What to Do When Your Child's Teacher Preaches Politics
Updated: Jan 22
A few weeks ago, I learned about this wonderful website -- Primerrily’s digital community -- and was struck by its timeliness.
By Julie Gunlock, Independent Women's Forum
We know parents are juggling a lot right now -- virtual school, childcare, employment loss, and possibly health problems. Add to that the increasing need to push back on the political indoctrination children are facing in the classroom (read my own story on that issue here), and you have a recipe for anxiety, uncertainty, and anger -- all emotions that make the already stressful job of parenting harder.
As a policy staffer who sometimes tracks education issues, I was thrilled to see that Primerrily gives parents the resources they need to navigate the increasingly hostile atmosphere many families face in public and private schools.
In fact, it was my own experience watching an educator intimidate my 11-year-old son that made me realize how much these resources are needed, and it was the driving force for my own employer -- Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) -- to launch a similar education program for school-aged kids and their parents.
Soon after graduating from college, I started working on Capitol Hill, eventually becoming a committee staffer covering foreign affairs and homeland security issues. It was exciting and fast-paced, and I had a tremendous amount of fun working in Congress. I even met my husband there, and we were married at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, which is located on Capitol Hill.
Yet, after having my first son (I now have three!), I no longer wanted to work in such a frenetic, high-pressure environment. That year, I left the Hill to work at the Independent Women’s Forum -- a women-run organization that offers much more professional flexibility.
As my kids got older and more curious about things they’d hear in school, my policy background made it easy for me to talk to them about current affairs and complex and controversial issues. This may seem odd to some parents who live in areas of the country not dominated by politics. But for those living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with policy professionals as neighbors and hyper-opinionated people everywhere, political conversations are a regular thing.
Happily, most of my children’s teachers kept politics out of the classroom. Yet, in 2016, after the election of President Trump, politics began to creep in. That year, my children’s public elementary school was the site of an anti-firearms student walkout (which was actually orchestrated by a group of mothers), and the school also participated in an anti-Trump teacher walkout, which closed the school for a day with little warning to parents (who, by the way, were then forced to figure out last-minute childcare at great expense and inconvenience).
That year, and for many years after, my husband and I often found it necessary to gently course-correct our children to ensure they fully understood an issue they’d heard discussed in class -- not just one side of an issue. And we increasingly found it necessary to explain to them that having conservative opinions on issues does not mean you’re a bad person.
We’d usually attend to these matters at the dinner table when during the normal course of conversation, the kids would tell us about a political issue that had come up during class -- environmental issues being the most common. We handled these incidents organically by simply integrating our perspective into the conversation and calmly explaining the issue’s background more fully. Our goal was always to ensure they understood two things: 1) that complex policy issues can’t simply be solved with a jaunty slogan or a clever hashtag, and 2) there are often many disparate policy perspectives on an issue -- some making more sense than others.
Of course, we explained how we felt about the issue and why we took a certain position. As their parents, that’s our right and we view it as one of our most important responsibilities -- to guide our children, morally and civically.
Yet, sadly, and increasingly, some teachers view this as their, not the parent, role. Instead of introducing topics and presenting various positions, many educators skip straight to telling students the “correct” position to take on an issue.
While troubling and certainly annoying at times, my husband and I found that it was easy for us to tackle these educational hiccups because of our shared background in public policy and our general affection for political debates and policy conversations (my husband also worked on Capitol Hill and on several political campaigns).
Yet, in conversations with some of my less politically active friends, it became clear they were frustrated and felt ill equipped to discuss some of these knotty issues with their children. Worse, some felt they were losing their children to indoctrination. These children, who weren’t hearing anything to contradict or contest what their teachers were saying, were understandably accepting of what their teachers -- trusted authority figures -- were saying.
Understanding this dynamic and the needs of so many parents fed up with having to deal with political Left propaganda in public schools, IWF recently launched a new project called “How to Talk to Kids About…”, which is a series of simple, easy to read guides on how to talk to kids about complex and controversial issues. The guides are written for kids so parents can also simply give them to their children to read, although we urge parents to review these issues together as a family and to try to answer any questions a child might have.
IWF has produced five guides:
We plan to produce more. Each of the guides can be found here and at the bottom of that page, you can sign up for email updates as well.
I’m so glad that Primerrily is at the forefront of this effort to help parents and educate kids. Together, IWF and Primerrily are filling a desperate need of parents eager to help their children develop into good citizens who embrace American values. Stay tuned for more IWF guides in 2021.
Julie Gunlock is director of Independent Women’s Forum’s center for progress and innovation. She is the author of the book From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back.