Capitol Comments: Political ideology needs to stay out of our schools

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 26, 2021

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Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

I find it very concerning that activist politics is working its way into our public schools.  I would like to share with you some of the issues that are being pushed forward at the state level.

Peggy Bennett

No more asking students to focus on getting the right answer in math or learning about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in history; no more teaching students that adolescent sex should be avoided because of the potentially harmful mental, emotional and physical ramifications. Instead, we should be teaching children as young as 10 years old that “you and only you know when you are ready to have sex.”

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The idea that adults know what’s best for children is now being relegated as a thing of the past — evidently this is a form of “paternalism and power hoarding” according to some.

Did you know that the 19th-century westward expansion in America is a disgraceful example of “whiteness, Christianity and capitalism?” This is according to a recently released draft of the proposed new K-12 social studies standards put out by the Minnesota Department of Education.

In this proposal, subjects like WW1, WW2 and the Holocaust are removed or minimized.  They will be replaced with concepts that will make children aware of “powerful social, cultural and political inequities” in our nation so they can become “conscious and critical of their own biases and those of the larger society.” I very much agree that we need to teach children about the evils of racism and discrimination, but this proposal is going beyond what is reasonable.

Math instruction is also becoming a flashpoint for political activist indoctrination. Simple math instruction that focuses on helping students find the right answer is now deemed a form of white supremacy. Evidently calling answers right and wrong is considered too objective and a “tenet of white culture,” according to recommended teacher training in other states and now working its way into Minnesota schools.

How is this going to help our children? No matter what their race, how can children succeed at the next level if they can’t even do basic math?

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to walk into a building that has been designed by an engineer who has been taught that there is “no right answer” — because there are right answers that make important calculations like what kind of roof will withstand the weight load of a foot of snow or what kind of floor will hold the mass of 100 people. Nor do I want to have the computer program that operates my electrical grid during subzero temperatures developed by someone who has been taught that there is “no right answer.”

Whatever happened to teaching kids the basics like how to read, write and do math? Test scores in reading and math in our state have remained stagnantly abominable for years. Our achievement gap is one of the worst in the nation. Forcing teachers to inject activist politics into our schools might turn out some “woke” social justice warriors, but it’s sure not going to produce the computer analysts, engineers, electricians, nurses, doctors and teachers that so many communities desperately need.

These same groups who want politics in school are holding back the very people they think they are helping. Activist groups on both sides need to stay out of our curriculum and out of our classrooms.

Reasonable people understand that sex education in our schools should be medically accurate and developmentally appropriate. Who wouldn’t agree with that? However, many people adamantly oppose other components of K-12 Comprehensive Sex Education, which some legislators are attempting to force upon all public schools — for example, teaching children that vaginal, oral and anal sex are all equivalent and healthy forms of sex.

Reasonable people understand that it is necessary to update our social studies standards to ensure that the history taught in our schools reflects the perspectives and stories of the various cultural groups in our state and nation. However, most people also understand that we cannot erase one history and replace it with another.  Minnesota students deserve a well-rounded and balanced history that teaches both the mistakes and the accomplishments of our nation — not an ideological indoctrination.

The education of our children is being held captive to the constant whims of extreme political ideology, forcing wild pendulum swings as to how we operate our schools. Radical politics already exists in Minnesota classrooms. However, the wholesale mandating of such ideology is now being openly and actively promoted by both legislators and government entities.

As a legislator, I will always fight to keep our schools focused on producing balanced young people who are proficient readers and writers, capable with numbers, and are taught not what to think but how to think competently.

Political ideology needs to stay out of our schools.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.