Society problems

Teachers overwhelmed by social issues in the classroom

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Many teachers become exhausted with societal issues in the classroom.

Associated press

Florida’s new law on the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools has sparked much debate about what teachers can or should say about sensitive issues.

But here’s something else that needs to be said: the whole conversation shows how we expect too much from schools and not enough from parents.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, training for her upcoming punditry gig, took heat for lamenting that Florida law creates questions about what a teacher should say to a child who says “I don’t know if I’m a girl or a boy.”

Speaking to CNN’s Chris Wallace, she added: “These are kids going through, you know, those times in their lives.”

What if the teacher said nothing? If the child genuinely questions their gender, tell the parents. It’s a matter to settle at home.

Yes, there are certain situations in which a child will be in danger if mom or dad discovers that he has questions about gender identity or sexuality. But it’s a parenting issue. And we’ve left too many parents struggling for too long, piling society’s needs even more on schools.

It is therefore not surprising that we struggle to know how to manage private affairs in a public setting.

During the pandemic, one of the main concerns about school closures was how to ensure children had enough to eat outside of school. And even in normal times, some schools send food home with the children on weekends. Some offer laundry services.

There is a word for an institution that feeds and clothes children, and it is not “school.” It’s “the orphanage”.

If the parents really cannot provide for them, the state must of course intervene in the name of the well-being of the child. But we also need programs to help parents do better, and more support for the institutions that can help them. The first would be marriage.

Too many teachers are burned out and frustrated. Too many schools are failing the basics of education in part because of the sprawling mission we have given them.

If we reduce that, we won’t have to fight so much about what teachers should or shouldn’t say.

Ryan J. Rusak is opinion writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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This story was originally published April 26, 2022 4:24 p.m.