Editor: I am a 2017 alumnus of Potomac Falls High School, writing this letter for Loudoun parents in about Tuesday night’s unruly school board meeting.
By observing the impassioned speeches, righteous singing, and ugly violence at Tuesday night’s raucous meeting, you’d be forgiven for thinking that public school policy on gender and “critical race theory” is an extremely high-stakes issue that will determine how your children view the world.
If it’s any consolation, teachers will not determine your children’s political views and personal beliefs. You can all calm down.
Your child is flooded with political content from peers and media personalities that they hold more credible than school teachers—whether it be through their friends’ Instagram stories, Youtube lectures, or trendy Tik Toks. If they go to college, they’ll probably have to take some gen-ed social science class that’ll explore these issues anyway.
Teachers cannot control the deluge of ideas kids are exposed to, but they can help them engage with it. Turn the conversation away from the content of teaching, and toward giving students the analytical tools to navigate different ideas critically and thoughtfully.
Teach students that there are multiple lenses to look at history, some that focus on the advancement of our ideals and others on the reproduction of our deepest failures—namely racial discrimination. Make sure students know there is a vigorous and open debate about gender, and create an environment where they can learn to talk about it with respect for one another. Part of that is making sure all kids feel safe in school—in their identities and in their bathrooms. Validating preferred pronouns, while encouraging gender non-conforming students to use single use bathrooms and changing areas is the most pragmatic and interest balancing policy-bundle here.
If you think that public school curriculum determines what your child believes, you are delusional. Kids have their own agenda. Reflect: Was your vote determined by what you recited on your SOLs?
Choosing the narratives and ideas that are “right” isn’t important, the kids will decide that themselves. Schools need pluralism, not partisan doctrine. Train students on how to have respectful and reflective discussions on controversial issues in the safety of a classroom, so they’re not only seeing the conversation play out in the angry and broken media environment your generation created, and are now bringing to our school board meetings. We need our next generation of citizens to be smarter and kinder than the embarrassment we saw Tuesday night.
Parents and teachers, don’t worry too much about shaping your kids, they’ll be the ones shaping you and the world you live in. In the meantime, why don’t you worry about growing up yourselves.
Arjit Roshan, Sterling