This Kansas teacher speaks out despite the risk: We must protect the integrity of public schools
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Hayley Spellman is a teacher in Kansas City, Kansas. She writes as an individual in her own name. This editorial is not published on behalf of Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools and does not represent the views of the district.
I’m an American History teacher in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools District, and this is my first year as a teacher. I pursued a career in education with the goal of fostering a democratically engaged and civic generation. Raised in a small town, I have a deep understanding of what it means to be a Kansan – knowing who you are and where you come from is one of the most important lessons I learned. My undergraduate and graduate experiences at Kansas State University helped solidify this lesson.
It was there that I discovered my passion for giving back to a state that has given me so much.
Across Kansas, including the district where I currently teach and the district I grew up in, educators have been criticized for crafting lessons that portray the hard truths of history. Teachers and the public education system are and have been under attack, and I can no longer sit on the sidelines and keep my views to myself. Especially now, a teacher’s perspective is critical to protecting the integrity of our public schools and the future success of our students.
My fear of speaking out is rooted in the hostile environment we have seen in schools and at school board meetings across the country, especially during debates over censorship and education bans. I want to be able to speak out on this issue, but I fear the significant backlash I may face in my personal and professional life.
Across the country, students are growing up in an America that is more multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial than it has ever been. To ensure their success in a modern economy, we must prepare them and help them become stronger citizens.
Especially in my school district, understanding and embracing multiculturalism is a fundamental lesson that our students experience every day. KCKPS takes great pride in the diversity across the district, especially its diversity of race, ethnicity and language. Students are constantly interacting with different cultures and different points of view, which is not unique to my district.
Across the country, students are growing up in an America that is the most multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial it has ever been. To ensure their success in a modern economy, we must prepare them and help them become stronger citizens.
As we saw at a high school in Olathe last fall, where a student used an inappropriate joke about slavery to ask for his homecoming date, there remains a substantial and evident need to better educate our students about American history. This is especially true when it comes to black American history. Our story is how we share our humanity.
To erase or censor any part of this history – including the hard truths – does not teach our students the challenges this country has overcome. Forcing teachers to repeat a censored story does not demonstrate American values of freedom, truth and justice.
There is a famous FDR quote that I have chosen to live my life on: “Democracy can only succeed if those who voice their choice are willing to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy is therefore education.
We have an obligation to teach young people the truest form of our history, even if it means having difficult conversations. Students are the future of this country. Without a good understanding of our past, our present and our future, our young people are being left behind.
It is our duty to step up and protect the integrity of our education, which includes opposing legislation that censors American history and takes local control away from education experts: teachers, school boards, and school boards.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.