2.13.2012

Dear Public School

Dear Principal G----,

My son, ------- ------, is a freshman at ------. His World Geography teacher is Ms. W-------. He often discusses the topics they cover in class with me and I appreciate that. It says a lot about the teacher and the class when a fifteen year old young man is prompted to discuss history and current events with his father. That said, I feel compelled to let you know that I am quite concerned over some of the opinions he came home with on Friday, February 10. I believe he said there was a substitute teacher that day.

I am willing to admit that ------- may have mis-heard, or mis-interpreted, some things that were said, but there is a consistency about what he relayed to me that makes me believe he got the intention and implications correct, if not the exact details. Here are a few generalized comments reportedly said:

'America is a plutocracy, not a democracy.'
'The oil industry is greedy.'
'We get 20% of our oil from the Middle East and should stop buying from them, but oil companies will damage our environment if they drill here.'
'America is imperialistic and too involved in other countries internal affairs.'
'Iran shouldn't have nuclear weapons, but neither should the United States.'
'Capitalism doesn't help the poor.'
'We have a class system like India.'
'Doctors pay 7% of their income in tax, but teachers pay over 40%.'

When I asked if these were presented as facts or opinions, ------- said that the teacher made a point of prefacing most things with "in my opinion." I happen to disagree with those opinions, and I have no problem discussing with my son why. What concerns me are the student's that don't discuss these opinions with someone else, the students who are not exposed to an alternative perspective. I understand that eliminating bias and opinion completely is impossible, but I also think that a one-sided presentation of opinion is, at a minimum, poor teaching technique. The bigger concern is that this sort of class room political propaganda minimizes more important lessons, like critical thinking and the complexity behind world and political events. Frankly, from the obvious slant and the lack of balance, this seems more like indoctrination than education.

Criticism of the status quo is not the same as critical thinking.

I am not asking for any action to be taken, nor do I want this escalated in any way. I simply want to make you aware of my concern. ------- has been a PISD student since first grade and over those years I have consistently had to provide the alternative opinion to what he "learns" at school ...


'No, the polars bears aren't going extinct and changing our light bulbs to the squiggly kind won't save them.'
'No, President Bush didn't steal the election in 2000.'
'No, we did not go to war in Iraq to get their oil.'
'No, guns do not need to be outlawed to make neighborhood's safe.'
'I'm sorry, I do not know what the proper ethnic dress is for suburban white kid. Just wear your cowboy boots for Diversity Day.'

... and up until now I have never mentioned it to any teacher or principal. Throughout his years in PISD my son has consistently come home with the same, single political perspective. As someone with an alternative view, it infuriates me, not because I'm right and the teacher's wrong, but because there's no balance. We need to equip our children with knowledge and reasoning and the confidence that they can use those tools to find their way through a complex world. We don't need to handicap them with tired, confining political talking points. If a teacher is not confident enough in their opinions to present the opposing view, then their opinion is about as valuable as the effort they put into reaching it.

I just wanted to make you aware of my concerns. I have been silent about them for too long and I believe we are at a point where silence or apathy about political issues, letting things like this go without comment, is a dangerous thing to do for the success of our children and the future of our country. I would appreciate your efforts in working toward a better balance of political opinion in your classrooms.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Dexter Turner