The old school house isn’t what it used to be—especially if your child’s principal is a member of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). If so, then he or she has helped sponsor a curriculum that you need to know about.
It’s called “Ready, Set, Respect!” Its ostensible mission, as presented on its first few pages, is to promote mutual respect among elementary school children, and to teach that teasing and bullying are wrong. So far I agree completely. I was bullied and teased in grade school, and my son and daughter have experienced this in big ways, including one incident that required a sustained period of medical help, and another in which an administrator was suspended for the way he treated one of our children. My daughter in particular has been ostracized for believing in Jesus Christ. “Ready, Set, Respect!” is just the thing that would have helped her in elementary school, right? It gets off to a great start, after all:
Elementary school is a time of rapid development for children.
In addition to gaining knowledge and developing skills, these years are ones during which children typically begin to develop an understanding of themselves and the world and people around them. As such, the social environment of classrooms and schools provides the opportunity for children to initiate and develop relationships and navigate increasingly complex peer relationships. That complexity can often lead to incidents of name-calling and use of hurtful and biased words. If left uninterrupted by educators and other adult role models, these behaviors can escalate as the prejudice and biased attitudes that influence them take root in children’s hearts and minds….
Ready, Set, Respect! provides a set of tools to help elementary school educators ensure that all students feel safe and respected and develop respectful attitudes and behaviors.
(Did you catch that word “all”? We’ll come back to that.)
Schoolchildren exhibit all kinds of prejudice and bias: racial prejudice, bias against the obese or clumsy, resentment toward academically successful students, disdain for those whose parents make less money, disrespect for boys who seem less than masculine or girls who seem too much so, and above all, a readiness to go after anyone who seems vulnerable.
“Ready, Set, Respect!” includes a plethora of excellent exercises for reducing name-calling, put-downs, and bullying. Who could object to school resources encouraging mutual respect? Well, I could, when said resource is something other than it purports to be. Sure, it teaches respectful behaviors; but at root it’s really a curriculum for social re-engineering. It should be called “Ready, Set, Re-Engineer!” In addition to teaching respect among children, it advances messages including (the following are all direct quotes, other than material inside brackets):
- diversity related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression
- Most students experience isolation at one time or another. For many young students the first time this may emerge is in response to others’ perceiving that they are not behaving “enough” like a boy or “enough” like a girl. [True enough, and valid, but bear in mind that word “all” that I highlighted earlier.]
- Did you ever see representations of diverse families (such as those headed by same sex couples, adoptive families, or step-families) represented in your elementary classes when you were in school? [Same-sex precedes adoptive and step-families, for some reason]
- A hetero-normative viewpoint is one that expresses heterosexuality as a given instead of being one of many possibilities…. The assumption (reinforced by imagery and practice) that a boy will grow up and marry a woman is based on such a viewpoint.
- Write math problems with contexts that include a variety of family structures and gender-expressions. For example, “Rosa and her dads were at the store and wanted to buy three boxes of pasta. If each costs $.75, how much will all three boxes cost?
- Ask students to think about how they would feel if someone said something hurtful or mean about someone in their family or another family. Offer to the students that sometimes people may say something that can be hurtful or may ask a question about a family member or structure that they are not familiar with and that is different to their own [for example,] physical differences between the parents/guardians and children in terms of the color of their skin or type of hair or because there are two parents of the same gender, or grandmother raising the children in the family. Explain to the students that there are lots of different types of families and it is important to respect all of those families. [Same-sex parenting is no more exceptional than a grandmother raising the children.]
- Suggested books to read:
- 10,000 Dresses (for grades K-3): “Unfortunately, no one wants to hear about Bailey’s dreams of magical dresses. Then Bailey meets Laurel, an older girl who is inspired by his imagination and courage. Working together, they make Bailey’s dreams come true.”
- My Princess Boy (for grades K-2): “Dyson loves pink, sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He’s a Princess Boy. This is a story about unconditional love and acceptance.”
I said I would come back to that important word “all.” Just one quick, easy question: how much respect do you think teachers and administrators should give a student who disagrees with any of this? How much diversity is really being encouraged here? Why does this publication offer no illustrations relating to my daughter’s experience of being bullied for her beliefs?
Okay, that last question was just stupid. The answer is obvious. It’s because this curriculum is about much more (or much less) than mutual respect. It’s about social re-engineering from kindergarten on up. Some people, including some students, don’t approve of that project. Their opinions are not welcome, and they are not respected.
NAESP principals lead schools attended by 33 million students. Is your child’s principal a member?