This story first published online at NC Policy Watch.
Educators who can’t put political opinions aside in the classroom fail students, according to Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson.
Robinson, a Republican and the state’s first black lieutenant governor, made the statement Tuesday during a news conference to announce a new taskforce he created to end what he calls political indoctrination of students in schools.
“I don’t want right wing political ideology to be put in the classroom any more than I do left hand [politics],” Robinson said.
Robinson shared an example of what he considers to be student indoctrination. A teacher told a student that she couldn’t submit a Black History Month report on Robinson, he said.
The teacher suggested that the student report about deceased rapper Tupac Shakur instead, Robinson said.
“That’s indoctrination,” Robinson said. “That is exactly what we are talking about. Simply because she didn’t like my politics or because she doesn’t like me. I have no idea what the issue was.”
The lieutenant governor said he aspires to one day become an educator.
“If I go into the classroom and I can’t put my opinion aside long enough to go inside the classroom and give impressionable young minds just the facts without my opinion, I have failed as an educator. That’s the commitment that I want from all our teachers and that’s the commitment we get from most of them. Unfortunately, all of them are not following that protocol and we are receiving those complaints about that.”
The taskforce titled “Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students” (F.A.C.T.S.) will receive complaints from parents, students and others about perceived bias, inappropriate material or indoctrination they see or experience in schools through a portal on Robinson’s website.
“This is not an indictment on education,” Robinson insisted. “The vast majority of our teachers in this state and in the nation are good. They go to work; they work hard, and they are there for the benefit of the students and parents that they are serving.”
Parents do complain, however, that children are taught subject matter that runs counter to parents’ beliefs, Robinson said.
“We call it indoctrination, but it could be called many things,” Robinson said. “It could be called politicizing the classroom. It could be called introducing things into the classroom that don’t belong there.”
The state has never had a place to compile, study and to address such complaints, Robinson said.
“That’s what we’re seeking to do with this task force,” he said. “We want this task force to be a resource for parents and students who feel they are unable to tackle the issues they are facing in their schools.”
He said parents and teachers are afraid to challenge school boards, principals and administrators on such matters.
“Folks, that has got to stop,” Robinson said. “School is supposed to be a safe place where people can go for the purpose of instruction.”
Several F.A.C.T.S. members joined Robinson’s press conference Tuesday, including State Board of Education member Olivia Oxendine.
As lieutenant governor, Robinson serves on the state board. He and Oxendine, the board’s only Native American member, were among the most vocal opponents of new state social studies standards that direct educators to include diverse voices when teaching history and social studies courses.
Robinson complained that the new standards are “political in nature” and unfairly portray America as “systemically racist.”
State Sen. Kevin Corbin, a Republican from Macon County and State Rep. David Willis, a Union County Republican, agreed to serve on the task force.
Willis said he’s a product of the state’s public schools from preschool through college.
“I don’t recall a point in time when I knew any or my teachers’ or my professors’ political views, their party affiliations,” Willis said. “It was never relevant to what we were there for. We were there to learn how to read and write and be prepared for a career, and I think we’ve strayed from that over the last several years.”