By Ron Brzoska
In the past couple of weeks national attention was once again brought to our educational system through the Chicago Teachers Union strike. I won’t get into the issues and resolution to the strike. That has been discussed ad nauseam, and I have nothing new or enlightening to add to that topic. I won’t be discussing the Lake Forest teachers strike either. That strike was simply about money. There are no pretenses about ideological issues. What I would like to discuss is the more local picture…because a lot is happening right here in my little piece of Illinois. Things that are happening that have nothing to do with public sector unions or collective bargaining. Things that as parents we must wake up to and become active participants in the education of our children.
The first issue to be discussed is a speaker, Jessica Ahlquist, that was brought on a speaking tour of DuPage County area high schools during the past week in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution. Ms. Ahlquist was sponsored on this tour by the Citizens Advocacy Center. The problem with this speaking tour was that its intentions are a little less than transparent. The controversy is described in this article. http://elmhurst.patch.com/articles/jessica-ahlquist-athiest-york-high-school. The parents received permission slips that did not explain the content of the presentation or the sponsor group, the Citizens Advocacy Center. The parents were expecting a presentation on the Constitution and its importance in our government, but instead their children received a presentation on why prayer in school is wrong. While that is a healthy discussion for debate, and a healthy debate for our young people, it was presented as a one-sided lecture. This lecture was also given under false pretenses as evidenced by the lack of information on the permission slip. The responsibility for this lack of transparency should be laid at the feet of York High School. In addition to the flip/flop and murkiness on the requirements of the permission slip and whether the presentation is curriculum or not, they may guilty of not simply doing their homework. The Citizens Advocacy Center is a progressive activist group. Please take a look at them at www.citizenadvocacycenter.org. This organization was founded by Theresa Amato, who ran Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader’s presidential campaigns…twice. For those that are not in the know, the Green Party is for people that think the Democratic Party is too conservative. A list of the links to other organizations they recommend on their website has many progressive organizations listed.
- Brennan Center for Justice in New York
- Change Illinois!
- Common Cause
- Crossroads Fund
- Heartland International
- Illinois Public Interest Research Group (IL PIRG)
- Joyce Foundation
- McCormick Foundation
- Midwest Democracy Network
- Student Press Law Center
- Sunlight Foundation
Progressives believe that the Constitution is an outdated document. They believe that it is open to interpretation and change to address the situations and challenges that they believe the founders could never have thought of. Progressives believe that law is dynamic and relative to the situation. They also believe that as man evolves, we no longer need checks and balances in government. Those get in the way of action. Man is better and smarter now. We don’t need checks and balances. The government can be trusted. Dictators like King George no longer exist. They believe that government can be used as a tool to solve just about any problem. You don’t have to believe me. This is not my assessment. Please feel free to read the works of Woodrow Wilson. I’m only paraphrasing his words. Taking our children out of class on Constitution Day and bringing them to a progressive presentation is equivalent to bringing a group of students to a David Duke lecture on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Being a parent, I want to know what is part of the lesson plan. We are entrusting our teachers with our children for up to eight hours a day in some cases. We are owed this transparency.
In Hinsdale High School District 86 there is an issue regarding the showing of certain movies in an elective film class. A parent has raised objections to the showing of Brokeback Mountain and American Beauty in an elective class, Film as Literature. The debate here is the same as the one waged during our generation and our parents’ generation over what books are suitable for students and what values are out schools trying to teach our children. A story from the Patch is linked: http://darien-il.patch.com/articles/highly-controversial-movies-being-shown-in-class-has-d86-parent-concerned. I had made a comment on this story below:
I’m not clear on what the purpose of the class is. I have seen American Beauty, Brokeback Mountain, and two other films on the syllabus, The Graduate, and Old School. The name of the class is Film as Literature, so I suspect movies are to be broken down like when we studied books when I was in high school. Each book and a theme that we were studying. So what is the theme of Old School. Is there really anything to be learned by the movie Old School? Don’t get me wrong; I love the movie and this story will probably get me to dig it out and watch it again, but it’s just a fun time. There is nothing intellectual about it. I think if the lesson plan were more transparent, many parental concerns could be relieved.
As for the commentors that feel the board should not have approval rights over what is in class or the summer reading lists, please remember that movies, music, and summer reading are all a part of the curriculum. You can’t say one media (textbooks) is ok to screen and others are not. This is especially true today with the way many teachers are looking at alternative ways to teach our children as a way to reach and stimulate our children’s’ minds. Textbooks are gradually going by the wayside. We elect our school board members to spend our tax money wisely and make sure our children are prepared for college and their adult lives. The board is supposed to represent us. Teachers should never have cart blanche as to what they teach. What if the class had movies such American History X, Birth of a Nation, or that stupid Innocence of Muslims movie? Wouldn’t parents have a right to be concerned and upset then? Sure they would.