Why our schools are in trouble


To the Editor:

Our schools are suffering and there are two causes: the pandemic and politics.

In Houston there are 900 teacher vacancies. In Florida, 800. Maryland 5,500. Ohio 7,000. The pandemic is a major cause. Vacancies are worst in schools with majority non-white students. Many districts refuse, then and now, to require masks, another reason teachers and students are absent. Students seeking teacher training for certification are decreasing. But Covid isn’t the only cause of teacher shortages.

According to Pen (Poets, Novelists, Essayists) school gag orders about topics such as race, gender, American history and LGBTQ+ topics have been introduced in 36 states. If there are leaders in this insurrection, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio have front seats.

The American Association of University Professors has carefully watched universities and states which have been critical of those gag orders: Indiana, S. Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and West Virginia and Ohio. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution protects teachers at public schools from discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin.

Woke is the term many conservatives have stolen from African American history and turned it into a dangerous symbol. DeSantis’ ‘Stop Woke’ act passed a law that restricts race-based conversation and analysis in business and education unconstitutional. That law was soon overturned by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, a Florida judge.

What’s behind this attack on our democracy? In Plato’s Republic, Plato describes a cave where inhabitants are tied up so they can see only a dark wall. Their reality is based on very limited information. When they climb out of the cave, they are blinded by the light. Soon, they adjust and learn to think and perceive based on what they see. That difference explains why many liberals think that the 2020 election was not rigged and why many conservatives think it was. A well-studied explanation of this divide is given by Bill Bishop’s book “Big Sort.” The Sort is the last 50 years of American history when the polarization was intensified.

If that isn’t enough and you’re still in shock, try Lawrence Kohlberg’s work on moral development and Jean Piaget’s work on intellectual development.

Thomas Klein

Bowling Green

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