Purely Political, By James Buckley
Editor’s note: This is the second part of columnist James Buckley’s conversation with a Santa Barbara Unified School District teacher.
Christy Lozano has worked within the Santa Barbara Unified School District for nearly 15 years. She has put her longevity and pension plan in jeopardy by speaking out strongly against what is currently labeled a “Culturally Responsive Curriculum.”
Because of what she describes as a punitive response from the current school board to her very vocal opposition to the curriculum, she has announced her candidacy for the school board.
The following is the second part (of three) of an edited transcript of our lengthy conversation covering the contents of the curriculum that she considers insidious.
Q. Last week, we outlined some suggested reading material for children from age 4 to 10 and older that you found objectionable. Based upon that list, do you believe it is important to introduce sex, gender misalignment or homosexuality to anyone in this age group?
A. No, not at all.
Can you give me an example then, of the type of subject you believe would be more appropriate?
Sure. You can talk about relationships and friendships. When a second-grade teacher was having trouble with friendships, for example, I came in and did a little workshop with the class. I talked about how you’re supposed to be treating each other, but in kid terms, so that they get the concept of, “Am I adding to this person or am I taking away?”
Most kids would respond to a message like that, wouldn’t they?
Yes, it’s just teaching them to take turns, and to listen to each other. The Culturally Responsive Curriculum brings a negativity to those relational skills. There are those books, like the book in which two male penguins want a baby and can’t have one, so a zookeeper steals an egg from a female penguin and gives it to the two males.
If two dads want to go together somewhere, fine. But don’t steal someone’s kid. That’s teaching stealing, teaching kidnapping. What’s insidious is that the focus is on the dads’ plight, and not on the mother who’s just had her baby stolen. You lose focus on the bad behavior that caused the poor creature to lose her egg. The kids are learning the absolutely wrong lesson from this kind of book.
What about bullying? Isn’t it important to teach children not to bully?
Sure. Some of these books talk about being bullied. But what I’ve noticed, often, is the bully is not the one that … I don’t know how to say this. I’ve listened to the story, and they’re talking about a kid who wants to be called Pinky being bullied. But he’s actually the one doing the bullying.
So it’s very confusing to the kids, because their (take-away) is, “Oh, I’m not allowed to say anything to Pinky, because that would be considered bullying.” But maybe if they just say, “Hey, I don’t agree with that,” Pinky gets upset and punches them. Why should they get punched for saying they don’t agree with that? Who is the bully? Pinky is actually the bully. But they are messing with their minds. They’re causing a lot of confusion, and it’s kind of an upside-down world. It’s really hard to track those types of little details that are weaving that mindset into their brains.
So kids are learning that it’s better to shut up and not do anything about a bully?
Right. I’ve seen it firsthand. There was a big clumsy kid — let’s call him Guy — on my track team who was super excited about going to the track meet;. It was the first thing he felt like he could do well. There was a kid who would whap him on the neck. He’d smack him, smack him, smack him like Chinese water torture. Guy said something to the teacher, but the teacher didn’t do anything.
So finally, he just grabbed the kid who’d been whacking him by the hair, and boom, hit him a few times. So I see Guy sitting in the office the day before the track meet. I’m like, “What happened?”
He tells me, so I decided to go to bat for him. I spoke to the teacher, and then I went and talked to the principal. I said, “Listen, he was telling people that he needed help, and nobody was listening.”
So I said, “If you do anything to him, you better do much worse to the kid that was whacking him every single day for the last month. The track team is all Guy has. If you suspend him from that activity, that’s going to be detrimental to him, especially because he was defending himself. This other boy was smacking him every single day. I’m not telling you what to do, Mrs. Principal. But please, take this into consideration.”
So what happened?
She let him go to the track meet, but I think she suspended him too. I don’t know what she did to the other boy.
Is there another approach, other than suspending and/or punishing each child equally?
Well, teachers are taught … to ignore as much as possible, because there is not really discipline in the schools, but there has to be discipline and there have to be consequences. And, the punishment should fit the crime.
Can you give me an example of a punishment that fits the crime?
There was a boy who took a girl’s vocabulary book and flushed it down the toilet. So what did he get to do? He got to rewrite her vocabulary words at recess time. He was going to sit there for a week until he got them rewritten. That seems like a pretty good consequence to me.
I had a boy pull the fire alarm, and I said, “Oh, OK, now we’re going to walk around, and you’re going to apologize to every class for wasting their class time for making us go out on the blacktop.” He took a big swallow, but it wasn’t too humiliating. It was a restorative approach to fixing the problem that he caused. Guess what? Nobody ever pulled the fire alarm again, because it didn’t just teach him, it taught all the other kids that this is what you have to do if you pull the fire alarm.
That’s actually how you run a really good school because the kids know you mean what you say.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.