You have to hand it to Education Week. For a magazine which bills itself “America’s most trusted resource for K-12 education news and information,” it sure does take sides on difficult political issues.
Much like the nation’s two largest teachers unions, I suppose.
One of the latest examples, “How the Overturning of ‘Roe v. Wade’ Will Reverberate Through Classrooms,” claims U.S. teachers are struggling with how to handle lessons on the recent Supreme Court decision.
The angst just oozes from columnist Sarah Schwartz who says the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, “will change the way that teachers of government and civics discuss legal precedent and the right to privacy […] how U.S. history teachers explain the effects of the women’s rights movement [and] may lead students to raise questions in health or sex education classes that teachers in some states are prohibited from answering.”
If we’re to believe Sheila Edwards, a California middle school history teacher who led “a civil dialogue course” regarding Roe’s reversal, “some teachers […] were in tears saying, ‘I know what I should do, but I don’t know if I can do it.’”
Investigating and teaching the pro-life point of view is just too much for many social studies educators, it seems.
Here’s who Schwartz offers up for advice: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Leslie Reagan, who noted at a late-July National Council for the Social Studies webinar that abortion wasn’t even illegal in the late-18th and early 19th centuries if done before any fetal movement could be detected — “It was regularly practiced, and usually induced with herbal remedies.”
And then Lauren Colley of the University of Cincinnati who added that Dobbs is “one way to talk about reproductive rights and reproductive justice—key themes in women’s history” and suggested teachers could “weave” the topic of slavery into a classroom discussion … but not in the way you might think. She said “Sexual violence during slavery” could be incorporated into a women’s rights conversation as “oftentimes teachers talk about the coerced physical labor, but […] brush over the coerced reproductive labor.”
(According to Linkedin profile, Colley is “an advocate for social justice, national paid parental and family leave, and a happier and healthier earth and world,” and her research focus is “how students and teachers use and think about gender in the social studies curriculum and classroom.”)
Schwartz concludes her segment with “The anti-abortion movement that strengthened in the years after the Roe decision, for example, has been hugely influential in shaping political discourse around the issue, state laws, and ideologically aligned courts.” This may news to Schwartz, but that “strengthened” post-Roe movement had, and has, every right to work to shape political discourse in accordance with its beliefs — just like any other political interest group.
If teachers should cover Colley’s point about “coerced reproductive labor” during the slavery era, then they also should teach about Dred Scott v. Sandford. After all, does not this 1857 Supreme Court ruling — which deemed slaves were property — have a lesson about how unborn children are currently viewed by a substantial segment of the U.S. population?
And regarding the concerns about precedent, let’s not forget the Plessy v. Ferguson decision from 1896 which ruled racially “separate but equal” is constitutional. That precedent certainly lasted longer than Roe did.
As noted a few weeks ago, the only reason for civics/history teachers to be uptight about all this is because they’re either progressive ideologues … or incompetent. In either case, they might want to re-evaluate and consider another profession.
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