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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Don't say gay' when you're supposed to be teaching fractions

One out of three classroom teachers are working under "gag orders" that limit their speech on gender, sexuality and critical race theory, charges a new report from PEN America. Conservatives have shifted their "insidious strategies" to focus on LGBTQ+ topics and identities, says the writers' advocacy group.

Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, which limits teaching K-3 students about sexual orientation and gender identity, is a model.

Teachers claim they don't know if it's "safe" to teach Frederick Douglass, Reconstruction, African American spirituals or jazz for fear of making a student feel uncomfortable. Even when laws are clearly written to allow teaching of controversial and distressing issues, PEN notes, teachers feel threatened.

Two-thirds of U.S. teachers have limited discussions of political and social issues, even where there's no law or policy on teaching hot-button topics, according to a new RAND survey, reports Beth Hawkins on The 74. They worry about angry parents.

Teachers don't have the right to teach whatever they want or say whatever they want in the K-12 classroom, responds Robert Pondiscio of the American Enterprise Institute. There's nothing unusual or controversial about "restrictions on teacher speech and conduct in the service of protecting minors, running safe and orderly schools, and advancing academic standards, while being mindful of often complex community sensibilities." 

Courts have ruled that K-12 teachers are “hired speech," not free agents, he writes. Teacher-ed programs may urge them to be activists, but they're being paid to help students meet the school system's educational goals. If you're supposed to be teaching students how to add fractions, say "denominator" -- not "gay."

Most Americans oppose the teaching of gender and sexuality in elementary school, according to two new polls, reports Sarah Mervosh in the New York Times.

In a USC survey of parents with school-age children, most Democrats support teaching LGBTQ+ topics in middle and high school. Most Republicans oppose teaching transgender issues at any level, but are more open to teaching about gay issues.

A Pew survey of teachers found that 62 percent of elementary school teachers don't want to teach about gender. Half of teenagers said they didn't think they should learn about gender identity in school.

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1 Comment

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Feb 27

Local educational agencies should have clear curricula guiding teachers in planning their teaching, and teachers should be led through the relevant syllabuses during their education studies, with details to be conveyed during the induction period at the beginning of their paid employment.

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