeking to indoctrinate students with their perverse “liberal agenda”. The right will continually deny that there are teachers who are gun-loving, Christian Trump supporters. Instead they choose to lump all educators as being allied with the mythical “radical left”.
Parents have always remarked that they could do a better job than most teachers. They referred to teachers as “overpaid babysitters” who had no real talents and echoed the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach”.
Then, the pandemic hit. As schools shifted to remote learning, a process many teachers had never attempted, yet were able to develop practically overnight, parents realized their boasts were hollow. Just dealing with their own children, without the group dynamics of a typical classroom, became overwhelming very quickly and they demanded schools reopen, regardless of the threat to their child’s health.
So, educators made plans to reopen schools. However, in doing so they instituted safety measures such as masks and physical barriers that would allow students to remain in the classroom while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. These precautions brought a barrage of attacks on teachers, who were threatened and called Nazis in front of their own children. Some lawmakers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, went as far as to threaten to withhold funding from school districts that had mask mandates.
As if being a teacher wasn’t dangerous enough with teachers and students now required to conduct lockdown drills in light of numerous school shootings, now they are being told they must risk contracting a deadly virus if they wanted to keep their jobs.
Critical Race Theory
Things were finally returning to something akin to normal. COVID spikes caused by multiple COVID variants ebbed and parents stopped threatening teachers as restrictions eased. It appeared that, after almost a million deaths we were going to be able to breathe freely once again.
What that meant to those on the right was they would have to find a new plan of attack against educators and their “liberal agenda”. Somehow those on the right took the long twisted road from Replacement Theory to the random conclusion that teachers were attempting to indoctrinate their students by teaching them to hate themselves through the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
Apparently certain parents feel their child’s ego is too fragile to accept that there have been accomplishments made by Americans who aren’t White. So, many Red states took the steps to enact legislation that outlaws the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools.
No public school is teaching it. It is a concept taught in graduate level college programs that seeks to determine the correlation between race and social status. It’s a concept that was proposed in the 1930s, but not officially explored until the 1980s.
Yes, that’s forty years ago!
So, why is this coming up now? It’s possibly a backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement wherein inappropriate actions by members of law enforcement have been targeting minorities and even attempting to create a justification for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of over zealous police.
It may be in response to the 1619 Project which marked 400 years since the first slaves were brought to colonial America. The project addressed the financial inequities that resulted from White slave owners who became rich because of the enslaved Black population.
More than likely it’s a combination of these, but the real motivation is unscrupulous Republican politicians who seek to create divisions by making false claims that teachers are making students feel ashamed of America’s racist past.
As a result, Republican-led legislatures have not only banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory, but they have also banned books that they feel promote this ideology. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking things even further by rejecting over 50 math textbooks citing vague references to Critical Race Theory, a Liberal “woke” indoctrination and President Obama’s Common Core initiative, meaning only one textbook company will be used to supply math books for K-5 students in the entire state of Florida.
Is anyone else thinking there just may be kickbacks involved in this decision?
For ten years Texas adopted history textbooks that promoted the falsehood that not all slaves were unhappy while another Texas school official demanded that teachers balance their lessons about the Holocaust with “opposing views” and newly elected Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin set up a tip line for parents to report teachers who were giving lessons about Critical Race Theory.
These are all manufactured controversies aimed at demonizing educators while pushing a false narrative for political reasons. It’s all smoke and mirrors with zero substance to create fake outrage and energize the Republican base.
Teachers Abuse Students
When DeSantis signed into law a bill that outlawed the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-3, critics quickly dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Like Critical Race Theory, educators scoffed at the idea that such things would even be mentioned in the course of their busy teaching day.
This didn’t stop Republicans from claiming that teachers are using their role to groom students to be sexually abused or even worse, according to playwright David Mamet, teachers are inclined to be pedophiles, and that many male teachers enter the profession with the sole purpose of abusing children.
This reflects the old trope that gay teachers will make their students gay. Its been disproven countless times, yet conservatives continue to use this as a scare tactic because there is nothing more diabolical than the sexual abuse of children.
As vile as these accusations sound, they are also dangerous. The QAnon inspired conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, where it was alleged Democratic lawmakers were involved in a pedophile ring that was housed in the basement of a Washington, D C pizza shop, resulted in an armed gunman attacking the establishment and demanding the release of these phantom children.
No doubt some equally motivated conspiracy theorists could also be inspired to attack classrooms to “free” students from alleged abuse. So, by promoting these false accusations, they are doing the exact opposite of what they say are their intentions. Instead of protecting children, they are putting them at greater risk.
Why Attack Teachers?
Teacher bashing is a national pastime. Whether it’s complaining about “all the time off” they get or their “bloated salaries”, people have been critical of educators for a long time. Many parents view teachers in their idyllic ivory towers where adoring cherubs hang on their every word, making them ripe for “liberal indoctrination”.
The true motivation behind the current uptick in teacher bashing is far more insidious. The first goal of authoritarian regimes is to control the messaging. Educators are typically the first to be attacked by dictators because they teach facts. By demonizing teachers, conservatives are taking the first dangerous steps to create what they deem was “What the Founding Fathers intended”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Support your teachers!
The writer is an educator with over thirty years experience in the classroom. After retiring from twenty eight years as a middle school teacher, he is currently teaching at a local college.