What exactly is going on in Texas schools? It’s well-known that Texas is hardly seen as the voice of enlightenment in the free world, but lately things have just gotten ridiculous.
In Frisco, Texas, a upscale city outside of Dallas, an art teacher was fired from her job after taking a class of fifth graders to an art museum. Sydney McGee had been working for the state for 28 years, and her name was synonymous with skill, education and integrity. Parents moved their families across town so that their students would have the opportunity to learn under her tutelage. She had been teacher of the year on more than one occasion, and had been commended countless times for exemplary performance. What could a teacher do that was so horrific that her past experience was null and void, and she was too great a threat to the students to remain in her position? She took them to the Dallas Museum of Art.
Wait, you’re saying. That doesn’t make any sense. Well, no, it doesn’t, at least not in the civilized world. But this is Texas, and, more specifically, north Dallas, and the rules about education and civil liberties that apply to the rest of the world don’t apply here.
Suddenly a stack full of commendations, performance reviews and years of service meant nothing. The unforgiveable had happened; a parent had called the school to complain. Now, if you’ve ever worked in a school as an educator, you’ve learned one very important thing: parents complain about everything. They complain that their children aren’t pushed hard enough, they complain that their child is pushed too much, they complain the work is too unoriginal, but they throw tantrums when you try to get their children to think outside the box. The sad fact of the matter is this: the bane of every teacher’s existance is not the students, who we generally adore, but the parents, who can transform even the most idyllic teaching setting into a personal hell.
So it was, last April, when Ms. McGee took her fifth grade class on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art. This was no frivolous trip; Ms. McGee taught elementary school art, so this was an excursion most relevant. Not only did Ms. McGee sit down and talk with museum officials and school administrators alike, but she sent home permission slips, seeking parental approval in order for students to go on the field trip. Sure enough, all the permission slips were returned, signed. This should be an indication that the parents had thereby consented to having their children taken out to an art museum and shown classic art, correct? Well, in a logical world, yes, but this is North Texas.
Despite the fact that parents consented beforehand to the field trip, allowing their children to go, and despite plenty of knowledge ahead of time where the children would be going, such that parents could do their own research into the potentially shady doings of art museums, one of the parents called the school, irate that her 11-year old child had seen a nude statue.
Anywhere but the Bible Belt, such idiocy would have been laughed right out of the school. Nude statues are a part of classic art, the civilized world says, and what exactly would one expect from an art museum? If one is concerned about what one’s child will be exposed to, doesn’t it make sense to check out the school function ahead of time, or offer to be a chaperone?
One would think that a state dangerously low on teachers would be able to take better care of them; meanwhile, countless Texas administrators sit and wonder why so many of their best minds are lost to other states. Teaching shouldn’t be a political game, but it seems that so much of the education process in public schools (where the students most need the focused attention of good teachers) is about politics. School administrators are often more concerned about their own jobs and planning their future career moves than they are about backing up their teachers; they live in what seems to be a constant fear of lawsuits and public retaliation that more often than not, they’re completely crippled. What good is our educational system if it can be bullied, and if we allow ourselves to be pushed around, aren’t we essentially teaching the children that the best way to get by in the world is to be a bully, too?
Wise up, Texas. It’s time to reevaluate our basic values and determine the greatest danger to our children. Is it classic art and the human form, or is it paranoid vigilantism attempting to stifle free speech and thought?