I didn’t really want to retire when MS cognitive impairments forced me out of the classroom … but in retrospect, it did give me five years at home with Rick before his untimely death, and I appreciated that time allowed.
But there is now another reason to appreciate not standing in front of a classroom of 8th grade students learning about the Constitution’s origins and powers in our government … I doubt I could fulfill the expectation of all middle school social studies teachers … that unspoken but implied requirement that personal political preferences have no place in a classroom teacher’s syllabus.
I recently read the collective anthology of essays written by 27 psychiatrists … it is titled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It offers practicing psychiatrists moral support from respected peers in opening the dialogue with troubled patients who need help in dealing with the stress of disagreeing with friends, family and co-workers over the status of the three branches of our government today. The book wrestles, writer by writer, with the conundrum of two mandates of the psychiatrist’s code: the Goldwater Rule and the Duty to Warn. The concensus within this group offering their perspective is that the Duty to Warn far outweighs the Goldwater Rule.
More recently, a number of former CIA officials decried the removal of security clearance of Former CIA Direcor John Brennan, and several other intelligence agents, by President Trump in a collective letter: “The move has united a who’s who of former top intelligence officials who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations… The group of former CIA directors, CIA deputy directors and Director of National Intelligence called the move “ill-considered” and said the threat of additional removals are not based on security concerns but have “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”
It may be time for educators to follow suit, forming a committee of professional teachers and school administrators who will write of the looming task of facing students when schools reopen in the coming days; social studies teachers will be the most likely to face contentious classroom debates among students, and on parent visiting nights among the adults as well, as regards the ongoing investigation of the current administration’s alleged criminal activity during the election of 2016. We can leave it to the psychiatrists to find a way to evaluate Donald Trump’s credibility as a national leader; we can leave it to the intelligence agents to file charges of irresponsible, unconstitutional activities of this administration; we can leave it to the members of Congress to seek the removal of Trump and his allies … but we must not leave it to individual classroom teachers to handle hot topic discussions regarding this president. The job of the teachers in middle school social studies classrooms is to present the Constitution … to explain the balance of power among POTUS, SCOTUS and Congress that is written into the documents’ lines … to explain why the first amendment is threatened by a president who wields power with a personal vengeance without modeling a disrespect of the office itself … to build an understanding why the second amendment writers never anticipated the possibility of a citizenry armed with weapons of mass destruction … to explain why the nineteenth amendment does not address equal rights (beyond the right to vote) for women and so seems to allow for the vulgar expressions of bravado regarding how “stars” like Trump can take advantage of women at will … and to explain the twenty-fifth amendment‘s potential to resolve the current debacle if only Congress were not so one-sided…
I am so relieved that I no longer hold the position of a highly qualified teacher of United States History in an 8th grade classroom filled with students who have conservative parents sitting next to students who have liberal parents … for how would I keep a straight face in defending their responsibility to respect the man in the office of POTUS?
But who among the educational community will take on the responsibility of soliciting and accumulating and editing such a guiding peer review of our current government for social studies teachers walking that tightrope?