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  • Reverend James Squire

What To Think Or How To Think

Ron DeSantis and school boards across the country are committed to having a partial education for our children. They are censoring courses to be taught such as the AP course on African American studies. The Parents Defending Education group is fighting nationally to stop indoctrination of views in courses that they feel are political in nature. Three parents from the Lower Merion School District don’t want to have affinity groups on their campus. These are groups such as the French Group, Black Students Group, Spanish Group and so on. The district disagrees with this characterization of their curriculum and the demonization of groups that are together because they have common interest.

What to teach is at the heart of DeSantis and the various groups that now are seeking to take over their School Districts. They don’t want anything taught that may upset their children or make them feel guilty.

There is a guiding principle that is often declared which helped a Republican get elected Governor of Virginia with a simple political slogan, “Parents know their children best.” No, they don’t, and that includes Governor DeSantis. They may know certain aspects of their own children, but they don’t understand kids in general. They see them as helpless to make decisions about controversial topics that may come up in class. They feel that they will believe everything that is being said. Some parents that I have met with regarding a discipline issue will say, “My child has never told a lie.” As soon as I hear that I know that it is going to be a long session. Kids lie to protect themselves. It’s part of their moral development.

One of the things that occurs when you are teaching students in ethics class as I did is they just begin to see you as one of them and they trusted me to hear what was really going on in their lives. This is also true when you are riding on a school bus with a team or to visit a site where they will learn something. Teachers blend into the seats. You would be surprised what you learn on those trips. If a parent were on the bus, there wouldn’t be candid comments.

I sponsored the largest dance that occurred at our school. We invited two other schools to it as it was the culmination of a three school can drive to assist the homeless. First, every kid who attended which numbered about a thousand students had told their parents not to come. Early on I would invite parents to be chaperones. Wrong move! What they saw freaked them out! The suggestive dancing disturbed them. They grew up with Elvis! I got tired of hearing, “Where was her mother when she left the house?” Girls tended to wear a variation of the little black dress! Mothers, some kids leave the house with a change of clothes!

One example stands out in my mind in ethics class. We discussed most hot topics under the sun where students really had to think about what they thought. We were dealing with group dynamics and peer pressure. They liked that unit because it dealt with groups and belonging and is right where they live. One student volunteered that “peer pressure” are the best two words in the course. If we get into trouble, we just tell our parents that it was just peer pressure.”

But what I learned in ethics class teaching students is that the greatest influence on their thinking and values is their parents. I ask a question that reflects that fact, “Who has had the greatest influence on your thinking and values? 100% say their parents or a parenting figure like a grandfather. Now what could be wrong with that? We also examine a love called Storge in the Greek. It is a parent’s love for child! It has several characteristics. Parents love unconditionally, but they also have conscious and unconscious desires for their child to be an extension of their selves, their beliefs and values because those attributes have held the parents in good stead. It is natural that they want their children to think like them and to avoid topics that they don’t want to have to deal with in conversation. It’s not about how to think which is a whole other blog, it is what they the parents think is best for them to think.

I spent a lot of time between parents who were athletes and wanted their kids to not play the violin because athletics was good for the parents and vice versa. One of my kids was accepted at Duke, Northwestern, among others. I wanted him to go to Duke because I had a great experience there. What was great for me must be great for him. He wanted to go to Northwestern which is a premier place for acting, directing, and all things about film. That’s where Hanks and Streep’s kids went. He made his case to me. Made sense! He went to Northwestern which was the best choice for what he is doing today.

Vicki and I were Co-Presidents of Princeton’s Philadelphia Area Parents Association so we were on the inside track of concerns that the university had. They embarked on a program to bring diversity to the student population. They couldn’t understand why once the students got there, they formed groups of like-minded students of such things as race or sports among others. They needed to read Beverly Tatum’s book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. We had the same experience at EA. People with similar experiences need a safe place to talk about their experience. They aren’t engaging in a socialist plot. They are not excluding your child. We had straight kids in the Gay Alliance Group

So, when DeSantis attacks AP African American Studies, he is doing so to win over the parents who think that is a bad idea because of their beliefs that may be challenged. If the Virginia governor could work that deal, so can he and the other Republicans. They are interested in the hearts of the parents not the hearts of the kids and kids know that. Kids are smarter than they think!

Finally, what to think V. how to think. Most of the subject matter that informs how to think is often guilt producing and upsetting to learn. I think DeSantis might have covered some of that at Harvard Law. I know my nephew did. A lot of history is ugly. It contains a cycle of being on top and pushing others down. This is the central premise of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. None of her facts are debatable. It is who we were and the hope of what we never will continue to be.

Now for my trump (excuse the use of the word) card! What would it be like for members of Parents Defending Education to be the parent of one of the Arkansas Nine who integrated Little Rock Central High School? Please watch the video below from the History Channel. What was it like to be the parents of those nine children? Did those children just wilt under the worst example of pressure and pain or were they stronger than anyone could have imagined? Pay attention to what each one of them became when they emerged as adults. Students need to know history to become history and make our nation better each and every moment and decision!

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