Preparing citizens to stick their heads in the sand

February 1, 2022
desert sands

With the stated goal of protecting children from experiencing “discomfort” in the classroom, Republican legislators across the country are working to pass bills which limit teachers’ rights to address race, gender, and sexual orientation with their students.

According to Penn GSE’s Abby Reisman and Sigal Ben-Porath, “Nobody likes to feel discomfort. But trying to legislate it out of the classroom is misguided and dangerous.”

In a piece they wrote for the Washington Post, Reisman and Ben-Porath lay out three “fundamental misconceptions” they believe to be at the heart of these legislative efforts. They argue the misconceptions make it clear the authors of these bills are not educators — and that the passing of these bills ultimately serves to weaken education systems.

“The only way to learn is to participate in discussions where people feel they can openly express their ideas, even when those might be objectionable,” write Reisman and Ben-Porath. “We trust teachers to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to engage in such discussions meaningfully. Limiting the scope of permissible topics, views, perspectives is undermining the quality of children’s’ education, without actually protecting them from discomfort.”