By Rep. Mark Finchem
HB2002 is a response to calls from parents and teachers to end political activism in the K-12 classroom. Parents expect teachers to teach, not to indoctrinate. There is a teachable moment here.
Contrary to what leftist political pundits and apologists for injecting politics everywhere assert, we employ teachers to inspire curiosity in science, and to foster competency in reading, mathematics and writing, not to promote ideological obedience. In essence there is an agency relationship created in the employment relationship. The claim that HB2002, pre-filed for the 2019 Legislative session, silences the First Amendment right of teacher free speech is a false claim, fabricated for headlines. The claim is unfounded, and actually runs counter to the 2015 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Arce V. Douglas.
In Arce, Judge Wallace Tashima ruled, “state limitations on school curricula that restrict a student’s access to materials otherwise available may be upheld only where they are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns—especially in a context such as this, where the local school board has already determined that the material at issue adds value to its local school curriculum. Granting wider discretion has the potential to substantially hinder a student’s ability to develop the individualized insight and experience needed to meaningfully exercise her rights of speech, press, and political freedom. Pico, 457 U.S. at 867,” (Tashima, 2015, Pg. 27, Pa.1). In short, teachers are not permitted to evangelize their personal political positions, but must teach narrowly to the approved curriculum.
I respect teachers and the teaching profession. Teachers play a critical role in our society; they are often trusted advisors, mentors and influencers of the next generation of leaders, and society at large. It is shocking that individuals occupying positions of trust in the eyes of parents and our children, object to standards of professional conduct. Professionals including attorneys, accountants, realtors, architects and even journalists subscribe to their respective Codes of Ethics. It sets these vocations aside as professions. As professionals, teachers should follow the lead of most other professions and embrace a code of ethics.
Over the last two years, hundreds of parents have demanded relief from political activities in Arizona K-12 classrooms, and the bullying that goes with resistance. Since the introduction of HB2002, many teachers have expressed support for the call to end what they [emphasis added] call, “political indoctrination” in the K-12 classroom. The most common statement recorded from teachers is unnerving: “Finally someone is taking action.”
Professions adopt Codes of Ethics, to promote credibility for their practitioners. Such a “Code” is significant as an acknowledgement that the professionals in their ranks conduct themselves in such a way as to elevate the work they do beyond a task. A code of conduct that governs the work that one will do, how they will do it, and the line that one will not cross in the course of exercising their craft, is what defines value.
Those who oppose ethics in the classroom claim there is no political indoctrination, so if that is indeed the case then there should be no fear of a Code of Ethics that holds people accountable for the expectations set by their principals in the agency relationship, in this case the parents of the children they are entrusted to teach.
Herein lies the crux of the matter, parents expect teachers to teach, not to indoctrinate by way of their own political persuasions. We employ them to inspire curiosity and learning, not obedience to a specific ideology. Recall the lessons from Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies; such books reveal the cost of teaching obedience over standing for freedom of thought. The K-12 classroom is not an ideological playground for adults, and our children are not their political play toys.
Parents are walking away from public schools at an increasing rate, and giving many reasons. This is one of their major concerns. I encourage political engagement, I encourage political speech, just not in the classroom. Like religion, teachers must remember, their customers – parents – often have a different worldview that must be respected, lest public schools become irrelevant. For those who can’t show the professional discipline necessary to leave their political speech out of the classroom, they need to find another job.
Mark Finchem, Republican, is an Arizona legislator representing District 11. He introduced House Bill 2002 last week
Reference: Tashima, W., (2015). Arce v. Douglas, 793 F.3d 968 (9th Cir.2015)