Ever since the moment the idea of public schools was conceived, there have always been those who wanted to use it for their own interests. Despite its noble and righteous origins, public education is now being used to further a political agenda. One such example are the growing number of teachers who use the recently created website “Here’s Why Teachers Pay Teachers Is Fueling Culture Wars in the Classroom”
The educators who participate on the social media platform “Teachers Pay Teachers” are a great resource for new ideas for your classroom, or for helping you build professional development opportunities for your own staff. Teachers Pay Teachers is used by educators to share lessons. Each lesson is a downloadable file, typically in PDF format. For example, there are lessons on how to use technology like iPads and digital cameras in the classroom. There are also lessons on how to help students develop their reading skills.
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is an online marketplace where educators can buy and sell lesson plans, instructional materials, and educational technology. It’s become a popular place to buy and sell supplemental materials, ranging from high-quality teaching tools that reinforce the state’s curriculum to quickly-made copies of worksheets that have been used in previous years. The site has also become a popular place to buy and sell original content that is not necessarily aligned with state standards, however.
When curricula for K-12 are in the news, it’s usually a bad sign for the future. When things like textbooks, lesson plans, and history projects make the news – things that make most normal adults instinctively cringe – you don’t even need context to know that it’s probably not a good thing. In fact, it’s probably because something racist happened. Such a situation is currently occurring in St. John’s. Prairie, Wisconsin, where a group of high school teachers gave sixth graders an assignment asking them how they would punish a slave.
This is not the first time teachers have been guilty of assigning culturally insensitive subjects, and it probably won’t be the last. But unfortunately, this opportunity to think seriously about the importance of arming teachers with strong, culturally competent curricula to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future has been lost amidst the flare-up of the culture war. This discussion in the NYT sums up what I mean well. In the case of Sun Prairie, there are teachers trying to find and evaluate the right program – teachers who end up going to Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), where lesson plans are generally of poor quality, but cheap and easy to implement.
Ignorance and insensitivity clearly played a role here, but with more careful planning and program oversight, the District could have avoided this situation altogether; But this development comes at a time when a growing number of parents are so concerned about what their children learn in school that they are lobbying their school boards and legislatures to ban certain subjects and views altogether. Attempts to ban critical race theory from schools in a dozen states could prevent teachers from discussing racism.
The outrage is, frankly, predictable – there are probably countless teachers who are eager to show off their anti-racism credentials, but who end up selling their own simple explanations of very complex issues through poorly designed activities and substandard lessons, such as on TpT. Not to mention that resistance only further politicizes the learning environment for our children. There are many real and systemic problems underlying this culture war, and it would take a whole novella to list them all. But I think we need to agree on a few things to make real progress.
First, as we saw in San Prairie, a total lack of curriculum oversight can lead to a detrimental experience for students. When teachers adopt poor quality content from sources like TpT, districts are likely to face similar incidents in the future. Similarly, parents have the right to know and talk about what is happening in their children’s classrooms, but a government ban on all subjects combined is the wrong approach. In conclusion, there is no panacea for education and cultural warfare, but training teachers better and giving them more choices are two of them.
As schools slowly move into the summer holidays, it is a good time to reflect on what we have learned in a challenging year. May student access to a quality program never be a part of the future. Photo: freshidea, Adobe Stock-licensed.The online marketplace for teachers, called “Teachers Pay Teachers,” is a clearinghouse for lesson plans, worksheets and other materials created by educators for other educators. While some school districts have embraced these self-made resources from their teachers, others have instituted policies to block access to these third-party websites for their students.
In the case of the Lodi Unified School District in California, the school board has gone so far as to require teachers who use the site to first change its terms of service, which would require them to assign all rights to their work to the district.. Read more about cultural appropriation vs appreciation lesson plan and let us know what you think.