By now, we’ve all seen the recent video of a Cos Cob school Assistant Principal preaching his personal bias against Catholics, conservatives and “older” teachers and woke indoctrination of students as a main mission of his occupation.
Only days later, concerned educators shared politically focused teacher training materials from Guilford Public Schools. The documents contained subjective questions on hot-button political topics including transgender athletes, systemic racism, mask mandates and the January 6 attack on the US Capitol—to name a few.
Then, closer to home, a student presented the Southington Board of Education with a three-page document promoting the concepts of white privilege and systemic racism—also making national headlines.
These are just the latest in a string of related incidents across the country that have set off a firestorm of angry parents who justifiably want to know what is going on in their children’s schools.
These recent incidents appear to be the unsanctioned efforts of a few individuals and not a systemic problem, but they are becoming less and less rare and isolated.
As I have stated, now countless times over the past several years, political bias has no place in public schools. Each of us, regardless of our own politics, should be furious that events like these are occurring in our schools.
I continue highlighting this destructive trend and doing my best to fight the increasing number of race-and gender-based policies flowing from our state capitol – many into the arena of education.
I have offered bills and also a much-discussed amendment designed to prevent the teaching of concepts that promote a one-sided political bias, including concepts that suggest that one race or sex is superior to another race or sex, or that our country is inherently racist etc. Sadly, these are either ignored by majority Democrats or voted down on a party line as happened most recently on June 7, 2021, in the Senate.
My efforts have been wrongly characterized by those on the progressive left as censorship. I don’t believe in censorship and have no objection to teaching any topic as long as the purpose is not to promote one political ideology over another, or to divide students by race or gender. Facts and balance are required.
I will continue doing my part at the state capitol. Ultimately, however, the buck stops at local school districts. Along with local parents’ rights groups, I have been traveling the state talking about improving education, and doing my best to empower students, parents, and good teachers how our system works and what they can do to help.
We have many excellent teachers in our schools here and across Connecticut. I know many of them personally and I also know that they would never use their role to promote any political agenda, left or right. I am genuinely sorry that they are caught up in this debate and I encourage them to continue focusing on being the best educators they can.
There is no doubt that those few educators using their position to promote a progressive agenda believe strongly in what they are doing and will continue to do so if left unchallenged. Thankfully, our American system of representative government allows us the ability as citizens to demand the policy and curriculum we choose.
Sunlight remains the best disinfectant. Transparency and accountability are the key to change. To insure that students receive an objective education, parents and honorable teachers must continue coming forward.
As these events and revelations become more common, they underscore the concern in our state and across our country: how primary education is developed, delivered and managed in each of our communities.
Parents are ultimately who should determine what is taught in every classroom. That is not a criticism of teachers as I have been a strong advocate for individual teachers to have more control in the classroom. In recent years, they have been undermined by mandates and bureaucracy, and some administrations. However, ultimately it is the parents who should have final say about what is taught.
Curriculum should be determined on a local level by local Boards of Education – closest to home and most responsive to those parents. If there is a state level department of education, it should be limited to providing resources and expertise and not making policy for individual school districts. Local boards of Education must meet in-person and provide open access to residents to address their concerns. This is how our American system of representative government works.
Parents should also have access to curriculum taught in their schools, and even some access to the classroom itself – and ultimately, the choice to opt-in or out of any courses or classes they choose.
Finally, political bias has no place in schools.
I have offered each of these guidelines in the form of proposed bills in the legislature and a small number of courageous colleagues have joined me. So far, these proposals have been ignored by the majority party leadership of the legislature’s Education Committee. However, I remain hopeful that growing public pressure will force positive change.
A quality education is required for Connecticut’s next generation to develop as critical thinkers and meaningful contributors to our state. I will remain steadfast in demanding the reforms necessary to improve our education system. The students of today will determine the quality of our future and they deserve the best effort aimed at their success.
As always, you can find me at senatorsampson.com.
State Sen. Rob Sampson, a Republican, lives in Wolcott and represents Wolcott, Prospect, Southington, and Waterbury in the legislature