“Teaching is a Political Act”: UNT Course Raises Questions Over Political Agendas in Public Education

There is a new controversy over political agendas in education after the release of course materials from the University of North Texas (UNT) for future K-12 educators. It is important to keep in mind that this is just one school. However, the controversy raises, again, the question of whether universities are pushing a more activist model for education. We saw a similar activist movement emerge out of journalism schools that is now taking hold in mainstream media.  The concern over the UNT controversy is whether it is indicative of a wider effort that is causing many families to leave public education.The material is derived from a course and syllabus on “Teaching as Advocacy for Equity.” The course focuses on “structures of social and educational inequality, as they relate to race, class, and gender” and how teaching can be “a form of intervention” to change society through “cultural reproduction.”

Conservative sites have flagged the material because of the highly political content. The course states that “while teaching has always been a relational and intellectual endeavor, we acknowledge that teaching is also both an ethical and a political act.”

It also includes a list of “core commitments” for future teachers that states “[w]e are activists working against injustice for young people, teachers, and communities rooted in racism and other forms of discrimination.”

The material relies on the work of the highly controversial Ibram Kendi.  I have previously criticized Professor Kendi for his inflammatory rhetoric and attacks. Kendi, the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, previously attacked Justice Amy Coney Barrett over her adoption of two Haitian children and suggested that it raised the image of a “white colonizer.” He suggested that the children were little more than props for their mother.

In fairness to UNT, there has always been a role in education to reinforce core values in society. For most of us, that includes civic values and our commitment to principles of equality and due process. That is why we have long taught lessons on the desegregation movement, the teachings of Dr. King, and other defining aspects of our history and Constitution. However, we have seen a more political agenda emerge in recent years. That includes emphasizing that teachers are first and foremost “activists” as opposed to educators.

For many, the UNT material appears to promote teaching as a vehicle for political activism. That is precisely what parents are rebelling against in teachers treating them and their children as captives to some social agenda.

I previously wrote how some teachers and administrators are rapidly killing public education.

Many of us have advocated for public education for decades. I sent my children to public schools, and I still hope we can turn this around without wholesale voucher systems. Yet teachers and boards are killing the institution of public education by treating children and parents more like captives than consumers. They are force-feeding social and political priorities, including passes for engaging in approved protests.

As public schools continue to produce abysmal scores, particularly for minority students, board and union officials have called for lowering or suspending proficiency standards or declared meritocracy to be a form of “white supremacy.” Gifted and talented programs are being eliminated in the name of “equity.”

Once parents have a choice, these teachers lose a virtual monopoly over many families, and these districts could lose billions in states like Florida.

This is precisely why school systems like the Seattle public schools are facing budget shortfalls as families vote with their feet. These families want a return to the educational mission that once defined our schools.

Of course, this material maintains that political agendas are the educational mission. However, they may find fewer and fewer families are willing to supply their children for such political indoctrination.

87 thoughts on ““Teaching is a Political Act”: UNT Course Raises Questions Over Political Agendas in Public Education”

  1. I think you mischaracterized every single point I was making.

    1. Life-long learner is someone with the ability to teach themselves things, that’s it.

    2. I love the trades and i think 10-12th grade is a waste for most kids.

    3. Vouchers can help individual families and I am for them (and charter schools). Vouchers cannot make an education system better. These are two different things. I fail to see how those opinions are mutually exclusive. I’m not sure how I can be more clear here.

    4. I task the State with fixing the system for the reasons you stated. The attempts by those others have failed, and the State/District is responsible for schools, so they must be the ones to fix it.

    5. The unions are a complete travesty, but they are a dnc cash-cow, so good luck ousting them from your urban school districts anytime soon.

    also see my response to Prairie Rose below

    1. Yet, again, you’ve missed the point of my original post. I wasn’t looking for a square-dance conversation, going round and round with many loosely related tangents about what’s wrong with schools and the people running them.

      The attempt is to find out why state-issued vouchers for low-income parents to get their kids out of failing schools is a bad policy.

      And now, finally, you say vouchers are good for individual families including use for charter schools. Yay! We agree! Now reread what you’ve previously said. I can’t find anywhere you’ve said anything resembling that in our previous back and forth. Instead you’ve indicated vouchers won’t solve the systemic problems entrenched within so why bother with them? Well, one must start forcing the issue somewhere. Run the school system the same way as a business – attract as many parents (customers) with the kind of education they want for their child. Do a good job and you’ll see your school (business) attract more parents and their voucher/tax monies! It’s a good repeatable cycle everyone involved. So-called ‘bad’ schools have had every opportunity to turn things around, yet every year things only get worse. Schools, like those in Baltimore, that can’t teach kids to read should not get any state money at all. Listen to your parents/customers, if they don’t want their kids learning about topics unrelated to getting a quality job and being a productive member of society in the future – wokeism will not produce anything more than a permanent class of people perpetually offended, by proxy, for others – then don’t force those unwanted things onto your parent/student customers.

      ‘Tis not I that misrepresented what you wrote, your replies were what I presume were honest and forthcoming. I can only respond to the words you used, though. Clarification was always the goal and now we have it. Not meaning to pile on here, but after all that: Neil did not have a coherent argument against giving low-income families vouchers so they can move their kids to better schools. Is that accurate?

      1. The problem you have is that if all the vouchers want to go to one school, they cannot. Or if they did class sizes would become larger and students would do worse. Then there is the entire concept you seem to want to avoid, wherever you go, there you are. If you took a bunch of the kids in the worst school and sent them to the best school, what would happen? We know because it happens, the good school turns to crap, its neighborhood turns to crap, and the students from the bad school do bad.

        But if one kid wants to go to another school, why not.

    2. @Neil

      I think that was directed at me? I’m not trying to be a contrarian, and yes, there are contexts where that is all accurate, they are great points, but it is a far cry from the majority or the mainstream. There are plenty of folks on the side of school choice rubbing their hands together, too.

      At present, there is no panacea – awareness and gradual progress are what we have. Honestly, I thought the pods people were doing during the lockdowns would’ve had a future, but they didn’t. This is all very much an epic challenge we are just now nipping the nose of, IMO, and in our family’s experience.

  2. The Left disguising propaganda as “education:”

    “Teaching as Advocacy for Equity.” Teaching children is “a form of intervention” to change society through “cultural reproduction.”

    The three most tyrannical dictatorships of the last 120 years, disguising propaganda as “education:”

    “These boys and girls enter our organizations . . . after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [German armed forces] will take care of that. (Adolf Hitler, 1938)

    “We must make the young into a generation of Communists. Children, like soft wax, are very malleable and they should be moulded into good Communists… We must rescue children from the harmful influence of the family… We must nationalize them.” (Children’s “education” in Soviet Russia)

    “We need to … strengthen political guidance for young people, guide them to voluntarily insist on the Party’s leadership, to listen to the Party and follow the Party.” (Communist Chinese President Xi Jinping)

    What do those four cultural movements have in common?

    Surrender your child to propagandists (dressed as “educators”). When done, your child will have the blank stare of indoctrination. Like a parrot, he will dutifully mouth slogans, kneel in blind obedience, and commit any atrocity we command.

  3. The kids won’t know math, won’t know english, won’t be build a bridge, won’t…

    but the petulant little marxists will be demand those things. Good luck.

    teachers are useless at this point.

  4. In a better world than this, reducing inequitable outcomes in society would mean helping students obtain the skills to compete in society. Nothing more. Schools would be held accountable for producing graduates who are proficient at mathematics, reading with a critical eye, clear and persuasive writing and public speaking, supporting ideas with data and reason, intellectual honesty, coming to class every day on time, and completing assignments as instructed and on time. In a better world than this.

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