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Coaching Your Child        < Previous        Next >


Political Education


Q. The teachers in our high school are mostly liberal Democrats, and they don't miss a lick for trying to inculcate the students in seeing the issues from their perspective. I'm not sure if the left-wing material is in the curriculum that way and they're just teaching it, or if they slant and twist a neutral curriculum to be more pro-left in the way it comes across. Anyway, we are conservatives, and we are pro-life, pro-America, pro-traditional marriage, and pro-Israel, among many other issues in which our views differ from those of the teachers. What can we do to make sure our child is not unduly influenced by powerful authority figures who are undermining our political views?


Whoa! They are not supposed to do that. If it's as bad as you say, someone should get fired, or at least strongly disciplined.


Propagandizing does go on in schools today, and it is almost without exception left-leaning teachers trying to influence right-leaning students. Parents should step in and use their actions as a teaching tool, to teach their children what is proper, and what is improper, in terms of academic free speech regarding political issues of all shapes and sizes.


Public school employees, especially teachers, are public servants. They are representatives of government in a public forum. Taxpayers foot the bill, but the services are for all citizens on an equal basis. Government employees are supposed to serve all constituents equally. Teachers and other school employees do have free-speech rights, but it cannot disrupt the efficient operation of the workplace, and it isn't supposed to be partisan for one particular candidate, party or political worldview.


Free speech regarding corruption or overspending in a school district, by a school employee, would no doubt be protected speech if it does not disrupt the school day, and certainly no one would oppose a school employee who alleges that there is racial or sex discrimination within a school district (as long as the allegations can be backed up!), and again, if the business of schooling isn't disrupted.


But what you are describing sounds like it violates the Hatch Act, the federal law that prohibits undue political activity by government employees. Teachers have certain freedoms that other government employees do not, since it is important for teachers to be able to lead discussions in class about political issues in order to educate students about them.


BUT . . . a teacher cannot be a candidate for a partisan election, and certainly cannot use his or her influence to try to influence an election.

Political speech that is slanted toward a particular point of view is highly improper because the school employee is exploiting the power of authority over vulnerable children. There is the threat of getting a lower grade or less help from the teacher if the child and his or her parents dare to differ with that teacher, politically. Obviously, that's a situation that would be deplorable, and must be prevented.


You need documentation. Remember "the rule of three." If you can collect three clear examples of this political indoctrination, you would have enough evidence to tilt the scales back to a balanced, neutral approach.


First, ask a school board member for a copy of your district's policy on political activity by school staff members. If it is any good, it will list the ways that an employee might violate that policy. Examples:


         Wearing political buttons or other regalia while on duty


         Partisan posters on classroom or office walls


         Speech intended to influence or coerce someone else to vote a certain way, including the students' parents


You might be smart to check with other parents in your child's class to join you, since there is safety in numbers, and you want to make sure you are not misinterpreting this.


Then take your concerns up the chain of command: first to the teacher, then to the principal, then to the central-office staff, and finally, to the school board. Besides the immediate halt to the improper political activity or speech, you probably should demand a letter of apology from the staff member to the children and their parents, and it should probably be distributed BEFORE the election and not afterwards.


Here are some other things you can do to educate your child in politics:


         Buy a reference book for kids on the Constitution; so many schools fail to teach what's in our Constitution these days.


         Help your child find library books on American history and principles; there are lots of well-written, well-illustrated biographies and history books to supplement what's taught in school.


         Study your teenager's textbooks at the beginning of the school year, and if you see something that is improperly slanted or politicized, talk about it with your student so that your student can defend your political views in the classroom. Then take your concerns up the chain of command. For example, many American history textbooks will have 12 pages on the internment of Japanese people on the West Coast in the United States after Pearl Harbor during World War II, which involved 100,000 people, and no one was killed . . . but they will have only a paragraph or two about the REST of World War II, in which the United States was the HERO and 40 million people were indeed killed. See the politicized slant in the choice of space allocation? It fits with the left-leaning view that the U.S. government is unfair and oppressive, which is patently false, and abusive to teach kids. Those should be revealed to your child and your child's teacher, principal and school board.


         As a family, choose a candidate every two years or every four years, and get involved with the campaign as volunteers.


         Every four years, on the Presidential Election Day, take your child with you to vote and to visit with poll workers about the process.


         Visit the Election Commissioner's office in your county for an after-school mini trip with your child and perhaps some others, a few weeks before an election, when they're busy, but not crazy-busy.


         Teenagers who can drive could offer to give rides to low-income or elderly voters who cannot otherwise get to the polls.



Homework: You can read some eye-opening examples of improper politicization in schools, and suppression of students' First Amendment free-speech rights by teachers with opposing political views, on this blog:



By Susan Darst Williams Coaching Your Child 27 2008




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