Teachers analyze education backlash amid curriculum changes

(NewsNation) — Teachers are changing their lessons, limiting or excluding discussion of race and gender amid nationwide backlash against a so-called “woke” curriculum.

These findings come from a report published by RAND Corporation that revealed a nationally representative sample of 8,000 teachers, one-quarter said they had revised their instructional materials or teaching practices to limit or exclude discussions of race and gender.

The report also found that some teachers were more likely to alter their lesson plans, including teachers of color, high school teachers and educators in suburban school districts.

Scrutiny from parents comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected a proposal for an Advanced Placement African American history course to be taught in high schools, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate.

Lauran Woolley, Gabe Dannenbring and Tell Williams, co-hosts of the “Teachers Off Duty” podcast, offered their insight into what this means for the future of America’s education systems.

“I definitely think that we’re doing all children a great disservice by limiting their education in terms of what exactly we’re teaching them. There’s a difference between teaching an agenda and teaching fact,” Woolley said.

“I think acknowledging that different groups of people exist and acknowledging solutions to a problem we’re seeing in America is not pushing an agenda, but teaching them facts and trying to solve problems.”

Woolley also said she feels that teachers are feeling stress and fear around their curriculum.

“I do think that a lot of teachers are feeling the stress and feeling the fear, and just feeling like we’re kind of on a gag order of what we are and cannot teach,” she said.

Williams said he agrees with Woolley. He said some of these conversations might be “uncomfortable” for educators to have with their students, but it’s important that students feel that they’re part of the culture in the classroom.

He gave this example: “If that means that when Joanne comes in and we’re doing our yearly report on our families, if Joanne has two moms that’s welcomed in her classroom. If Barbara is Muslim, then I want her to know that she can show up as her authentic self. I want every child to feel like they have representation within our classrooms.”

Yet, critics argue or have said some of their concerns with parents is that there are children in the class who aren’t Muslim, who aren’t in the LGBTQ+ community who are being called the oppressor.

Williams said he thinks it builds empathy.

“I think that if they learned that people are different from us and that’s OK, or that maybe we have different, political, religious values — I think that’s a great thing to learn,” he said. “We are on opposite ends of every spectrum right now, and I think if we kind of come together and at least have an idea of what the other side is thinking or the empathy, I think we’d have a lot less issues going on.”

Meanwhile, school districts across the nation continue to pass policies restricting education on similar topics, barring books by and about people of color, LGBTQ individuals and titles chosen for school libraries.

Many U.S. adults have lost confidence in the public school system. According to a Gallup poll, Americans’ belief in grade-school teachers’ honesty had dropped to an all-time low of 64 percent.

In the RAND report, teachers surveyed shared details on how they’re changing their styles of instruction, including selecting different textbooks or, for math and science teachers, different sample data sets.

Other teachers said they’re avoiding using terms likely to draw negative attention — a category that, for some, now includes the word “gender.”

The RAND report found 70 educators who shared open-ended responses wrote that they no longer feel comfortable teaching or speaking about LGBTQ issues.

The report also found that about one-quarter of teachers said they don’t understand whether they’re subject to such restrictions. This was even found in states that have authorized laws circumscribing lessons on race and gender, about 30 percent of surveyed teachers said they knew for sure that such legislation was in place.

Trending on NewsNation