As a retired superintendent of school and with over 35 years of experience in education, I am appalled at how our children/students are being used as pawns. When I served in my profession and now as a grandparent, I always put the students’ safety, health and academics first and foremost. What I am seeing today is a political divide that mostly affects the well-being of our students, especially with the abundance of disinformation.
The mask debate on whether a student, teacher and other school employees should be required to wear a mask in school is now becoming an issue for schools, school boards and parents.
COVID-19 virus and the delta variant are real. Research and science data has proven that. The number of hospitalizations of unvaccinated people and deaths that have affected families and friends since the virus was detected, probably includes people who we each know personally. I ask the question of why would those opposing masks want to put themselves, others and the innocent children at risk of this deadly virus? Are lives only worth the politics which seems to dominate the debate? Everyone has the right to voice their opinion, but when others are put at a health risk, those people have rights, too.
To stop the rampant spread of COVID, we all need to be on the same page to protect our children and ourselves.
Critical race theory is another political issue that has a direct impact on the teaching and learning that our students should be afforded. Again, based on their political persuasion, there are school boards and parents who are totally against it. I would venture to say if the question was asked, “What in detail is the theoretical and social construct meaning of CRT which became a movement in academia almost 50 years ago? Not many would know. Most people didn’t even know such existed. It certainly is not what is being propagated in today’s society by those who claim to know but are clearly uninformed.
Our students should be able to receive a holistic education in every subject area. They should be given the tools to further explore, gather information, analyze for themselves and draw their own conclusion. Students starting school as early as kindergarten have always been involved in the teaching and learning process of critical thinking. Teaching critical thinking skills to students is foundational to their entire learning process. Students should be inquisitive, challenged and not be afraid to debate their peers in the classroom and teachers.
The classroom teacher should be allowed to teach openly and freely with facts. Teachers should not be threatened with the fear of reprisal that they might lose their jobs. American History is everyone’s history. Black, Native Americans, Hispanic, Asian and Indigenous students have always been taught and received white history but the thought of white students learning the role that other ethnic groups played in American history seems to be unacceptable. All ethnic groups have contributed to the birth of this nation in some aspect.
Lastly, let’s take politics out of education and let’s protect our students’ health and their academic freedom. This is not a problem unless we decide to make it a problem. I believe this will bring us closer together as a community instead of dividing us.
Ronald J. Wynn was an educator for over 40 years serving in various positions as teacher, counselor, principal, district administrator, superintendent of schools and college/university adjunct professor.