Public education should be about dissemination of all information

Public education should be about dissemination of information, all information, without fear or favor.

Recently, I have noticed that the claim is repeated that public education leads to harmful indoctrination. This false narrative is astounding to me. How can learning science, literature and math, or history, lead to indoctrination of the mind? Public education should focus on the dissemination of all information without bias or censorship.

It is outrageous for parents to insist on the ban of a book or to refuse to teach a certain part of history to their children because they don't want them to expose their child to anything they consider inappropriate. In doing so, they are denying other children the knowledge that their parents want them to have.

Some fundamentalist Christian sects believe the world was formed around 8,000 to 9,000 years ago. Should they insist that this be taught to all students as a fact? Some parents think that black people are inferior than whites. Should this be the basis for teaching history and biology to young students? How can it be beneficial to anyone when students and teachers are punished for acknowledging gay people?

Conservatives often argue that the best way to resolve parents' differences is to simply ignore those facts and histories that cause some parents discomfort. The class doesn't learn about slavery, women's rights and other important aspects of history. A 'ignorance-is-bliss' approach is exactly the opposite of education, and it robs students of valuable information.

Conservatives of other stripes are determined to ensure that praise and pride for the United States is only expressed. As individuals and as a community, we are expected to learn from our mistakes. You can't contribute to the greatness this country by only praising its achievements and refusing acknowledge its challenges.

Parents who continue to question teachers' abilities to educate their children and exert pressure on them, they foment conflict and add to the teacher shortages. Nearly 50% of teachers have left the profession in the past five years, and that percentage is increasing. Other teachers simply move from red states.

Would you like to work in a field where you're underpaid, underappreciated and under cultural scrutiny? You may also be subjected to harassment and vitriol because you simply want to teach history and science without interference by people who don't know the subject matter.

What conservatives refer to as exercising "parental rights" I consider child abuse. If a child does not receive the full range of literature, science and history, they will be left with a lack of critical thinking and facts that could propel them to success. When this abuse is permitted to appease some zealots at the expense of the majority, it teaches students to be cowards and to disdain ideas or thoughts that are not shared by the loud minority.

Home schooling is worse. Both my wife and I have advanced degrees, but neither of us believes that we possess the knowledge and skills necessary to teach children what they would be taught by a phalanx public school teachers. Even though we are both educated, there are still gaps in our knowledge which would be filled by teachers who have been trained to give a complete general education to children.

Even more concerning are homeschooling parents who use corporal punishment as a means to control their children. Michael and Debi pearl, authors of 'To train up a child' for home schooling, advocate corporal punishment starting with toddlers. Home schooling like this is often associated with fundamentalist religious beliefs which interpret Biblical passages to encourage child beating.

In a bizarre irony, homeschooling abusers who punish their children with physical and emotional punishment claim that public schooling will indoctrinate them. However, they fail to see that this is exactly what indoctrination is. They justify their methods by claiming that they promote respect for parents and Christian fundamental beliefs.

I went to public school, where I was encouraged by my teachers to be independent, to believe in what I wanted to, and to question those who claimed to know all the answers. No books were prohibited. Although there was some "whitewashing" of American history, we soon learned about slavery, Native American mistreatment, and the fight for women's rights. I didn't feel ashamed or guilty about my country. It made me realise how far our country has come and how much more we still need to do.

Robert Schwaninger, who lives in Alton, can be reached by e-mail at EMAIL.