I support one bill by critical race theory crowd in Pennsylvania – The Morning Call

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I wish more parents were involved in their children’s education. My high school’s hallways sadly were not lined with parents during recent open houses and parent-teacher conferences. They used to be. Some parents just don’t care enough to attend such events. But many can’t make them. They work. Or, they are chauffeuring their kids to sports, music, Scouts and other activities. They deserve to have other opportunities to stay engaged. That’s why I support the Pennsylvania Legislature’s plan to require schools to publish more information online about what they are teaching — including course summaries and the textbooks that are used. House Bill 1332 is driven by Republicans, who control the Legislature. It passed the House in October and the Senate on Tuesday, largely on party lines. Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf, are opposed. Why is this suddenly an issue? To appease the “don’t teach my kid critical race theory” crowd. That’s what this is about. Don’t try to pretend it’s about transparency. “This is also part of a larger movement to pit the public against teachers. And politicize education while undermining the teaching of accurate history and racial and cultural competence,” said Williams, D-Allegheny. House Bill 1332 would require Pennsylvania schools to publish information on their websites about the courses they teach and the textbooks they use. (Yulia Grigoryeva // Shutterstock) Raising awareness about course curriculum could fuel fires, no doubt. Some school boards relish pushing political agendas. Others could be too weak to resist a hostile crowd demanding a whitewashing of history lessons. But if the “don’t teach my kid critical race theory” crowd challenges what is being taught, hopefully school boards and superintendents will have a backbone. They must hold their ground. They must explain that teaching how Black people were enslaved, discriminated against, abused and killed by white people isn’t critical race theory. It’s teaching facts. It’s teaching history. And schools teach history. Hopefully, other parents will support that position and demand those lessons occur. This legislation isn’t calling for anything radical. The information it would require to be published already is supposed to be available to parents. The state education code requires schools to have policies for how parents and guardians can review information about “curriculum, including academic standards to be achieved, instructional materials and assessment techniques.” Sen. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, who wrote the legislation, said some districts publish it online while others don’t. The goal, he said in a legislative memo, is to standardize the process. That would give parents the information they need to offer feedback and to determine whether lesson plans are in line with their educational objectives and wishes. What was unsaid in the memo was that if parents don’t like what’s being taught, they could invoke their school choice options and move their kids to a charter school or private school. Or, of course, push their conspiracy theory agendas and try to bully school boards. The legislation would cost schools and taxpayers. Wolf and Williams waved the “unfunded mandate” flag in their opposition. The proposed requirement would not be onerous, though. It’s not asking school districts to write a novel about each course. It would require districts, charter schools, technical schools and intermediate units to publish on their website a title or link for every textbook; a course syllabus or written summary of each course; and the state academic standards for each course. That information already exists somewhere, assuming schools are complying with the current requirement that it be available. I have been attending open houses and parent-teacher conferences for years. A lot of my sons’ teachers made short presentations about their classes, including the textbooks. Implementing this shouldn’t cost much. It should be largely a one-time expense. Once the required information is compiled and published, it would need to be updated only when changed. The Wolf administration considers the legislation to be “a potentially harmful means to incite further resistance to ensuring all learners have access to historically accurate content that reflects the diverse identities and experiences of Pennsylvania’s students and families,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Rementer told me. “The governor in general supports transparency, but this appears to be a disingenuous attempt to prevent school boards from considering a robust set of curricula,” she said. But concerns about how public information might be used isn’t a good excuse for not making it easily accessible. Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or [email protected] critical race theory House Bill 1332 Sen. Andrew Lewis Pennsylvania textbooks Pennsylvania curriculum Sen. Lyndsey Williams Gov. Tom Wolf
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