The battle over American education is at the forefront of political debates of late, with parents increasingly pushing back against gender ideology and critical race theory, among other contentious subject matter.
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The shock, awe, and dismay surrounding public schools and education more generally are palpable enough to impact local and national elections alike. And with the 2022 midterm elections just months away, this reality is certainly not lost on politicians and strategists from both sides of the aisle.
So, what’s going on, and why does it matter?
Two Disturbing Issues to Consider
Dr. Kathy Koch, a former teacher, a staff member with Summit Ministries, and the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., said two key issues most disturb her about the current state of education.
“What most concerns me — that’s a loaded question — is the liberal, powerful[ly] funded agenda that is frankly taking away control from the teacher and even from a building principal and even from a district administrator,” she said.
Koch added, “There are great people in our schools and I know, as a teacher, I wanted autonomy with my second graders, and then, when I was a university professor, I was the one educated to train and teach them and I wanted to have that power, if you will.”
The veteran educator said she’s disappointed to see people who have no idea what goes on throughout the education process boisterously make demands that negatively impact children.
“They’re loud,” Koch said. “They’re aggressive.”
But the issues plaguing education also come from the community, she said, noting too many parents, grandparents, and community members have allowed the chaos to manifest and grow in American schools.
Koch argued that, rather than speak up earlier, too many people waited until the situation devolved.
“The other thing that concerns me is … parents who are weak parents, who have watched it happen and parents, grandparents, local community people — even people without children — who see it happen and aren’t speaking up on behalf of our kids,” Koch said. “Aren’t going to school board meetings. Aren’t going and saying… ‘This is wrong. We disagree with this.'”
Watch Koch discuss these issues:
The Parental Rights Battle
Some of that dynamic is changing, of course, with parents flooding school board meetings to make their voices heard. And the academic battles have, in many ways, reached a fever pitch in Florida with the enactment of the Parental Rights in Education Act, a law set to take effect July 1.
Koch offered support for the legislation, which bars educators from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation from pre-K through third grade.
“Parents have a right to plan for the education of their children and plan for the conversations that ought to be done at home,” she said. “So, I think it’s good. I think teachers need to stay out of the business that is really not theirs.”
Koch continued, “And you know, I’m a huge proponent of freedom for parents to make decisions to educate their children appropriately and conversations about gender, sexuality, sex, these things ought to be happening at home and then in the schools in developmentally age-appropriate ways, like maybe a biology class, et cetera, but certainly not for little itty bitty kids.”
As a former second-grade teacher and school board member, this is an issue Koch knows well. And she has sympathy for many of the educators who don’t want to be in this position.
“My heart goes out to the teachers,” she said. “A lot of them don’t want to be doing this. A lot of them find it awkward and they agree with us. Let’s leave the children alone.”
The Rise of Homeschooling
With these issues persisting and even worsening — along with the chaos and learning challenges that came with COVID-19 — some parents are looking for educational alternatives.
Koch said many parents are showing interest in homeschooling. A proponent of homeschooling, Koch said it is “not easy,” but is doable and rewarding for families looking for other options. Private schools, too, are another option.
As for public schools, Koch said she often advises parents to pursue alternatives.
“I often advise that our children are not there and … so I don’t say that easily,” she said. “I am a former public school teacher and … the system is broken. I don’t think we’re spending enough time on reading, writing, and arithmetic, so it’s not even just the progressive, liberal agenda. It’s the academic performance.”
For those parents who do have children in the public schools, Koch encouraged them to pray over their kids, to equip them, and to teach them “how to stand up for themselves and teach them how to be sad for someone before mad at someone and make sure that they’re able to be in that situation and be a light.”
Let’s continue to pray for our teachers, administrations, and schools.
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