Nothing to fear from teachers

By Daniel Dunkle | Mar 03, 2021

A group of Maine lawmakers recently had an amazing idea.

They said to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be great if classroom teachers in public schools were not allowed to say anything we disagree with? If they did, they would be fired under this new law?”

This, I’m guessing, is how we ended up with the proposed “Resolve, Directing the State Board of Education To Adopt Rules Prohibiting Teachers in Public Schools from Engaging in Political, Ideological or Religious Advocacy in the Classroom.”

The bill was presented by State Rep. Micky Carmichael, R-Greenbush and co-sponsored by State Reps. Josanne Dolloff, R - Milton Township; Abigail Griffin, R – Levant; Jack Ducharme, R-Madison; Richard Mason, R-Lisbon; and Jennifer Poirier, R-Skowhegan. Thanks are due to The Beacon, for writing an article about all of this recently (

I know generally that normal people do not enjoy reading Legislative bills, but I ask you to give this a shot. Here is some of the wording:

“Whereas, the purpose of public education in America is to produce knowledgeable and competent adults able to participate as informed citizens in the democratic process; and

“Whereas, education in a democracy is best served by teaching students how to think, not telling them what to think; and

“Whereas, our country is divided over many issues affecting its citizens; and

“Whereas, it has been established through surveys that a majority of kindergarten to grade 12 teachers discuss controversial issues in their classrooms; and

“Whereas, it has been established that some teacher training institutions, teacher licensing agencies, state education departments and professional teacher organizations have condoned and even encouraged this behavior under the guise of ‘teaching for social justice’ and other sectarian doctrines...”

This part really does not seem to me designed to make teachers in Maine feel very good about themselves. It suggests they are engaged in a vast conspiracy to promote communism.

I would argue this both over and underestimates our state public education institutions. I believe if the government this morning ordered public schools to create a universal political indoctrination program, they would be hard-pressed to accomplish this project with the resources they have.

The bill includes language arguing that this social indoctrination wastes time that could be spent teaching the subjects. It also calls for potentially firing teachers that break the rules and outlines specific no-nos.

The bill would prohibit teachers from promoting one side or the other in elections, questioning court decisions, or questioning the president or governor. Remember, it is important that we teach our young how to think, and questioning authority is not part of that process (a little sarcasm here on my part). Had this been in place before the revolution, we would probably have kids pledging allegiance to the crown.

After this point in the bill, our lawmakers start to get weird. They would also prohibit teachers from:

“6. Endorsing, supporting or engaging in any activity that hampers or impedes the lawful access of a military recruiter to the school campus;”

How is recruiting on campus what we have been talking about?

Also they would rule out: “Advocating in a partisan manner for any side of a controversial issue; the rules must require a teacher to provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue...” They go on at great length on this one.

So, for example, a teacher would not simply be able to say, “The Earth is spherical.” They would have to present the counter arguments, like that you can only see the curve from up high and that could be an optical illusion, right?

They would also prohibit teachers from promoting white guilt, or as they put it: “Segregating students according to race or singling out one racial group of students as responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another racial group of students.”

Would teachers still be allowed to talk about The Civil War or The Holocaust or the genocide of Native Americans? Probably best avoided for those who really don’t want to get fired.

This little group of lawmakers just thought they would propose turning Maine into a totalitarian dystopia.

It’s an interesting bill. When I was a kid in the public school system in Hampden, Maine, my teachers had me read books like “Fahrenheit 451” and “1984” that warned about governments trying to control what we read and say and think. Would these books still be allowed?

I was fortunate. I had conservative teachers and liberal ones, war veterans and former peace activists, gay and straight teachers, devout and agnostic instructors, and even one self-proclaimed pagan professor at the University of Maine. I learned something from all of them and none of them tried to indoctrinate me. They challenged me to explain my views, to argue my points, and in doing so set me up for the job I have now.

There is nothing to fear in letting teachers speak openly with their students; letting them share ideas and even argue the points.

There is, however, a terrible cost to the ignorance proposed by those who want everyone to agree with them all the time. What a boring, colorless society they would impose upon us all.

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