In the News
Education’s Sacred Trust
*Op-ed written by Commissioner Frank Edelblut of the New Hampshire Department of Education
Educators and the public education system are custodians of a sacred trust.
When children come to school, they arrive reflecting the value systems of the families responsible for raising them. Those value systems are as different as the children themselves.
Recent revelations from educators around the country, mostly on social media platforms like TikTok, reveal a number of educators who believe that it is their responsibility to weigh in on and influence the value systems of the children toward a particular goal. This impulse to influence a child’s value system is not limited to educators. As was recently revealed, Disney also wants to weigh in. It is not good enough to simply allow parents and caregivers the responsibility to instill a value system they believe is right for the child. Whether it is a rogue educator or a corporation trying to impose a value system on impressionable youngsters, that is not their job. That is the job of parents and caregivers.
Fortunately, parents can choose to turn off Disney. They can’t, however, easily escape the efforts of activist educators who might be knowingly dismantling the foundations of a value system they are attempting to build.
That means that families, when they send their children to school, entrust the educators to respect the value systems that the family is building. This is the sacred trust that educators have.
To be fair, most educators do not engage in such practices, and effective educators know that blatant displays of bias are not necessary. They can teach challenging and sometimes controversial topics without allowing their personal preferences to seep through to the children. A student may never even know a teacher’s opinion on a topic, particularly a sensitive topic like sexuality and gender, or perspectives on political systems, whether capitalism or socialism, or an ideological engagement of race and diversity.
Rather, these teachers provide instruction that is developmentally appropriate to the child, and parents are left to determine how, and when, to explain the benefits and consequences of adopting beliefs that align with one side of an argument or another.
But when educators overstep, it weakens the ability for parents to achieve the values they believe to be best for their children, and it squanders the credibility of the profession as a whole.
For the most part, New Hampshire has avoided many of the problems seen on a national level. But, that does not mean that we are immune to them. Recent experiences in New Hampshire show that some of these biases are beginning to seep into our own institutions. This document exemplifies actual instructional material from New Hampshire schools that parents have identified as conflicting with their values.
One example includes messaging to children as young as 8 and 9 year “that there are totally more than two genders! Some people identify as a gender that is not male or female, some identify as more than one gender, and some people don’t identify as any gender.” Not only can this be confusing for a child, but it might conflict with – or worse, undermine – the value system of many of the families.
Children in New Hampshire need to learn about capitalism and socialism. And, when those subjects are taught, the teaching needs to be factually accurate. The goal, however, is not to persuade children to become socialists through a biased or subtle affirmation of the tenants of socialism, even if the educator holds a personal belief in that system. Again, for an effective teacher, those beliefs do not seep through. But, when walls of one New Hampshire classroom are adorned with posters extoling the virtues of socialism, the educators undermine the values of families.
Parents of students taking an art class should have a reasonable expectation that they will be learning about, well, art. They should not be concerned, as occurred in another New Hampshire classroom, that the introduction to art will begin with a lesson in pronouns and links to Black Lives Matters for kids and LGBTQ+ for kids.
For a very long time, educators were a highly trusted partner for parents, and in that role, they were given great latitude. With that latitude came great responsibility. Responsibility to support the parents and not undermine their values.
The actions of some educators, which have become increasingly apparent through social media as a result of the pandemic, are undermining the sacred trust that educators hold. Educators have a position of influence over children. The correct use of that influence will support and not compromise the values of families.
Good educators have always recognized that.