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When Politics Collide with the Classroom

Tips for parents when teachers go off the rails

One of the difficult situations facing some parents these days is when a child’s teacher gets on a political soapbox, or behaves or speaks in a manner that is wholly inappropriate for a classroom.

This does not refer to open dialogue, respectful communication over political issues in a political science or government class, or freedom of speech issues. This refers to a teacher in grade school or high school who speaks inappropriately and out of context about a partisan political issue, or perhaps goes on a sexually explicit rant, to our younger children.

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What should the student do? What should the parent do? In an era in which education is dominated by leftists who have a tendency to exact vengeance on those who speak up in defiance of their position, how are these situations best handled?

While the physical actions you can take to address the issue are important, there are even more important lessons in parenting you can offer regarding your child, according to Dr. Jason Stein, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a doctorate in clinical psychology. He practices in Brentwood, California.

“Disagreeing with some authority figure is healthy,” he said. “However, having to prove that they are wrong is not the solution. Recognizing that you and your child have different values is truly what matters here.”

“You have the ability and the right to make your own life better through your freedom of choice.”

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Parents can certainly contact the teacher or the administration — even anonymously — and gently remind them that partisan politics is not welcome in the classroom. Depending on the district, this can often be enough to get the teacher back on the rails, particularly in a public school system.

With colleges, even public ones, the external matters of grades and retaliation can become quite real. Generally, a firm note to the instructor, warning that the next letter would go to the administration (which itself would contain a note threatening to go public to donors), would probably do the trick.

Stein was more circumspect, however.

Remaining neutral on the topic of politics, and quick to point out his position relates to any conflict in schools, he said, “Holding the teacher accountable is knocking on the wrong door.”

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“You are not going to change the institution,” he continued. “Instead, focus on how to empower yourself and your child. You have the ability and the right to make your own life better through your freedom of choice.”

The suggestion is a startling one — but worth careful consideration. Stein asked an important question, namely: “Where is the locus of control? Is it internal, where you have the self-confidence and self-reliance to do what is best for you and your child? Or is it external, where you feel like you have no control and will blame someone else?”

Sound familiar?

There is certainly value in applying external pressure to keep the institution honest. Yet if it continues to occur, why succumb to the leftist playbook? Leftists don’t see themselves as having an internal locus of control, and therefore identify with ideology and not reality. They can point the finger and look outside of themselves because there’s less accountability.

Related: Are You Really Listening to Your Child?

But, as Stein said, “There’s a responsibility to ask yourself, ‘How do I make my life better?'”

What we see on the Left, in places like Yale where exams were canceled because of Trump’s victory, is coddling. Universities are providing puppy dogs and Play-Doh to make these poor little kids feel safe, instead of encouraging them to speak up. Nor is protesting a true method of speaking up.

Stein suggested that protests are an expression of feeling helpless. Protesting is certainly a right, but it “perpetuates the sense of helplessness. In theory it empowers, but in reality, the protests will end, and the students will have to figure how to navigate the landscape. It’s not easy or good, but that’s reality.”

The goal, as Stein said, is to exert the degree of control that one can exert on external matters, but to always remember that it is internal control that directs us and our children to become fully realized individuals.

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