Tuesday, July 09, 2019

When Principals Embrace Alternative Facts

What can you say about holocaust deniers? In this era of "alternative facts," you might say they're par for the course. We have a President who can't even open his mouth without lying. He can say any goshdarn thing that enters his head and almost half the country will cheer wildly. He can separate children from their families, place them in cages, deny them basic necessities and call it patriotism.

After all, we all need someone to hate. It makes us feel better about ourselves somehow. I was born here, and am therefore better than you are. My parents had more money than you did, so I have more money than you do, and I'm therefore better than you are. My skin is this color and yours is that. I speak this language and you speak that.

The thing is that we as educators have a mission. What is it? It depends a lot who you ask. If you ask the geniuses in Albany they'll say our mission is to make kids pass tests. Actually they may say something else, but their actions suggest testing is the only thing they care about. I have a different idea entirely.

I'd say our mission is to fight stupidity and ignorance. Our mission is to encourage questioning and thought. I'd also say that it goes beyond figuring out whether a, b, c or d is the proper response to a question. That's what sets me apart from the geniuses in Albany. That, and you won't see me posing as a genius anytime soon. I don't know everything and I don't pretend to.

I know that it's idiotic, at best, to say the history of the holocaust is open to interpretation. I know it's idiotic, at best, to say the same about slavery. This Florida principal seemed to say it about both. There are people on both sides. Well, there are people on both sides of science too. Donald Trump can stand up and oppose it as many times as he likes, but it won't change anything.

Someone has to help kids understand what's true and what isn't. It's positively Orwellian that we have school principals who refuse to take sides between reality and alternative fact. How on earth are children supposed to learn anything from people who feel it's only fair to give equal time to birthers and flat earthers?

As always, there are reasons for this. There's racism. There's bigotry. There's xenophobia. There's homophobia. There's good old, old-fashioned stupidity. Any of them can explain why you'd take history and deny it. But anyone who suffers from any or all of the above ought not to be an educator, let alone a principal. That's why it's great to read that this principal is now seeking other work. Whatever it is, I hope it doesn't involve people. 

A teacher's job is to help students think for themselves, not to justify ignorance of any kind. In these times we are needed more than ever. You know who should lead schools? The best teachers, the ones who are willing to share their craft with the new teachers. Instead, look what we have.

Too bad the geniuses in Albany are so obsessed with test scores, because school leaders like these are most definitely not limited to Florida.
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