Editorial: NC’s Lt. Governor should stop “challenging the motives of teachers and fueling paranoia”

Earlier this week, Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress reported on Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s new effort to end what he calls the political indoctrination of students in our public schools.

The taskforce titled “Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students” (F.A.C.T.S.) will receive complaints from parents, students and others about perceived bias, inappropriate material or indoctrination they see or experience in schools through a portal on Robinson’s website.

“We call it indoctrination, but it could be called many things,” Robinson said. “It could be called politicizing the classroom. It could be called introducing things into the classroom that don’t belong there.”

The task force led by two Republican state legislators (Sen. Kevin Corbin and Rep. David Willis) hand picked by Robinson drew plenty of reaction – mostly negative – on social media.

Today the editorial boards of the Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer have pointedly called on Robinson to stop using his position to demonize educators. Here’s an excerpt from Thursday’s editorial:

Robinson knows there are doubters about such indoctrination. “People say, ‘Well, where’s the proof?’ Where’s the proof?’ ” he said. “We’re going to bring you the proof.”

No he’s not. Robinson is going to bring us a collection of random anecdotes from people who don’t think their political or religious views are being reflected in a certain school or by a certain teacher. Collecting those complaints through a quasi-official state task force isn’t about proving a problem. It’s about harassing and intimidating teachers.

Robinson, who is serving in his first elected office, came to the attention of conservatives in a viral video in which he championed gun rights (an issue that’s a real concern for schools). He then gained notice for his crass attacks on people in his Facebook posts.

By now Robinson’s ability to surprise by being extreme is wearing thin. Still, it is stunning that after what may be the most trying year in the history of public schools, the lieutenant governor thinks his top priority should be challenging the motives of teachers and fueling paranoia about schools indoctrinating children.

As usual with Robinson, there’s nothing original here. He is just tearing a page from the playbook of divisive politics and waving it before the cameras. Consider what then-President Donald Trump said, disgracefully, in his 2020 speech at Mt. Rushmore: “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that they were villains.”

That’s nonsense. Even Trump knows it.

Teachers’ political views and styles vary, but they are overwhelmingly conscientious and dedicated people who provide broadly accepted instruction about the nation’s history and social conditions. What’s taught is more accurate now than ever as the experiences and views of minorities are being provided their rightful place in America’s story.

If Robinson really cares about the quality of public schools, there is no shortage of steps to advocate. Bring teacher pay up to the national average. Restore the thousands of teacher assistants lost to funding cuts. Provide nationally recommended levels of school counselors, nurses and psychologists. Pass a statewide bond to renovate aging school buildings.

Most of all, what Robinson and many Republican state lawmakers should do is stop demonizing teachers because they want decent pay and the freedom to teach the truth about the nation’s triumphs and its failures.

An uneven but ongoing commitment to equality and freedom and an openness to learn and grow from its mistakes have made the United States not only a strong nation, but a noble one. If Robinson would stop listening for what he wants to hear and instead hear what teachers teach, he would know that.

Read the full editorial online here.

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