Everything seems to get communicated in a manner that is so shrill these days that it can be a challenge to maintain clear thinking. But that is what Southington School Superintendent Steven Madancy has managed to achieve when it comes to supporting a high school teacher whose diversity terms worksheet drew the ire of some upset parents.
We should be clear that we support the free expression of ideas. In this case that applies to the parents and others who have a right to express their criticisms. But it also extends to everybody who wants to respond, including Madancy and teachers. It also extends to the idea of freedom of expression in our schools. Teaching young people in preparation for entry into a world they will inherit is a huge responsibility, and one that comes with training and commitment.
Preparing young people for the world is not well done by hiding information from them, or keeping from them information that might challenge their way of thinking. In fact, a good argument can be made that challenging assumptions is an important teaching priority. What we want, after all, is a citizenry of independent thinkers able to reason with clarity.
Madancy made a formal statement at a recent school board meeting. "Moving forward, I support this teacher and all teachers in our district, who are in today's world facing the reality of having to teach what can be considered at times, controversial subjects, and contemporary issues in our classrooms,” he said. He received a standing ovation from a crowd at the meeting.
The worksheet in question had the gall to be linked to reality. Vocabulary items, as the Record-Journal has reported, contained: “transgender, institutional racism, white privilege, indigenous people, gender pronouns and use of the term Latinx.” There is also this statement: “Racism is a systemic issue. If you look the other way or deny that these systems exists, you are part of the problem.”
A handful of parents and two students objected, with one parent describing the lesson as “Critical Race Theory” and calling for policing of teachers.
This is the kind of reaction that gets used to score political points, and some members of the school board have found it frustrating.
One of the board members, Zaya Oshana, said “in the national news this board has been accused of being a ‘woke’ board of education and not doing our jobs. I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I take pride in being on this board and working with our staff to prepare our students with the knowledge, lessons, and experiences for the world they will be entering.”
Exactly right. The school board and administration were right to give people a chance to have their say, and were right to stand behind a teacher and teachers in general. Southington residents should feel well served by their public schools.