[University of Wisconsin-Madison education professor Diana Hess] is a nationally renowned expert on curriculum and instruction with a special focus on helping teachers in the art of leading students in effective, respectful debate of controversial topics. A key motivator: her research shows that high school students are more open-minded and intellectually flexible than adults.Reading that, I can't help worrying that what teachers will really try to do is indoctrinate students in liberal ideology. Can we trust them to put the development of young minds first? Or will they take advantage of their "intellectually flexible" minds and the opportunity to displace conservatism that parents may have instilled.
"A lot of parents want schools to reflect their own ideological views," Hess says in an interview. "I argue that parents shouldn't want that. If they do, they need to rethink why they have their kids in school.
"It's not to suggest schools should be working against parents' values," she continues, "but we want schools to be ideologically diverse places. That's how we educate citizens."
The backdrop, of course, is one in which political incivility and intolerance seems ever more toxic in Wisconsin and across the nation. Hess agrees that the culture outside schools is more polarized than when she started focusing on the subject in 1997.But it was specifically teachers who were at the core of the Wisconsin protests, vilifying conservatives.
And as for parents needing "to rethink why they have their kids in school." Let's be clear: Schooling is compulsory. The government forces parents to send their children to school. (Yeah, they have a right to opt out of public school if they can swing it, but it's not easy and schooling is still required.) Teachers should never forget that they have their students trapped in their classroom by the force of law.
But sure, let's teach kids how to talk about controversial issues, support their arguments, and listen to divergent opinions respectfully and critically.