Playing Politics with your Child's Education

Sandee Everett’s defense of the ill-conceived literature opt-out policy at the recent school board meeting demonstrates how far the policy’s defenders are willing to go to misrepresent its obvious purpose. For those not in attendance, Ms. Everett sought to defend the opt-out policy by identifying examples of literature that may include discussion or depictions of rape, and then illogically, irrationally, and inappropriately concluding that the opponents of that policy (including myself) are clearly insensitive to or ignorant of the trauma suffered by rape victims that may be required to read such passages in the absence of an opt-out.

While I was at first frustrated and angered by Ms. Everett’s statements and wanted to attack them on their substance, those sentiments eventually evolved into a broader resolve and purpose. In short Ms. Everett, I am unwilling to take the bait. While I could spend an entire day exposing the patent falsity of your statements, and highlight how little you know about those who you condemn, to do so would only bring attention to an argument with its roots grossly untethered to reality. So instead, I choose to keep the argument where it should be – that the policy you and the board majority have enacted will have a broad destructive effect on the education of our children, and was haphazardly slapped together without appropriately engaging or incorporating feedback from the many stakeholders charged with ensuring our children receive a quality education and are equipped for future success.

Regardless how one may feel about the appropriateness of some kind of opt-out policy within our district, it has been clear for some time that the literature opt-out policy that was enacted by the board majority has nothing to do with the educational welfare – and certainly not the emotional well-being – of the children. The reality is that the extreme political views of the board majority endorse a form of education that hinges on giving our children a narrow window into the society around them. It pulls through the idea that exposing them to diverse or worldly views and perspectives is somehow harmful to their well-being, and allows the board majority to subjectively and paternalistically label that subject matter to which our children should and should not be exposed. To suggest that the subject policy is about protecting children from further trauma is pure smoke and mirrors, and it begs credulity that Ms. Everett would publicly attempt to state as much. As we have pointed out many times, there was an existing opt-out policy that could have been used or formalized in an appropriate manner to address this issue if the board majority was sincerely interested in protecting children from trauma as was suggested at the last meeting. Unfortunately we all know by now that it was not the emotional welfare of our children at the heart of the board’s policy – it was pure politics and nothing more.

Given the repeated and ongoing missteps of the board majority in pushing to enact the opt-out policy in the absence of stakeholder feedback and without guidance on appropriate implementation, it is my sincere hope that the board listens and takes steps to repeal such policy. At that time, we can then discuss the process and needed information for enacting a new policy that truly takes into account the welfare of our kids. For what it’s worth, it is my view that if we want our children to succeed in the fast-paced and growing world around them, the solution has to be to arm them with more – not less - information. To be clear, this is not a new way of thinking. My teachers have always told me from day one to interpret literature for the perspective it provides. Books and stories are written from a specific point of view and provide us views into a world to which we may not otherwise be exposed. Literature provides an opportunity for us to better ourselves and appreciate the lives and experiences of those we have not had the opportunity to live ourselves. An opportunity to be more empathetic, more understanding, more rooted in the history that has given birth to the many issues and problems we as a society face now. If the schools I attended as a child adopted the board majority’s views, then I never would have been exposed to pains and horrors of growing up as an African-American woman in the 1930s South as depicted in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. That book included depictions of sexual violence and other atrocities not as a means of romanticizing such actions, but to allow those of us living in suburban California to experience the pain and anguish – much of which sadly lives on today – of those forced to live in the lower rungs of society. I credit books like this with making me a more aware, capable, and compassionate adult, and engaging me to experience the world around me and the dynamic views and perspectives that exist in it with me.

Jenny Fitzgerald

May, 2018

Paid for by Jenny Fitzgerald for CVUSD School Board 2018