Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Columnist: OK Educators need to read, and follow, directions

Oklahoma Educators Need to Read, and Follow, Directions
By Mike Davis

Read all the directions. Teachers used to say this before every test. Following them was implied. Students who skipped directly to the first question often made mistakes. Sometimes extra credit was hidden in the directions. Unfortunately, Oklahoma educators seem to be having trouble with both reading and following directions.

For example, at a school board meeting on June 7, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent McDaniel talked about the impacts of SB658 on the district’s continuing plan to mandate masks in schools. While Dr. McDaniel correctly pointed out that the bill requires the school board to put a mask mandate on the agenda of every board meeting until they are repealed, the law also requires that the county must be “under a current state of emergency declared by the Governor.” The governor recently affirmed his plan not to impose a new emergency order. Superintendent McDaniel fell into one of the classic blunders: he failed to read all the directions.

Educators seem to have asked an unreliable friend to describe the directions contained in HB1775. Based on the unreliable friend’s abysmal summary, they are loudly announcing their intent not to follow. Numerous statements on Twitter, some by self-identified teachers, show a profound misunderstanding of the law’s directives.

Here’s what the bill actually says: schools can’t force students to learn that they are inherently bad because they are a certain race. Schools can’t discourage students from treating people of every race equally. Every requirement of the law falls into one of those two categories. It specifically allows the teaching of historical facts, including any atrocity perpetrated by one race on another. It does forbid teachers from asserting that past atrocities by one race make current members of that race responsible for those atrocities, or predisposed to committing them again. Students of every race deserve the opportunity to forge their own path, free of racial baggage. While that may still be a dream, further burdening them at the schools they are required to attend is not the solution.

Teachers rightly say that every student should feel welcome in our schools. If some don’t, we should fix that. But the fix is to welcome everyone, not to make everyone equally — or “equitably”  — unwelcome. That’s like lighting a fire in your back yard so your front yard doesn't feel bad about being on fire. Perhaps you should extinguish the front yard fire instead.

Following directions is necessary for success on exams, and for creating a learning environment. It also has applications well beyond the classroom; we want drivers who follow the rules of the road, and citizens who follow the law. Let’s hope our educators set a better example for our future adults.

Mike Davis is Research Fellow at 1889 Institute.


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