Schools need more than fakes
Competition soared this month in the sky-is-falling sweepstakes. Among the honorable mentions is U.S. Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., who, rather than being serious about serious problems, I found on Twitter making breakfast on a gas stove because, well, gas stoves, you know.
Apparently that whole debt ceiling thing is a trifle. Maybe, too, Congress should table further discussions about Ukraine. Or of what consequence is it really that the U.S. House is harboring an imposter, a real fake in a deep fake world?
Despite Flood’s efforts to start a nonstarter, the Nebraska Legislature and State Board of Education get the dubious win this month for their work on behalf of the state’s schoolchildren.
Exhibit A is State Sen. Dave Murman’s Legislative Bill 374, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act,” moonbeams on which mom and dad and their evidence-free fraternity can prop the heavens from falling down around us.
A cursory read of the proposal reveals that parents would be given the “right” to know and review what’s in their child’s curriculum, permission they apparently already have. No one, including Murman, has cited an instance of parents being barred from that information. But do forge ahead because those other concerns in our public schools — teacher shortages, catching up with losses incurred during COVID, addressing students’’mental health —can surely repair themselves.
A stickier section of Murman’s bill is its insistence that we teach an inaccurate version of American history, lest students feel guilt or responsibility for slavery and its aftermath in this country. Murman doesn’t call that a ban on teaching critical race theory (CRT), but we know what the senator means. Before the Legislature votes, I would hope, either in committee or on the floor, a colleague would ask Murman or others so inclined to vote for LB 374 to define CRT. To cite specific examples of where in Nebraska it is being taught. Further, to cite examples of students anywhere overcome with accountability because as part of this country’s narrative Americans bought, sold, tortured, and murdered human beings and the long, embedded consequences of that.
On a related educational note Murman has also introduced LB 371, which would bar anyone under 19 from attending a drag show, defined as a performance in which the performer “exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers … and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
So those high school pep rallies where beefy football players dress in cheerleader skirts and lead the student body in the school song would cost that district $10,000, the fine for hosting such events. Also off limits in high schools would be the drama department’s productions of “As You Like It,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “Cymbeline,” in the off chance that the world’s greatest English literary figure was a groomer.
Forget, too, showing “Tootsie,” “Victor Victoria,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” or “Some Like it Hot” at the local revival house lest the under 19 crowd —OK by Motion Picture Association of America standards — get the wrong idea from silver screen make believe and the local Bijou has to cough up 10 G’s per violation.
There’s more. State Sen. Joni Albrecht wants to abolish the State Board of Education via an amendment to the State Constitution. If voters approved her proposal, state educational issues such as state standards would be the purview of the governor and a governor-appointed educational commissioner. Which, if the timing is correct, could mean an entirely new set of school policies every time we decide to change occupants in the governor’s mansion.
Speaking of the State Board of Education, it needs to hire a new education commissioner. One board member, Sherry Jones, said she’s looking for a commissioner who has the “fear of the Lord.” She didn’t elaborate on which or whose Lord she meant, but the last time I checked in with our democratic republic principles, I remember seeing that when you spend public funds and set public policy, the Lord — yours or mine, feared or not — isn’t part of the equation.
As predicted by many, schoolhouses are ground zero in the culture wars now endemic to the country. All of which means none of the above should surprise anyone who has been paying attention. Still, as I’ve written in this space before, schools already have enough real issues without giving cover to fakes.
Leave that to the House of Representatives.