Are You a “Cool” Teacher?
Scroll to the bottom of this page for a link to the "cool" teacher quiz --- but first, some context: The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) recently encouraged parents to demand their children be removed from classes taught by teachers who voice support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, as reported in the Huffington Post. IFI is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to "promote marriage, family, life and liberty in the Land of Lincoln" and is opposed to LGBT civil unions, marriages, domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination laws. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified IFI as an "anti-gay hate group," but the organization maintains that their stance on these issues is to "educate the public on matters of moral concern" and to promote traditional family values. IFI's latest initiative is centered on removing politics from the classroom when it comes to teachers encouraging tolerance and understanding of LGBT students. Support for LGBT students includes not only voicing an opinion on the debate, but advising or supporting a gay-straight alliance or extracurricular group and using LGBT-inclusive texts or learning materials. According to the group, "Parents are entitled to have their children placed in apolitical, ideologically neutral academic contexts. Insisting that their children be placed in classes taught by apolitical teachers ... will prevent parents from getting caught in the specious and somewhat difficult ‘book banning/censorship' discussion." The group's new pamphlet, "Challenge Teachers, NOT BOOKS," argues that, when it comes to a politically-charged classroom, parents should hold the teacher responsible rather than the textbooks or literature being taught --- the logic being that, while a book may be questionable, it is the teacher who reinforces the lesson with their own opinion. From the pamphlet: "Although taxpayers must address the issue of objectionable curricular material directly, which will involve challenging the specious ‘book banning/censorship' arguments employed by school boards and administrations, there is something parents can do in the meantime to minimize their children’s exposure not just to inappropriate texts but to ideologically biased classroom proselytizing. Parents can object to teachers rather than texts. Here are some suggestions for parents who are fed up with the subtle and not so subtle messages that activist teachers of a liberal bent work into their classroom teaching through their classroom comments, curricular materials (including textbooks, speakers, films, plays, novels, short stories and essays), and even their desks and classroom displays ..." IFI encourages parents to take measures to remove their children from classes taught by politically vocal teachers. These steps include going to the school's website to find out which teachers support LGBT inclusive student groups, finding out what texts are included in the class's curriculum, asking older children which teachers have garnered a reputation for being openly liberal and emailing the department chair, guidance counselor or principal to insist on a class change. IFI suggests that liberal teachers are vocal about their politics and, because of this, are easily identifiable. According to the group, "Students usually know who the liberal, activist teachers are. Liberal teachers develop reputations, often as the ‘cool' teachers." Everyone would like to consider themselves a "cool" teacher, but are you "cool" in the way the Illinois Family Institute suggests? Are you vocal in your tolerance of the LGBT community and your support of LGBT students? Take the cool teacher quiz to find out if IFI would consider you cool.