Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and independent consultant, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com.

Education Opinion

Should Teachers Be Responsible for Teaching Social Issues?

By Peter DeWitt — April 11, 2012 2 min read

In February, I wrote a commentary for Education Week called Dignity for All and it focused on safeguarding LGBT students. I should begin by saying that everyone has an issue that they care about and mine happens to be safeguarding LGBT students. However, I feel strongly that we need to work harder at safeguarding all students, regardless of whether they are gay or straight.

The commentary touched a nerve with some readers on the Ed Week website as well as on Facebook. They were concerned that I wanted to classify students by whether they were gay or straight. That is not at all what I suggested. However, safeguards specifically need to be in place for these students because they are abused, harassed and tormented (GLSEN) at an alarming rate, and if administrators ignore it, those safeguards allow parents to push for those issues to be addressed.

The Dignity for All Students Act in New York State requires all schools to have school board policies and codes of conduct that safeguard students based on sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, size, etc. It is a very inclusive act that I hope will help change school climates for the better.

Letter to the Editor
“I recognize the struggles that LGBT students are facing within their peer groups, but if we put the responsibility on the teachers to fix these problems, where does it end?” Kelsie, Oregon

The Letter to the Editor regarding my commentary appeared in the most recent edition of Education Week. It was called, “Teachers Shouldn’t Be Responsible For Teaching Social Issues.” This is the part that I respectfully disagree with the most. I do feel that schools should teach about social issues. We ask students to do community service projects and be contributing members of their community and their larger world. In order to do that effectively, I believe they need to understand the world they are walking into.

Teaching social issues is easily done. It’s how we talk with our students and treat them on a daily basis. Teaching social issues happens through the books we read and the ones we make available for them to choose. It’s in the movies we show and the discussion we have with one another. It is also done through debates in class and the research that our students choose.

I do not discount the role of the parent. I love when parents educate their children about communities near and far but I also believe that an education is richer when parents and educators work together. Introducing students to ideas that they may not come in contact with at home should very much be one of the missions of the public school system.

We all know, and are experiencing, increased mandates, teacher and administrator evaluation, and increased pressures on high stakes testing. We are also implementing the Common Core State Standards at the same time we are dealing with devastating budget cuts. Even with all of those pressures, teaching about social responsibility is one of our jobs and is more important than anything we will ever garner from a high stakes test.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

GLSEN. (2009). 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools New York, NY: GLSEN.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read