Teachers: The Knot in Tug-of-War

Teachers are the strained knot in a serious game of tug-of-war: parents versus government.

I often felt the strained tension of meeting student needs according to parents’ expectations versus the governments’ dictated expectations. Many public-school expectations written into law today are diametrically opposed to what most parents want for their children. 

How do they end up written into law?

At this moment, for example, SB 683 is pending in the Oregon State Legislature. In a nutshell, it’s all about codifying the blatantly false notion that America was founded on the ideas of oppression and racism into Oregon school law as required “history” standards. 

And so it goes.  And so it has gone, for decades now.  A nice little legislative side-step of parents and teachers. A side-step of the school boards, local control, transparency and oversight. Parents go unaware, thinking school is about reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers get delivered someone else’s illegitimate-educational-reform baby; teach it, or else – it’s the law!

And there’s the rub – the overburdened knot called teacher that gets pulled in two directions.   Often, I knew intuitively that what I was asked to teach had not been approved by parents. The government education system, which is manhandled by “teachers” unions has all the heavyweights on its tug-of-war side. It’s not even a tight match, folks!  The government has pulled the knot to within inches of the win line. One more heave-ho and they’ll become mom and dad to America’s school kids.  

It finally dawned on me one day that the government education system in which I was teaching had it in for parents! Subtly, slowly and effortlessly the system was conditioning teachers to be against parents. Repeated at staff meetings was the message of how horrible our students’ home lives were. We were told parents were neglectful, abusive and uneducated; incapable, impoverished and in need of any and all government programs that could possibly be offered. What a thing to say about parents, who love their children more than any arbitrary adult in a school building could!

I know, I know. You’re saying, “But many children are in bad situations!” Look, I’ve been teaching for over twenty years now. I could fill a book with heartbreaking back stories of children I’ve had in my classes over the years.  Is the solution to restoring, healing or preventing broken families handing the government parental responsibility?  Far from it.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5%. Which indicates most students’ home lives are acceptable or good. That is why I bristle at the continual parent-bashing taking place in government schools. 

Behind every hurting student, there are hurting parents.  So why does the government school act as though undermining parental authority and responsibility with social services is the solution?

We ought to be helping parents be and become really amazing parents.  We ought to hold parents accountable, and raise them up out of poverty and difficulties with compassion, common sense policies and high expectations.  

Children need their parents, because children belong to their parents. Families (a dad, a mom, kid(s)) are the bedrock of any society.  Everything a society does ought to promote healthy, stable families – not undermine them. Yet, the government school system is pitting teachers against parents, and the legislature is being used to hand power over children to the government, mostly through public schools.   On whose side should the strangled teacher be?

I don’t have enough fingers left to count the great teachers who’ve thrown up their hands and left the profession. They’ve been pushed to the edge.  I was. 

Where does this leave our schools?

If talented teachers with the integrity to resist anti-parent government requirements are forced out, who’ll be standing in front of children? 

Tug-of-war game over.

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