In Our Opinion: Letters to schools misguided but should spur reflection

Both the Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey School districts were recently presented with letters claiming that students are being indoctrinated or influenced in political beliefs in classrooms.

They loudly present as “fact” information that anyone with access to Google can easily show is false or skewed.

In the most offensive line, the Oak Harbor letter faults “readings” on the suggested reading list that relate to racial justice, saying such works “advance an ideology that advocates the dismantling of the nuclear family, gender irrelevancy, racial shaming and so on.”

In other words, these are books that espouse women’s rights, gay rights and Black rights.

These letters aren’t treatises presented by lone crackpots. More than 100 people signed the letters, including leaders of the Island County Republican Party.

The concern about students being brainwashed at school is a complaint from the past. For some people, it’s disconcerting to see students change some of their beliefs as they learn to think for themselves when exposed to new ideas, new cultures and new ideas.

Nevertheless, it’s true that in discussions about politics and current events, teachers should be moderators, referees and devil’s advocates. They should not press political ideas.

The letter to the South Whidbey School Board includes a link to a recording of a local teacher in a Zoom meeting passionately criticizing the former president soon after the insurrection at the Capitol.

While it’s contrary to school etiquette rules to record and post such videos, it’s a good reminder that neutrality should be observed in the classroom.

That doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t discuss facts, even those that make a president look bad.

A member of the South Whidbey School Board responded for the board in a intelligent, measured letter that goes over the points without being defensive or shrinking from disagreeing or identifying fallacies.

The Oak Harbor school administration and board members had much less to say, claiming that the board doesn’t respond to comments at meetings.

Others argued that the letters should be ignored in order to deny the writers a public platform.

But school leaders and other local government officials should not shrink from tough discussions. They should be role models and stand for what they believe.

Perhaps the letter to the school board could be the catalyst for a larger discussion about racial and economic justice in the schools and beyond.

Based on these letters, it’s a discussion that is needed.