Reading, writing and arithmetic – let’s get back to the basics in our public schools

January 19 – When it comes to all the changes we’re seeing in this country, the public schools are often rife with all kinds of new thoughts and ideas. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I have a lot of interest in the way children are being educated here in Pennsylvania today. When we have parents standing up at school boards and they are expressing concerns, it’s very difficult sometimes to express because we know something’s wrong. Most parents know something’s not right. My child is coming home talking about things that don’t seem appropriate for school. They don’t seem to be learning. They don’t seem to be getting the education I want them to have. We do know unfortunately a new way of looking at life is creeping into the school system and that’s fine if you’re in a private school where you’re choosing that, but it’s in public school where we’re not supposed to have a belief system being taught to our children.” 

PA Representative Barbara Gleim has introduced the Honesty in Teaching Act. 

She said, “I saw that they were putting in more of the secular type of teaching in the classroom where just about anything goes and they weren’t including the parents in this at all. When I’m talking about secularism, let’s go back to the 1960s where they said that there was no religion that was going to be taught in schools, but yet now they’re replacing it with a religion that is secular in nature. They’re saying that it’s the truth and it’s the truth as they define it, not as a lot of the parents would define it in their homes. 

The Honesty in Teaching Act asks for a balanced approach to teaching and allowing the student to critically think. 

Gleim said, “So if you’re going to teach the 1619 Project in high school, you need to teach the 1620 Project, which debunks everything in the 1619 Project.” 

Jansen said, “That’s referring to the point of view of systemic racism and colonialism and whiteness as a culture is an oppressive culture, which is based in this woke, critical social justice belief system.” 

Gleim said, “They want to say that we’re not teaching Critical Race Theory, but I have in many forms that they are. Critical Race Theory can be defined in many different ways, but it is teaching that we need to have equity, which is basically that everybody should have the same outcome, equal outcomes for everybody. If you think about just that statement, that’s a socialist statement. It’s almost impossible to have that outcome, in the workplace, especially. This is going everywhere in the United States, not just education.” 

Equity is showing up in the workplace and even government agencies. 

Gleim said, “I try to talk to parents and say when you are seeing this type of material being taught to children, make sure that the teacher is teaching it in a way that allows your child to critically think about the situation and come up with their own decision on that outcome in the classroom.” 

The Honesty in Teaching Act also provides a pathway for a parent when they have proof that this is happening in the classroom to take it to the school board. 

Gleim said, “If the teacher is teaching a belief of their own rather than having a balanced approach to the teaching, that teacher then has to go to professional development and the professional development is based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and they will be retaught that you have to have a balanced approach and you can’t discriminate within your own classroom with your belief system.” 

Jansen said, “Unfortunately I think Democrats have embraced this because they see it as a pathway for more votes and to stay in their positions and for power. Not necessarily that they completely understand or embrace all the philosophy behind it. It’s tough because we have a Governor Wolf, the most liberal, progressive governor in the United States who then opposite those 1960s decisions by the Supreme Court is actually mandating that teachers are taught the actual ideology we’re talking about. We have a lot of work to do here in Pennsylvania.” 

“This is coming from the national level,” Gleim pointed out. “So it’s the National Education Association, the American Library Association, the teachers unions, it’s all coming down from the top. So that’s what’s being put into our Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines for teachers.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “And meanwhile, the test scores are the absolute worst. If you just went back to reading, writing and arithmetic and you were held to here are the numbers that you have to hit, you’re not hitting your numbers. You’re failing what we’re paying for. You’ve got to get back to the basics. How do you do that when you’ve got a federal mandate?” 

Gleim said, “Parents are exhausted over it and they are coming to school boards and not being listened to. There never was this much outcry from parents to get back to the basics. We have a cry then if you say that to a school board that you need to get back to basics, they’re going to say well we need more funding. We don’t have the resources. And they want to get rid of assessments because they don’t want to teach to the test.” 

COVID certainly didn’t help matters at all. 

Gleim said, “It’s going to take probably just as long, two years, to get those kiddos back up to speed again. One of the things that I’ve been asking for is just a common assessment, like an Iowa basic or a California Standard Achievement Test that just tests reading and writing at the basic level because if your kids can’t do that, we need to target what schools are really failing and bring in the supports in a targeted way.” 

Could school choice be the answer, especially considering when Governor Shapiro campaigned, he suggested school choice could be up for discussion?

Gleim said, “I’m hoping that he really does engage in that conversation. We need to engage the Secretary of Education that he has appointed and we need to see where he stands on this.”

There are districts in Philadelphia graduating only 45 percent of students. 

Gleim said, “They need opportunities there that are different than what they currently have and school choice is the way.” 

Jansen said, “Putting aside any questions and arguments we’re having about ideology or belief systems, the bottom line is our kids are doing very poorly and that’s why a lot of parents are looking for alternates to public education. Public educators, you better understand, you’re going to lose the students and we’re going to have more pressure for tax credits to allow them to make choices because they are looking for the school that produces the results. Forget our arguments over ideology. If you’re not producing the results, you will end up getting to the point where the voters are going to demand the money follows the child. So if we want to keep the money in the public school system, you better wake up. I’m worried because I don’t think sometimes we understand the connections here.” 

In the last state budget, a lot of money was put into mental health. 

Jansen pointed out, “Unfortunately that money is being directed towards social, emotional learning, which is not good mental health. It’s not proven practices. It’s not proven to make kids stronger. It also has that indoctrination aspect. Instead of putting the money into the basics, we’re putting the money into forcing teachers to teach that.” 

Gleim agreed, “We have to have more of a targeted approach on our reading and writing and getting those test scores up and getting our kids ready for whatever they’re going to be doing after graduation.” 

Jansen added, “And whatever mental help we’re giving them, it can’t be unproven, experimental, philosophically laden programs like social emotional learning. It has to be real, honest to God, find the kids that are actually having the problems and give them the help they need.” 

“Absolutely,” Gleim said.