Fahrenheit-114 a.k.a How Legislators Try to Play Teacher

Screen Shot 2022-01-26 at 5.29.00 PMThis image is being republished from one of my student’s MamaG Fan Accounts on Instagram.

Here is a letter I am emailing my Utah politicians today:

Hello to Representative Fillmore, Senate Education Committee Members, House Education Committee Members, & my UEA Representative,

The proposed bill SB114 is so horrific that it is being circulated repeatedly by a mass amount of teachers. I’ve personally found it in my email box three times.

If you don’t already know this, and I assume you don’t by out of touch some of this bill is with the nature of education: most teachers just go about their business doing their jobs and don’t have the time or the concern to typically worry about Utah’s legislative decisions. We have typically just trusted that you will all do the right thing on our behalf, but as our jobs are becoming more and more unmanageable, we, as a group, have started tipping our curious and altruistic natures in your directions to protect ourselves, our students, and our colleagues.

If you don’t already know this, as you are all terrified of educators getting wind of their power (as was remarked on the Senate floor last Friday – a representative’s fear that Utah educators will strike like those in Chicago), we as educators are terrified of more power being given to a small minority of Utah’s unstable parents. Why do we worry about this? Because we are dealing with these parents on the daily. It’s the thing that most educators list first when talking about the worst part of their jobs: the demanding, critical, unrealistic, and often ridiculous parents. They are unrelenting, and unfortunately, the group is growing. Even the best of administrators often will throw teachers under the bus just to get these parents off their backs. The more we give to these parents refusing to set healthy boundaries, the less and less enjoyable it is and will continue to be an educator. If you don’t believe me, ask any Utah teacher. I promise that they agree with me.

SB114 is catering to the very people who make our jobs H – E – Double Hockey Sticks: the ones who want to burn books, the ones who want to come to our classrooms every day and tell us how to do our job, the ones who are never satisfied, the ones who threaten homeschool over a set of educational standards, and the ones who will email a teacher 25 times to demand their child get an A (when the kid doesn’t even come to school, much less know the material.) Do you have any idea what a remarkable MESS you will be making if this bill passes? We can’t even get TWO parents to agree on anything, much less an entire LEA’s worth of them. There is great potential in this bill to leave absolutely nothing to be taught because parents won’t agree on anything. There is even greater potential that the state of Utah will no longer have any teachers to employ.

To help you understand my point, I would like to dub this bill Fahrenheit-114. If you’ve never read the amazing book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, it could be because someone’s parent, within a school that gave parents too much power, decided that it wasn’t any good for you. This book offers a sad tale about censorship and control and is a critique of a possible and fictional futuristic society that only consumes material that everyone has agreed is good…ultimately, even leading to cancelling The Holy Bible. SB114 is this fictional society becoming our today’s reality: it is exactly what Ray Bradbury warns us about – a society that fears anything and everything different, so they no longer have any differences. They are all controlled by the book-burning government employed firefighters. I would encourage each of you to read this book before voting on this bill. I will gladly mail you a copy. While reading, consider it and what Representative Fillmore is requesting of local LEA’s in the following bolded verbiage of his bill:

213          (24) (a) As used in this Subsection (24)(a):
214          (i) “Instructional material” means any learning material or resource used to deliver or
215     support a student’s learning that a local school board adopts and preapproves for use within the
216     LEA, including textbooks, reading materials, videos, activities, digital materials, websites, and
217     other online applications.

218          (ii) “Supplemental material” means any learning material or resource used to deliver or
219     support a student’s learning that an educator reviews and selects, including reading materials,
220     videos, activities, digital materials, websites, and other online applications.
221          [(24)] (b) A local school board shall:
222          [(a)] (i) make [curriculum] instructional material that the school district uses readily
223     accessible and available for a parent to view;

224          [(b)] (ii) annually notify a parent of a student enrolled in the school district of how to
225     access the information described in Subsection [(24)(a)] (24)(b)(i); and
226          [(c)] (iii) include on the school district’s website information about how to access the
227     information described in Subsection [(24)(a).] (24)(b)(i).
228          (c) In selecting and approving instructional materials for use in the classroom, a local
229     school board shall:
230          (i) establish an open process, involving parents of students enrolled in the LEA, to
231     review and recommend instructional materials for board approval; and
232          
(ii) ensure that under the process described in Subsection (24)(c)(i), the board:
233          (A) posts recommendations online for a period of no less than 30 calendar days to
234     allow for public review;
235          (B) holds a public hearing on any recommendation, materials, or resources before
236     adopting the recommendation or approving the materials or resources that provides an
237     opportunity for parents of students enrolled in the LEA to express views and opinions on the
238     recommendations, materials, or resources; and
239          (C) approves the materials or resources in an open and regular board meeting for which
240     prior notice is given to parents of students enrolled in the LEA.
241          (d) A local school board shall adopt a supplemental materials policy that provides
242     guidance to educators on the selection of supplemental materials or resources, including
243     whether any process or permission is required before classroom use of the materials or
244     resources.
 
Above, I have bolded most everything that I have heard educators seeing as problematic. The problems with this bill are unending for us, but I will gladly scale down the teacher lounge talk to our Top 5 Reasons that Fahrenheit-114 is Ridiculous to Educators:
  1. 30 day notice on curriculum. Do you realize that sometimes we are figuring out the specifics and details of a lesson on the day or the morning or during the prep-period directly before instruction? We, unlike you legislatures, aren’t given the luxury of all the time in the world to do our jobs.  This an absolute IMPOSSIBLE directive. Can you let me know what you will be doing even 20 days from now, so I can approve it or not? Of course not. That is not the nature of our jobs.
  2. The potential size of our school boards. You obviously have no idea how many “learning materials” are generated on a daily basis by a single teacher. On a good week, I generate hundreds, and even on a bad week full of the other parts of teaching monopolizing my time, I generate at least 25. There is no way a school board of even size of The Utah House of Representatives would be effective enough to glance at (much less study) each and every teacher’s generated learning materials.
  3. Catering to parents over educators. I really shouldn’t have to say much more here, but really, parents can be very very impossible to please. You would know this if you spent just one week doing our jobs.
  4. Parents are NOT EDUCATORS. Do you really expect parents to review and recommend instructional material and do any semblance of a decent job? Let me put this in your language. Do you think I can come to the Senate Floor tomorrow and vote on bills that I’ve never even read. Can I come down there and even understand where I am supposed to go or what I am supposed to do? Right. I cannot. I have not been given the training. I don’t have the experience. Yet, this bill is telling educators that our State Senate thinks that parents can do the job that we have gone to college to do, we have obtained all the training necessary to certify for, we have researched, collaborated, and lost sleep over.
  5. Trust is earned, not found. Just as in any profession, there are a few bad eggs. But, just as a school teacher was fired in Lehi this year from a student’s published video and another I know just got a “letter in his file,” we should all let the current processes do their job. They work. Even if you don’t think that they work, controlling every little thing for every little educator, is not the answer. That’s called Communism.

Most educators that I know are giving up so much (even too much) to offer a “fair education for every student.” They don’t need the meddling of untrained and unaware people who are afraid of the one bit of power they have been given: to teach. We have been trained on what is appropriate or not to speak of in a classroom. We know not to talk about charged topics: politics, religion, or even weather patterns in a way that causes uproar or offended parents. The last thing an educator wants is an offended parent, and the very last thing that they want is a student that feels ostracized in any way, shape, or form. Please just trust us to do our jobs. We’ve earned that trust with our blood, sweat, and tears. It’s what we live for. It’s what we work 70-hour weeks for. It’s highly offensive that we as front-line workers are being told by SB114 that we have to jump through even more hoops for the squeaky wheels. It’s highly offensive that Representative Fillmore has written legislation to cater to those squeaky wheels, and it’s even more highly offensive that the rest of our Utah State politician’s are actually humoring it. It’s also very very dangerous of legislation to limit teacher’s autonomy in this way. Autonomy is likely the ONLY thing that is keeping us in our professions because more than anything, we love our kids. And the challenge of engaging them is the why of why we are still willing to do a job that is way under-respected and even more under-paid.

Thank you for the time you have taken to consider my position, and thank you for your hopeful actions in fixing this horrific dystopian-esque nightmare of an education bill.

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