A state legislator is howling indoctrination because my 7th graders are learning the ocean is polluted

A member of the North Carolina House of Representatives held up my teaching as an example of harmful indoctrination of children this week as state legislators met to discuss a new bill which would require teachers to post their lesson plans online for public review.

The K-12 Education Committee approved HB 755, also known as “An Act to Ensure Academic Transparency.” It passed the House by a vote of 66-50 and now moves on to the Senate.  

The legislation mandates that all lesson plans, including information about any supporting instructional materials as well as procedures for how an in-person review of lesson materials may be requested, be “prominently displayed” on school websites.  

Iredell County Republican Representative Jeffrey McNeely gave the bill two enthusiastic thumbs up, pointing to my teaching as an example of the hidden indoctrination that will be exposed if the bill is passed into law:

We tend to come to teach our kids with everything with a twist to it.  And I think transparency is one of the most important things we can do, and maybe what we’ve learned from this pandemic, through virtual, some of the parents actually seeing what their children are taught and how they’re taught. 

I saw in the Charlotte Observer the other week a English teacher was complaining because he had to do remote learning and in-person learning at the same time and it caused him to shorten his English class on environmental pollution. 

What you think about that? 

So I think this putting out to me this will help the parents going to the next grade be able to look and see what that teacher taught the year before, and hopefully we’re just gonna teach the kids, we’re not gonna try to indoctrinate ’em or teach ’em in a certain way to make ’em believe something other than the facts, the knowledge, the ability to write the ability to read.

McNeely is referring to an editorial I published in the Charlotte Observer last week about my experiences with hybrid teaching during the COVID 19 pandemic.  In the article I discussed being in the middle of a lesson with students both in person and on Zoom when the fire alarm rang, forcing me to prematurely end class for my remote students in the middle of an important conversation.

The Iredell County legislator ignored the overall point I was making about the challenges the pandemic has wrought for teachers and students, directing his tunnel vision at my opening words:  “Not long ago I was leading a discussion about environmental pollution with my 7th grade English class…

For McNeely, this line, which I “prominently displayed” in the state’s three largest newspapers, exposes a sinister plot to deviate from state standards in support of the leftist agenda.  Why else would an English teacher be discussing environmental pollution with students, if not “to make ’em believe something other than the facts, the knowledge, the ability to write the ability to read”?

I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.  We use EL Education’s Language Arts curriculum, which is organized into modules that last several weeks.  (The curriculum is open source, so materials are prominently displayed here.)

While working toward mastering state ELA standards, this year my students have studied the Lost Children of Sudan and the Harlem Renaissance, and right now we’re learning about plastic pollution.  Through our current module, Mecklenburg County’s 7th grade students have gained an understanding of how plastic has become an integral part of our lives over the years but also how much of it makes its way into the world’s oceans as microplastics, harming wildlife and posing a threat to humans as well.  

not “something other than the facts”

Not having a background in education, Representative McNeely may not be aware that teaching students to read and write involves selecting topics for them to read and write about

This process allows teachers to create a broad and engaging educational experience for students and enables us to integrate instruction across subject areas so that our students see connections in class content between my English class, for example, and their social studies, science, and math classes.  It’s not a leftist plot, it’s how school is supposed to work.  

This drum beating over indoctrination of students is getting completely absurd.  

The vast majority of the public trusts teachers to do their jobs and understands that we already have way too much on our plates without adding the enormous burden of posting everything we do in class online for the pleasure of Representative McNeely and the fringe handful of his constituents who are convinced they’re fighting an end of days culture war.

McNeely and his misguided colleagues need to put down their pitchforks and focus on doing what they were elected to do:  creating policies which will actually improve the lives of North Carolinians.

12 thoughts on “A state legislator is howling indoctrination because my 7th graders are learning the ocean is polluted

  1. I’m just a simple environmental science teacher, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m willing to bet a dollar I don’t have that the part of the assignment that was graded, was the writing and not necessarily the science.

    How can you teach people to write with nothing interesting to write about? It’s insanity. Keep doing your thing!

  2. If Mr. McNeely were quoted accurately here, I apologize on behalf of the 1970’s staff at West Iredell for the pitiful education he seems to have received.

  3. I stand by my statements. The different topics that have been listed are very emotionally charged. I am still trying to find great literary writings on environmental pollution. One of the reasons this problem exists is because over half the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. I understand the teaching method you have referred to, but also understand that the things you teach have a profound effect on these children and parents need to be informed about OUR curriculums. I hope you have actually read this Bill, and not just heard an interpretation of it from someone else. I don’t know your political views, nor should they matter. It is up to the parents to mold their children, it is up to the teachers to educate them fairly and unbiased. If you wish to carry on further dialogue, I can be found rather easily. Thank you, Representative Jeff McNeely

    • So you publicly disparage my work in the classroom without bothering to look into why I’m discussing environmental pollution with my students but you want me to contact you privately for further dialogue? Your disdain for public school teachers is clear, as is your agenda to deprofessionalize teaching in North Carolina. Iredell County and North Carolina deserve better representation.

      • Mr. Parmenter, I have been doing some research, especially on your views in your progressive blogs. To your dismay, my wife was actually a retired teacher and now in administration. I would be honored to come and observe one of your classes once COVID restrictions are lifted. The bill in question really centers around your daily lesson plan which you already are required to do. As far as my quality of representation, maybe you should research me also. I think it was Socrates who said
        “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers “. I will not reply again. Thank you for your efforts in educating our children. Thank you, Representative Jeff McNeely

    • It continues to disappoint me as a product of NC public schools, a 20-year NC public school educator, and a parent of two children in NC public schools, that legislators continue to think they are experts in education. Why would anyone choose to come to NC to teach in the future? Respectfully, Mr. McNeely lacks much understanding of how children learn and what research-based best practices are in education. I did not understand these things when I first began teaching, but after years of experience, conducting action research myself, and thousands of hours of professional development, I (like most public educators I know) have worked to perfect my craft of educating students and finding ways to help students engage in learning. Have you ever tried to get middle schoolers to read, write, and talk about & discuss a topic? It requires finding topics to pique their interests, to relate to other topics they are learning about, or to show them how a topic applies to their lives. We are striving to create thinkers – children who will become adults who can read facts, think for themselves, and then form their own opinions. I’m sure legislators voting on this bill have all witnessed this when they’ve visited our public school classrooms in the past year. Have they visited classrooms in the last year? Surely they have visited many classrooms in their districts and talked with the many teachers they represent, before passing laws about something they are not experts on. Hmmm… It’s so disappointing that teachers are not viewed as trained professionals in our state.

    • I am wondering have you actually gone into DPI and looked at the curriculum. Everything that us teachers teach is there. The complete standard, here I will help you. This website will take you to the NCDPI website with all the standards and the content that we have to teach, https://sites.google.com/dpi.nc.gov/k-12-sci/home?authuser=0. Please copy and paste and do a little research of your own. Also what he was teaching is called Non-Fiction, that means it is true. There are many different genres in reading and writing this is one of them.

  4. To the writer of the article, ‘’Thank you for standing up for educators.” Stay out of our job and go do your job Mr. Representative!

  5. Being a Republican, McNeely also likely subscribes to the idea that “career readiness” is or should be the primary function of public education, that is, to prepare kids to enter the workplace. One popular method adopted to that end is to work more examples of real-world non-fiction into English instruction, and less fiction, including the classics, with the intended result that kids develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills (I have no idea if any of this works).

    So, as we’d expect from many if not most QOP elected officials in the country he dishes out a cheap-shot political talking point at the expense of our kids and their teachers. It’s just shameless hypocrisy as usual but, unfortunately, it still works with a big share of voters.

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