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Friday, November 28, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 25.0° F  
THE SCONZ: Breaking news and commentary on campus, city and state politics
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Why The Sconz will never be a high school teacher

I love history. I remember researching my senior thesis at UW's Memorial Library and, for the first time in my life, re-thinking my previous opposition to going to grad school. But then I realized that researching anti-Semitism in the rhetoric of French far right political parties might get old after four or five years. But unfortunately, I think being a university professor might be the only kind of teaching I could tolerate. Teaching elementary or high school sounds like one headache after the next. Here's an example:

After years of harsh conflict between advocates for gay students and Christian conservatives, the issue was already highly charged here [suburbs of Minneapolis]. Then in July, six students brought a lawsuit contending that school officials have failed to stop relentless antigay bullying and that a district policy requiring teachers to remain "neutral" on issues of sexual orientation has fostered oppressive silence and a corrosive stigma.

Through it all, conservative Christian groups have demanded that the schools avoid any descriptions of homosexuality or same-sex marriage as normal, warning against any surrender to what they say is the "homosexual agenda" of recruiting youngsters to an "unhealthy and abnormal lifestyle."

Ugh. Being a history teacher would be tough. Not only do you have to find ways to make the content interesting to bratty little munchkins, but you have to try to present the material as "objectively" as possible, allowing the students to develop their own opinions on issues. But you have to do that in the context of a system that tells you that certain things in history are settled as good and bad. Martin Luther King was good. Tyranny is bad. The president is not a war criminal.

Today, not too many teachers have to vigorously defend the righteousness of the civil rights movement, but they certainly did as recently as a couple decades ago. Today the best parallel is the gay rights movement. They have to cope with the fact that many people believe that gay rights is a topic subject to debate, rather than a relatively obvious moral imperative.

In contrast, college professors are encouraged to develop a slant on current affairs or history (again, within certain bounds), and professors are generally not reprimanded for bringing controversy into their curriculum.

Turns out writing and talk radio were the right places for me.

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