Pugliese wages unfair attack on educational instruction

There was a school board election in School District 51 last fall. Rose Pugliese ran and lost. It was a fair and square election. She put her ideas to the voters and the voters rejected them.

To the best of my knowledge there were no burning issues in that campaign. (Unfortunately there seldom are in school board elections.) I don’t recall her ever raising the issue of how the District teaches about climate change and humankind’s role in it, or whether it exists at all. Nor did she make a big issue of teachers who spout their personal political views in the classroom.

If, in fact, a candidate sees those issues as important, the perfect time to put them on the table is during an election. It is not six months after an election. The best way to do it is certainly not to deliver some petitions to the school board demanding wholesale changes in curriculum.

So just what is Ms. Pugliese and her fellow travelers trying to accomplish? To hear them tell it, it sounds honorable enough. They simply want to rid School District 51 of any instruction that is agenda-driven. In their world, any study of climate change at all, apparently, is agenda-driven, since their stated goal is to ban the instruction of global warming. Period.  Never mind that there is science on both sides of the politics that surround the debate. Good science.

Just where are the teachers who are poisoning the children of Mesa County by teaching them a world view that is different from that of Rose Pugliese and her right-minded colleagues? Beats me. The evidence is non-existent to scant. She’s heard they’re out there. That’s all the evidence she needs to bring in some big guns to fight the insidious nature of left-leaning teachers.

I’m no leftist. In fact, I probably line up with Ms. Pugliese on an issue or two. But the dishonesty in her campaign against the School District can’t be allowed to go unnoticed.

There’s an agenda all right. It’s the one of the culturally conservative crowd that would have every child educated in a manner that makes them all think just exactly like the cultural conservatives themselves. They are the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

The big guns Pugliese has called is an outfit called “Balanced Education for Everyone.” They in turn are an offshoot of “The Independent Women’s Forum.” And if you happen to wonder what dark corner of the political spectrum is home to that group, just take a look at the titles to some of its policy papers:

A sampling:

“Obama’s New Engagement Policy is Costing the U.S. Allies and Risking National Security.”

“National Health Care in Canada: Lessons in Rationing.”

“Can American Families Really Afford Cap-and-Trade?”

I could go on but you get the picture. There’s nothing independent at all about “The Independent Women’s Forum.” It is doctrinaire right wing.

We might dismiss Pugliese’s District 51 mission as nothing more than a noisy attack worth nothing more than the paper on which the petitions are written.

But it is poisonous. Even if it goes nowhere, which is exactly where it should go, it can and likely will have a chilling effect on instruction in the District.

Some of us believe the best education our kids can get is the one that exposes them to a lot of ideas. In the process they learn to think for themselves. That doesn’t mean they will think like me or like you or like Rose Pugliese. They will find their own way.

But when a teacher goes into the classroom knowing that there are people out there trying to catch him teaching something that is contrary to their perceived wisdom, then that teacher isn’t likely to promote vigorous discussion in his classroom. The quality of education suffers as a result.

Unfortunately, school board members in District 51 have a long record of saying little in public about controversial issues. That’s too bad. This would be the perfect time to change that.

To the five members of the Mesa County Valley School District Board of Education: Come out from behind the wall that you surround yourself with and let us know that you will not bow to an agenda-driven attack on instruction in this district, and in fact, you’ll defend your teachers and do everything you can to ensure vigorous debate and rigorous instruction in every classroom in the district.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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