I got an email last night from a 7th-grade parent because her son said I mentioned the words "male privilege" in class, and she is very concerned about how that is related to ELA (she said "reading"), and she is concerned about this being taught in public schools. To be clear, I didn't do a lesson on this subject but we did discuss rights versus privileges. I've had multiple parents contact the school/get upset with me because of things like his. It's exhausting... Thoughts?

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ELA teacher here...

I've had similar frustrations. I start the year, and each potentially uncomfortable lesson, with a reminder that each person is allowed their opinion and only respectful discussion is allowed. So far I have only had bad fallout one time.

But I believe that the classroom - ELA especially - is the ideal place to discuss these issues. It should be a safe place to talk. Student need the opportunity to learn about other perspectives and broader worldviews in an environment that invites respectful discussion and respectful disagreement. If you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing.

Just this week, my son, who goes to a different high school from me, started reading Brave New World in class. After only 1 day, someone complained, and they pulled the book from the entire senior class. Now they are reading The Great Gatsby -- again. They read it last year. Maybe I will call and complain they he is being denied the opportunity to learn how to discuss important uncomfortable topics. How will he cope in college (he got into his dream school) if he doesn't practice in high school?

Sorry. Rant over.

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The very thought that parents think teachers teach students how to think is laughable to me. I understand students are easily influenced, but my experience is that students are pretty opinionated and set in their belief system. My students give me their opinions all the time and I probably couldn’t change their minds even if I tried. I teach at a continuation high school. Just my two cents.

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I taught a social studies course during the impeachment last year and had to tread carefully as our community is very conservative. Just bringing it up got me some emails from parents. Just stand your ground that you were sharing a viewpoint out in the world, and that you weren’t pushing any one viewpoint on your class. You’re not in the wrong.

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It is not my place to share my personal political opinions, period. My job is to teach them how to think, not what to think. Everyone thinks his/her opinion is “correct,” by definition. Half the country thinks one way, half thinks the other. If a teacher believes s/he can have an open discussion and let everyone share opinions, but has shared his/her own, or has an obvious bent, s/he is deluded. Kids know, and will either feel intimidated and remain silent (and know I don’t like them) or they’ll speak up, and become a target, outside my room, if not inside it. We don’t know their lives. Who has family in the military or law enforcement? Whose family is religious? Who has had a family member die tragically? Who is from an abusive home? Whose parent(s) are out of work? What I do is tell them (and parents) that I’ll never share my opinions, but will always play devil’s advocate, whatever position they take. This is important, not only to protect students with minority opinions, but also to both learn how to think and defend their positions with facts, and also to recognize that just because someone disagrees, s/he isn’t necessarily evil. We have far too much of that in this country. If we are ever to come together as a country, we have to see the godspark in each other, and that goes for us, too. It is not easy as a teacher, because it means research and listening to both sides. It means watching Newsmax as well as CNN. It means reading The Washington Post and The Washington Times. It means reading and listening to people I disagree with. Oh, you voted for Trump? You’re a racist moron. You voted for Biden? You’re a socialist idiot. There’s nowhere to go from there, and it’s time to stop it and find our commonalities, so we can work through our differences.

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You need to give better context, but as a parent I totally understand where the other parents are coming from. Male privilege is often used as a means to attack men and that is the last thing 7th grade boys need to feel is that there is something wrong with them. As long as you talk about female privilege as well, it would be acceptable, but not if you only talk about one side of a very complex issue.

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As someone who teaches 7th grade boys, this is EXACTLY the time that the conversation about male privilege needs to occur. The idea of female privilege exists is laughable. I’m terrified that you are a teacher.

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It’s exhausting that teachers have to step so carefully that everything we say or do is subject to the whims of the parents out there who are ready to complain at the drop of a hat. Are they so insecure in what they have taught at home that no new or opposing opinion is to be mentioned? What happened to discussion at home when a student comes home and says a discussion in class today was about ______ something the family disagrees with, and the parents discuss what they believe and here’s why and you can/should express your view and challenge the teacher? Why is the first thing to call admin or the teacher and try to shut the teacher down? Even here a fellow teacher says they would pull their student. Doesn’t that give every student an outsize power and a “gotcha” mentality?

So, I should never discuss politics as an ELA teacher, despite the kids being incredibly interested. I should just shut it down for fear that I can’t do justice to both sides, even though I try? So now I am not doing justice to the kids who need to hear both sides and a safe place to question others and express themselves. They should remain in their echo chambers?

Every day, I deal with kids on the far right, the far left, the middle, the super smart, the not-so-smart, the very religious, the non-religious, Black, White, Asian, the gay, the trans, the straight, the timid, the boisterous, etc. Yet so many parents want me to teach them vanilla, step carefully, and god help me if I make a mistake.
It. Is. Exhausting.

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Thank you for sharing! We should be teaching them how to approach and explore difficult topics so they know how to navigate life after high school. They will meet people with different perspectives, most likely ones they disagree with unless they isolate themselves. It breaks my heart when books are pulled like that.

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Using absolutes such as all, most, none,etc is biased unless one has real data to back up a statement.

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We do a unit on reading literature through the lens of cultural criticism, considering dominant and marginalized groups.

We talk about many ways people might be either dominant or marginalized: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, wealth, orientation, education, language, age...
The kids are encouraged to think about whether they might be part of one dominant group while simultaneously being part of another marginalized group - and how that might impact them as both a reader and a writer.

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That makes me sad. Having difficult conversation should be okay in a safe place like school. There is nothing wrong being exposed to multiple perspectives and analyzing literature from different lenses-literary criticisms and theories, which I do teach to juniors and seniors. I think it is healthy to see how our identities impact the way we see others, ourselves, and the world. I don’t speak for students but I do allow them to speak their truths and make sure they feel heard from all sides of the spectrum.
Like I tell my students, maybe if we listened more to each other, we could work together to make the world better for everyone. Too often people just shout their opinions into the void without listening to other perspectives. I am no different but I am aware of it and try to combat my bias personally and as a teacher.

This right here is what I aim to do! Thank you for sharing. I think teaching this is so important.

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Story of my life. If admin doesn’t back you, I’d maybe go to the union. That’s if you haven’t talked to the parents: my first choice would be to just talk to them and explain that I want the students to understand concepts, not agree with them. They can make their own choices after I teach its

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You did nothing wrong and it’s just unfortunate that we live in a society that is so sensitive and so easily offended and concerned. Honestly, I would hate to feel like I have to walk on eggshells in my classroom. This parent clearly has nothing better to do and should have given you the benefit of the doubt and allowed you to explain the term in question in context. Hang in there and hopefully you have a supportive administrator. It is BS like this that makes good teachers such as yourself want to leave the profession. Sometimes parent involvement is not always helpful. Keep doing what you do best. :)

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This year, I'll be asking my 11th graders to write an informative essay on one of the topics below that includes defining the origin and meaning of the term as well as the impact it has had on public opinion and policy. 1. Critical Race Theory 2. Cancel Culture 3. BLM 4.
Intersectionality

It's important to me that my students acquire the necessary skills to research controversial topics so they understand their meaning, context, purpose, and impact, both positive and negative, so they can form their own, educated opinions.

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Ughhhh! I thought this only happened in Utah.

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