Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ended on 1/15/2014
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1/7/14  9:55 am
Commenter: Linda Miller, Teacher, PWCS

Please reject -- vague terminology will stray from intent

Although the intent of this proposal has the best interests of our children at heart, its vague and simplistic terminology will lead to a paperwork nightmare for diligent teachers, and a watering down of the curriculum for many.  Our current movie/video policy is twice as long as this proposal with more specific language, and we are required to justify and document the use of any videos with a rating higher than G.  Beyond any imposed requirements, we are professionals who are first and foremost concerned with the well-being of our students.  Many of us have children of our own, and we understand the trust and responsibility imparted to us in the classroom.  

That responsibility includes choosing materials that encourage thought and debate (knowing that topics worth debating are often controversial), and gently opening the door for topics that are sensitive, yet lead to introspection.  Political views and opinions are controversial.  Should we stop discussing them or writing about them?  Civil rights issues can be sensitive.  Should we shy away from having our children research, ponder, and discuss these issues?  The terminology in this proposal would require teachers to submit any and all such topics to parents for "approval" before they could be included in a lesson plan.  While that may not be the intent, the words "controversial" and "sensitive" place us on that slippery slope.

This is the danger in such a proposal -- that the end result is a bland, middle-of-the-road approach in which our students are only allowed to think within a narrow band of universally accepted ideas and opinions, rather like automatons, or perhaps subjects of the automatons that "teach" them.  In an age when student engagement is at the top of our list of priorities, we should all be frightened at the aspect of watering down our lessons rather than enriching them.  

CommentID: 29878