As a professor of education for 30 years, I was both saddened and alarmed by an ad placed in last month’s Key Peninsula News by candidates running for our school board.
The ad begins with a cry to “Save Peninsula Schools.”
How are we to “save” them? Is it by insisting that students learn critical thinking skills, improve their media literacy, receive first-rate civic coursework, or come to understand the importance of scientific evidence?
No, none of those things.
According to the ad, the way to save our schools is by “pushing back on the indoctrination of our children” in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE). This is no more than an attempt to spread misinformation and intolerance.
But it is a good straw man argument for extremists, though.
The ad falsely claims CRT teaches “children to judge people based on skin color, not the content of their character.” What a dishonorable way to invoke Martin Luther King Jr. CRT does not suggest that people be judged by skin color. It does, however, explore the concept that racism is a structure that has existed for centuries in the United States and continues to affect us today in ways we might not recognize. To turn our backs on the actual history and current conditions in the U.S. can only more deeply entrench divisions and violence in our society.
The ad goes on to claim that CSE teaches “children to be confused as to whether they are a girl or a boy.” The assertion appears to be an attack on the inclusion of gender issues, such as those related to LGBTQ students, in the sex education curriculum.
Diversity of sexual orientation is a fact of life. About 5.6% of adults in the U.S., or over 11 million folks, identify as LGBTQ, and 8% of American high school students, about 1.3 million, are LGBTQ. Nearly 18% of them report being raped at some point in their lives, they are twice as likely to be bullied than straight students and 30% attempt suicide, rates that are substantially higher than for straight kids.
As the numbers suggest, there is a huge role schools can play in easing the experiences of non-normative youth. To me, it seems clear that lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity belong in any curriculum that claims to address sex education.
Support schools by rejecting attempts to radicalize our school board and our community. If you want to clear up confusion, educate.
Felix Billingsley, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus College of Education, University of Washington, Captain, USAF, 1966-1970
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