PERSPECTIVES: “Meddling in Education” is Another Term for NC House Bill 187

Elected officials want to dictate how professional educators conduct their business, which translates into intervening in work they know little about.

Just because you live in a house does not mean you are qualified to build one,” the adage goes. But it seems N.C. state representative John Torbett, a past house contractor, has forgotten that old saw.

I eat poultry and have seen the large poultry houses in Union County, N.C., and Shenandoah County, VA. For sixteen years, I lived near one in VA and have read reports of the good and bad of the poultry industry. But I bet Brain Sloan, a newly elected member of the Iredell-Statesville, N.C. School Board–and a poultry farmer and contractor–would not allow me to direct his businesses.

I am also intrigued by submarines and have read extensively about them from their days as U-Boats to our nuclear-powered fleet, But would retired Captain Mike Kubiniec, who served in our submarine force for thirty years, and is another newly elected member of the Iredell-Statesville School Board, serve on one that was under my command?

The elected officials in N.C. would not allow any such silliness on my part, nor do I want to act in such a way. But they, and many others, want to dictate how professional educators conduct their business under trying circumstances brought on by poverty, the indifference of parents for their child’s education, and non-educators who meddle in that of which they know little.

Here are a few quotations or insights from each elected official named above:

Rep. Torbett: “This bill [HB 187, which he sponsored] does not change what history standards can and cannot be taught. It simply prohibits schools from endorsing discriminatory concepts.” He also expressed to WRAL News that while he believes the U.S. has in the past been run by White males at the expense of Black and Brown people and women, he thinks times have changed, and the country is progressing.

Brian Sloan: “I think I could do it. I could do it at Statesville High … be a principal,” Sloan said at a school board meeting this week.

Mike Kubiniec: “I am tired of poverty being used as a reason schools don’t perform. There are plenty of high-poverty schools that are As or Bs.”

Rep. Torbett must not read many teacher lesson plans, observe classrooms, or talk with N.C. school administrators because, if he did, he would know that schools do not endorse or promote “discriminatory concepts.” Unfortunately, that does not happen across the state, and to imply that it does (as his sponsoring of H.B. 187 demonstrates) reveals his lack of knowledge about N.C. public schools.

As an educator of over forty years, I know that individual teachers make errors in classroom instruction. However, that is not reason enough for such a vague, inaccurate, and draconian bill as H.B. 187. Such classroom errors, if they happen, are best handled locally and not by government overreach.

Concerning Mr. Sloan’s arrogant insult to every principal everywhere, not just at Statesville High School, I suggest he spend one week with Mr. Parker or one of his assistants to better understand the complexities of education in today’s climate. A school, just like a poultry house, is much more complex than it appears. Every job or performance is easy for the person watching, but it becomes much more difficult when the observer enters the ring.

I hope Mr. Kubiniec, a retired captain in our Navy, will spend one week living in a 3rd rate motel with no reliable transportation, internet, or cellphone and be food deprived. In that way, I hope he would gain some empathy and understanding concerning the harshness of poverty and its reality. He may then learn that poverty is not an excuse for poorer execution but a reality affecting performance in every walk of life, especially in learning.

Dictating educators on how to educate our children is neither needed nor helpful. If elected officials want to help education in N.C., then spend time in schools, listen to educators and children, read studies and reports about education, and hear from all parents, not just the outliers. Find the middle to help our schools accomplish the vital task we have given them.

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